I was sitting around the other day, getting ready to shove a red hot poker into my eye, when someone asked me if I would rather see the latest youth obsessed horror film with them. So I thought about it for a moment, and put the poker down. I’m still not sure I made the right decision.

valentineHollywood is so preoccupied with awards this time of year that they have little time to devote to new releases. That means a rush of mindless films that don’t cost much and are guaranteed to recoup their budget after the first weekend. Most of these films are aimed at and feature young people who aren’t old enough to know better.

They flock to these films with wide-eyed innocence, completely unaware that what they’re being fed are leftovers. Ironic for a generation that coined the phrase “been there, done that.” The films come with a shiny new coat, but underneath the veneer are films we have all seen before.

“Valentine” is the latest attempt to cash in on the genre that began with “Halloween,” and has produced such theme thrillers as “Friday the 13th,” “Black Christmas,” “Mother’s Day” “Prom Night” and “New Year’s Evil.”

They’re all pretty much the same movie. Someone does something nasty to someone in their past, leading to serious psychosis in their present. “Valentine” covers pretty much the same turf. Nerdy kid can’t catch a break at his junior high school prom, and is framed for molesting a girl. Years later, all of the pretty girls who laughed at him get a nasty Valentine and wind up dead.

The killer is obviously not clever enough to work for Hallmark, so he takes out his frustrations on a mostly forgettable cast. Director Jamie Blanks fails to do anything more than connect the dots of the predictable and derivative script. The scariest thing about “Valentine” is that it took four people to write it.

The script is based on a novel by Tom Savage, which I haven’t read, but highly doubt it is so complex that it would take four writers to bring it to the screen. The final script hardly seems worth the effort, a paint-by-numbers chiller that fails to bring anything new to the genre.

The performances are as stilted as the script and direction. The actors are not playing characters, but types. They’re all pretty and freshly scrubbed, but can’t act their way out of a wet bag. They get no help from director Blanks, the director of “Urban Legend” who just seems content on setting them up and knocking them down.

You have to care about the characters to care about their fate. I could care less. Except for their costumes, it’s hard to tell these folks apart. It’s also difficult to take seriously a killer who wears a cherub mask. If all of this were done tongue in cheek like “Scream” it might have stood a chance. As it plays, “Valentine” is heartless.

The film is technically sound, with decent production values and an appropriate musical score that suggests more thrills than are delivered.

“Valentine” serves up a healthy dose of gore, but other elements vital to the success of the genre are sadly missing. All of that nubile young flesh on display and no one gets naked. What’s that about? One of the cornerstones of the genre are gratuitous nude scenes. Lose them and the whole house of cards starts to collapse.

I suspect that the film will be popular with its intended demographic, who will probably find the characters and situations fresh and exciting. They won’t care that it has all been done before, and much better. They won’t care that the characters are thin as paper and just as disposable. They will probably jump at all the right spots, and be shocked by the ending.

Those of us who have been around the block a few times will see the film for what it is. Just another low rent rip-off featuring Hollywood’s current flavors of the month. This batch is pretty bland. I predict major careers for each and everyone one of them making personal appearances at fan conventions.

STUPID CUPIDNew horror-thriller is stupid and has no heart


David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton, Jessica Capshaw, Katherine Heigl in a film directed by Jamie Blanks. Rated R. 94 Minutes.


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