Heart failure

Movie: Valentine

Our Rating: 2.50

It's useless to warn that "Valentine" isn't particularly good cinema; nobody expects top-shelf quality from slasher flicks. But it doesn't give particularly good horror, either.

Sure, we get to witness death by arrow, butcher knife, hatchet, gunshot and electric drill. But despite the film's R rating, there's no gag-o-rama gore, and at least one key death occurs offstage. Taken on the genre's terms, this equals disappointment.

A thriller with its roots in middle-school angst, "Valentine" does boast one gimmick that's worth discussing between classes: The probable killer is a geeky guy who was once rejected by all his cute classmates, and is now all grown up and out for revenge. We say 'probableâ?� because the story is allegedly a mystery that begins with the delivery of some gruesome Valentine cards. But the cards arrive well after we've been given a pretty good idea that the geek in question (who comes complete with a nosebleed problem) has already discovered his inner assassin.

For any guy who's ever been dissed by a pubescent stunner, there's a payback fantasy floating around here. But writers Tom Savage (adapting his book) and Donna Powers (a veteran of TV's "The Equalizer") devote far more attention to the babes. This close-knit crew -- which stays tight long past graduation day -- consists of the popular Kate (Marley Shelton), the cute Lily (Jessica Cauffiel), the sexy Paige (Denise Richards, seen in a fairly modest swimsuit for a change) and the plump Dorothy (Jessica Capshaw). Fear for the latter's safety: A bit of body fat never goes over in movies like these.

In a sort of post-feminist aside, the ladies all find themselves surrounded by parade of dud dudes. One, Adam (David Boreanaz, TV's 'Angelâ?�), at first seems to have his act together, only to show later that he's having trouble with a few of the moves in his 12-step program. (Is the movie's dearth of decent fellas a compensatory gesture for presenting its female leads as victims? Is there a master's thesis in there somewhere?)

One by one, the members of the good-looking cast are threatened and/or killed, usually after a long tracking shot that follows the latest sacrificial lamb through a shadowy hallway/laboratory/art show/mansion. Their pursuer wears a goofy Halloween face that isn't likely to challenge Jason's hockey mask as a horror icon.

Presiding over all this is director Jamie Blanks, who established himself in the genre with "Urban Legend." "Valentine" is essentially the same movie, albeit less respectable. "I Still Know What You Did Last Valentine's Day?" Not bloody likely


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