Quite the most frightening thing about Valentine is the fact it took no less than four screenwriters to concoct this by-the-numbers slasher epic. Into this mix, factor the additional information that the film is based on a novel and that the director presumably had some input, so the total rises to no less than six participants, making the whole thing a nightmare of horror as concerns the level of creativity at work. The premise here is to take a holiday and turn it into an horrific experience. The idea itself isn’t terribly original, since nearly every holiday has proved an excuse for mayhem of this sort — from Christmas to St. Swithin’s Day — but even worse, Valentine’s Day itself already figured in one of the better (relatively speaking) slasher outings of the first wave of maniac-on-the-loose in pursuit of meat-on-the-hoof teenagers, My Bloody Valentine. What we have here is an upscale Friday the 13th picture, but instead of Jason with a smile, a song, a machete and a hockey-mask, we have Jerome with a chip on his shoulder, a stress-induced nosebleed and a Cupid mask. It just doesn’t work. The Friday the 13th pictures were at least up front about the fact that they were not much more than exploitative junk hooked to a clever ad campaign (“The body count continues”). Valentine seems to have delusions of being a real movie that’s genuinely about something. In point of fact, it’s about adequate — and not always that. In a fashion that can only be described as trite and true, Valentine delivers a story grounded in a revenge scheme with the unknown Jerome (no one knows who he is by the time of the action, nor what he looks like) getting back at the women who taunted him — and more or less railroaded him into reform school and psychiatric hospitals — at a junior high school dance. Admittedly, there is some attempt at clever characterization — and some of it works — but all this does is create a film where the usual stupid-teens-in-peril are replaced by slightly better defined 20-somethings-in-peril who end up behaving like — you guessed it — stupid-teens-in-peril. The high point in this inanity is reached when one of their number (Denise Richards, The World Is Not Enough) — fully realizing that there’s a psychotic killer on the loose and after her — does exactly what any rational person would do: She wanders away from a party full of people to be by herself, removes as much clothing as possible, and makes herself as vulnerable as she can by boozing it up in a hot tub to await the scripted inevitability. Yep, that’s just what I’d do, too. In its favor, Valentine does boast better than average production values and acting, while the script manages to have occasional flourishes of wit in the dialogue that sometimes enliven the film’s more typical outbursts of tedium. As is common with this sort of film, we are ultimately treated to a “surprise” ending. Unfortunately, the presentation is at first too confused to work, and then the tag scene drags on so long that any but the most credulous viewer knows full well what is going to happen. There are a handful of cheap thrills along the way, and the film isn’t actually painful to watch, but, all in all, I’d say rent Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives instead. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, and you get some Alice Cooper songs in the bargain.
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