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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Scary VALENTINE Is Guilty Pleasure
by Betty Jo Tucker

Attention, all teenage girls! Never refuse to dance with a boy on Valentine’s Day. Who knows what terrifying things can happen thirteen years later? That nerdy boy might grow up to be a psychotic killer with a memory like an elephant. Exploiting this horrific theme, Valentine emerges as another predictable slasher film, but it held my interest throughout because of its exciting visual style.

Rejection leads to obsession and revenge in this thriller about four single women (played by Denise Richards, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, and Jessica Cauffiel) who realize their lives are in danger after receiving strange valentines. Inside each colorful card is a threatening message, such as "Roses are red/Violets are blue/They’ll need dental records/To identify you."

At first, because the cards are signed only with the initials "J.M," the friends can’t figure out who sent them. Later, they recall a "Jeremy Melton" from junior high, the boy they all rejected at a Valentine’s Day dance so long ago. When an investigating detective (Fulvio Cecere) tells them Jeremy could have undergone plastic surgery and changed his name, they become suspicious of all the men in their lives, even the detective.

Who are the major suspects? That list includes: Campbell (Daniel Cosgrove), a mysterious stranger sponging off poor little rich girl Dorothy (Capshaw); Adam (David Boreanaz), Kate’s (Shelton) on-again-off-again boyfriend; Max (Johnny Whitworth), an artist Lily (Cauffiel) has become enthralled with; and Brian (Woody Jeffires), one of Paige’s (Richards) many conquests. Although the killer wears a Cherub mask, each one of the guys in question appears as the guilty party at one time or another. And that, of course, adds to film’s suspense. Still, it’s not too difficult to solve this mystery long before the end of the movie.

None of the acting here rates rave notices, but this isn’t MacBeth, right? No one is bad enough to pan either. Unleashing a saucy come-hither look, Richards seems more comfortable as a flirt than the nuclear physicist she portrayed in The World Is Not Enough. Among the male cast members, Boreanaz (from television’s Angel) shows the most promise. Projecting vulnerability as an alcoholic struggling to shake his addition, Boreanaz gives a convincing performance --- one that leads me to believe better things are in store for this young actor.

Director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) staged some nasty death scenes for this horror flick. A gory hot tub disaster, a savage bow-and-arrow attack, and a bloody impaling on jagged glass are among the gruesome highlights. "It just goes with the territory," Blanks says. "In real life, I’m opposed to violence but this is a movie --- a very scary movie."

To me, the best thing about Valentine, based on Tom Savage’s novel of the same name, is its fascinating visual style. The movie unfolds against such vivid backgrounds as a gorgeous family mansion, funky nightclubs, trendy galleries, and elegant restaurants. One of the most impressive sequences takes place at an avant-garde video art show where gigantic lovers’ images surround the victims as the masked killer stalks his prey. Explaining why the movie sets its most frightening moments against a background of charm, wealth, and beauty, production designer Steven Geaghan (The Outer Limits) declares, "Death seems more shocking somehow when it visits such luxurious surroundings. "

Note: Valentine ended up being my favorite guilty movie pleasure of 2001.

(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "R" for strong horror violence, sexuality, and language.)

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