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Valentine's Day, that holiday of excess and invented obligation, is just around the corner, and plans, like it or not, must be made. Some of you, no doubt, will be celebrating your love for whatever spouse or significant other you have managed to acquire. Good for you! But many of the rest of us, having been deprived of a date by some chance or another, will no doubt settle into our residences alone, perhaps a bit jealous, or bitter, or even mildly vengeful. Warner Brothers thinks it has just what it takes to give shape to your bad feelings with its new film "Valentine," whose advertisements promise a film filled with failed-romance-induced jealousy and bitterness and vengefulness, and also deadly cutlery.

No doubt there is a market for a well-crafted film which takes the slights dished out by those who fate made attractive and society made conceited as its raw material, and mixes them with some grim humor and a weirdly sympathetic avenging devil to provide a new look at romantic expectations and realities. "Valentine" is not that film. "Valentine," sad to say, is an astonishingly bad film. However depressed you are about your romantic misfortunes before you enter the film, you will come out feeling even emptier and lonlier for having wasted eight bucks and two hours on this tripe. The best we can do in the analysis is to try to avoid the mistakes of so many stagy, dilatory horror-movie killers, and keep it brief.

It's been said before, and it should be said again: When making a horror film, it is important to ensure that there is at least one character whom the audience does not want to see die. Instead of doing this, "Valentine" presents us with five of the most vapid heroines ever to jiggle their way across the silver screen: Paige (Denise Richards), Kate (Marley Shelton), Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw), Lily (Jessica Cauffiel), and Shelley (Katherine Heigl).

After the film's opening, which shows a passionate but somewhat misguided kid at a Valentine's Day dance getting metaphorically shot down and literally beaten up, we think that perhaps the kid has come back to wreak bloody death upon these women. In all honesty, this might be a cheering prospect, as none of these women do anything much during the film to show that they deserve the gift of life. Instead, they prance around without jobs or identifiable interests besides themselves, mull over idiot's dilemmas like whether or not they should tell the police about the homicidal valentines they receive, and relax in the unearned, unexplained opulence of their surroundings.

But it soon becomes apparent that the kid is only a suspect, and that the real killer could be anywhere, like on one of these women's arms. Is it Boyfriend #1? Boyfriend #2? Who cares? The boyfriends are no better delineated than their insignificant others, and the film ends up a mere parade of pretty women and pretty men across pretty, occasionally blood-soaked scenery.

Yet "Valentine" would just be a bad film if poor characterization were its only sin. But it doesn't end there. "Valentine"'s four writers prove the old adage about cooks and broth, stretching this tissue-thin story out over two unendurable hours. Admittedly, it takes numerous pointless detours to get there, in the form of cliched subplots and ridiculous T&A shots (yes, folks, there is a "reason" for Denise Richards' presence). Even with two hours to work with, though, the writers cannot be bothered to actually construct the plot, simply letting the scenes fall where they may. Director Jamie Blanks doesn't help matters with atrocious pacing and seemingly random camera angles; the setpiece killings inspire more boredom and impatience than anything else. The visuals are drab, the music grates, and of course the acting is laughable; it takes a pretty damn bad cast to make Denise Richards look like a passable thespian, but that's the cast this film has.

Add in some gratuitous racism (the film's only nonwhite character with a speaking part is referred to as a "mail-order bride from hell"), and you've got a film which seems better designed to punish the dateless than to advance their cause. There's nothing wrong with not having a date on Valentine's Day, but there is something wrong with you if that circumstance inspires you to see this film.


If there's something I'm proud of in my reviews, it's that I've always tried to support my statements about quality with specific references to things in the film. Even with a film this bad, for example, I took the time to catalogue its worst horrors and present them in the most objective language I could muster. Not that that was very objective, but anyone reading this review knows exactly why this film is bad. So much film criticism asks you to place your money in the reviewer's ethos's hands, basically, with bland generalities about quality or lack thereof; I try to show you what I like and don't like so you could conceivably make your own judgment. In this case, however, if you think this film does not suck, you are incorrect.


All this tasty writing ©2002-11 by Andrew Lindemann Malone. All rights reserved.