No Love Lost

'Valentine' will take you back to the '80s and all its horror.

Valentine, which promised to be just another standard, derivative slasher film, turns out to be one of the most surprisingly original movies of the last 400 years.

The succession of images and ideas (one is loathe to call such an inventive concatenation of concepts a "plot") is truly startling: The opening shot reveals a wonderful land free from Styrofoam. The color orange appears as a character. Teeth are eaten. There is a paper clip filled with entrails that symbolizes the misery of a long wait at the donut shop. Someone surmises that electricity has never been discovered, and we've all been fooling ourselves with our "electrical" lights and typewriting machines. Soon, the east coast of a major nation-state is plagued by the appearance of something called "Baltimore." Many people give up on dry cleaning, and an aria is written. Racial forces gather at an important meeting, but it's a meeting of the American Association of Tree Surgeons and Practical Botanists, and little is accomplished.

The next day, young Timmy goes for a bicycle ride and is never heard from again.

Wow! That is some stellar stuff! I mean, I hate to give away the ending, but the Timmy sequence is simply mind-blowing!

OK, sorry, not really. Actually, Valentine can at least be praised for delivering on its promise to be a just another standard, derivative slasher film. It's nice that there are some things that are still what they claim to be, what with the guy who lost the presidential election now living in the White House, and Britney Spears talking about how she's not trying to look sexy, and the world of subatomic physics being so uncertain and all.

So, yes, Valentine is something of an anachronistic oddity: a slasher film that is not an ironic commentary on slasher films, nor a bait-and-switch comic take on slasher films, nor even a clever rethinking of the slasher film genre. It's just your basic, 1980s style slasher film.

Not that that makes it a good film. In fact, it's an awful film. But at least it's an honest film.

The plot comes right out of half a dozen teen/horror flicks. There's a nerdy boy in middle school named Jeremy Nerdboy (or something like that) who gets picked on by the beautiful girls of the in-crowd. Ten years later, it seems that he has returned to exact his bloody revenge.

Though his bloody revenge involves a lot of stabbing, slashing and drilling, the violence really isn't all that graphic. The camera doesn't focus on knives going into bodies, and, while there's blood, it's not the flowing bucket-of-blood kind of blood. It's more the leaking and dripping kind. You know, tasteful blood.

As the girls, now grown into grown-up girls, wait around to get slashed, they do the sorts of things that beautiful people do in slasher movies prior to getting killed, i.e. have sex. They also start to suspect their boyfriends of being the killer. Then they decide to hold a big party at a spooky house and to wander away from the crowd, which, if Hollywood has taught us anything, is precisely what you're supposed to do when being stalked by a maniacal killer.

As the "Welcome Slasher" party goes on, suspicion falls on Adam Carr, boyfriend of the most popular of the beautiful popular girls, because he's something of a drunk, and also because he's played by someone who's almost a star (David Boreanaz, who plays Angel on the aptly named WB show Angel). Since he's the most likely suspect, some other suspects are trotted out to try to deter audience suspicion. However, if you've ever seen one of these films, you're pretty sure to guess who the killer is well before any of the onscreen characters figure it out.

Other than being unoriginal and incredibly predictable, Valentine has a couple of other flaws. First, it's bizarrely slow moving. A lot of screen time is spent on pointless expository chit-chat, wherein the beautiful girls establish that they're girls and also beautiful. Which leads to the other problem with Valentine.

All of the talking just makes the leads out to be really unpleasant people. They're basically mean and shallow, and, other than being pretty, they don't have any interesting hobbies. In order for a slasher film to have some tension, you have to kind of want the proposed victims to live. In this one, they're all so horrible that it's hard not to want to see them get brutally murdered. While it could be fun to watch five shallow, wretched people get killed, it's not the kind of thing that can sustain one's interest for 98 minutes.

So, unless you're real nostalgic for the whole '80s thing, I can't really recommend Valentine. Besides, with a Republican in the White House, a recession looming and the crime rate finally looking like it's going to pick up again after its shameful eight-year slide, I think all of our '80s nostalgia needs will be well met.

Valentine is playing at Century El Con (202-3343), Century Gateway (792-9000), Century Park (620-0750), DeAnza Drive-In (745-2240) and Foothills (742-6174).

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