directed by Jamie Blanks
(Warner, 2001)

Valentine is a vastly underrated, thrilling horror movie. At its root, it is obviously a slasher film, but this movie features great pacing, true suspense, quite effective musical transitions and, most importantly, a terrific finish. Valentine not only has a recognizable plot, it incorporates some dandy instances of symmetry that really help tie everything together in the end.

I wish I could tell you just how satisfying the ending is. I had my suspicions about the identity of the killer, but several late twists made me doubt my theory, change it and finally just applaud the filmmakers for essentially keeping me in the dark up until the very end. I know the clues are there all along, and many people may discover the secret well before the final revelation, but this experienced horror fan was kept off-balance throughout.

I also have to admit that this movie made me jump a couple of times (and I can't say that about very many horror movies). With significant help from the musical score, suspenseful scenes were really presented well -- just long enough to make you grit your teeth but not long enough to become tiresome. In trailers, the movie looks like another Scream (and there are definite similarities), but Valentine stands head and shoulders above the great majority of slasher films.

A lot of horror films feature attractive women, but Valentine is in a class all by itself. What you get here is Katherine Heigl, Marley Shelton, Jessica Cauffiel, the charming Jessica Capshaw and -- drum roll please -- Denise Richards. Richards is absolutely stunning in this movie -- the smoldering, sultry looks, the prayer-answering hot tub scene and the bedroom scene I won't even attempt to describe. Watching the creepy old detective put the moves on her is rather comical, but you can't blame the guy for trying.

I must say I really love the killer in this movie. While the concept of the masked killer is far from original, the cherub mask is a cool, creepy look. This killer also enjoys variety, employing a number of different, equally effective implements of death. He works his way up from your basic knife across the throat and crossbow to broken shards of glass and a couple of really innovative weapons. No two deaths are remotely alike, and you can just tell how much the killer enjoys his/her work.

The DVD's energetic club reel of Orgy's song "Opticon" is great, but I would caution you not to watch it before watching the movie because it does give a little away in terms of who lives and who dies.

Valentine has almost everything I want in a horror movie -- a creepy killer, gorgeous actresses, all manner of killings, miscellaneous laughs, an actual plot of some complexity, nail-biting suspense and a less than obvious ending that totally satisfied this horror fan. I would not have objected to some nudity, but this movie really doesn't need it. It's hot, it's sizzling, it's sexy, it's smart, it's a carnival of murderous delight. You won't find many slasher films better than Valentine.

by Daniel Jolley
17 December 2005

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