Valentine (2001)

Directed by Jamie Blanks [Other horror films: Urban Legend (1998), Storm Warning (2007), Long Weekend (2008)]

Life sometimes strips away the finer things, and leaves but a burnt out husk in it’s wake.

That’s how I see Valentine.

There was a time in my life when I really enjoyed this movie, and would place it alongside Urban Legend, Cherry Falls, and I Know What You Did Last Summer as great post-Scream slashers. My recent visitation with Urban Legend has already removed it from that list, though, and unfortunately, the same has happened with this one, which is a damn disappointment.

Valentine is a movie I really wanted to end up enjoying as much as I used to, but I just couldn’t. It certainly had it’s strong elements, such as the design of the killer (and not just the mask – the overall dark clothing was, as the kids say, off the chain-hook), the small comedic scenes (such as the speed-dating or the argument between Benita Ha and Jessica Capshaw), and the solid opening (Katherine Heigl being stalked by the killer). Hell, most of the kills are actually pretty decent (my favorite perhaps being the bow-and-arrow murder).

Even with all of these positive portions, I found the whole of the film somewhat, for lack of a better word, shallow, and definitely, by the end, somewhat under-cooked.

Most of the acting is fine. I don’t think anyone is particularly great, mind, but most of the main performances (such as Marley Shelton, Jessica Cauffiel, David Boreanaz, Daniel Cosgrove, what-have-you) are competent enough to not cause any issues. If there was one moderately iffy performance, I’d have to point at Boreanaz, but it may be more because I disliked his character than the actual ability behind his acting.

It’s largely the conclusion to this one that really lets me down. Some of my issues are small things (for instance, I do not believe for a second that, at a party of something like a hundred people, only one person would be in the hot-tub, and no one would be in the game room), but the reveal of the killer’s identity also strikes me as weak. It didn’t help that I was reminded in part of Alone in the Dark, which is a much better movie than this one in most ways.

I’m not saying that Valentine can’t be a good watch, and to a certain extent, I enjoyed a decent amount of the film. The ending just doesn’t really do the rest of the film justice, which is a shame because I think Valentine had a lot going for it.

Oh, and one more point which I thought was somewhat amusing. I mentioned earlier that I recently rewatched Urban Legend, and found it lacking. It’s a better movie than this one is, to be sure, but it still felt just as tame and held back as Valentine feels, at least to me.

As it turns out, and I honestly didn’t know this until after finishing Valentine this time around, this film and Urban Legend share the same director, being Jamie Blanks. Given that piece of information, it makes sense that this rewatch went about as poorly as Urban Legend, which, again, is a shame.

No doubt there are worse movies out there, and I also don’t doubt that I’ll see this one in the future, and perhaps I’ll even see Valentine in a moderately kinder light with my next viewing. Right now, though, I think it’s below average, but not disastrously so.

6/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. It’s a quality podcast, if only because I’m there. As such, if you listen to the video below, you can hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Valentine.

Spiders II: Breeding Ground (2001)

Directed by Sam Firstenberg [Other horror films: Ninja III: The Domination (1984)]

Pretty much a sequel-in-name-only to the previous year’s Spiders, Spiders II: Breeding Ground is about as terrible as you’d expect an early 2000’s Sci-Fi spider movie to be. Of course, it does possess a little charm, and some aspects are almost interesting, but overall, there’s not a whole lot here that makes the film worth seeing.

There’s only four performances worth noting, and none of them are really that stellar. Stephanie Niznik wasn’t great, but she was a lot more believable than Greg Cromer. Daniel Quinn was okay, though I really thought his character could have done with a bit more depth. The best here was probably Richard Moll (who I recently saw in House). His character was over-the-top evil scientist corny, but at least he knew what this movie was.

I mean, to be honest, the movie’s not exactly horrible if you know what it’s going to end up being anyway. The first Spiders was awful, but somewhat charming at the same time. While this definitely wasn’t as enjoyable, the setting (a run-down ship) was interesting, and there was occasionally an intriguing mystery.

Ultimately, though, there’s nothing special here, especially toward the end, in which we’re bombarded with really terrible CGI spiders. I mean, they’re really bad. It doesn’t help that by this point, most of the interesting story elements were thrown out the window. I guess I’ll give the movie some props insofar as the special effects with the spiders bursting from the bodies, but it really wasn’t anything all that original to begin with.

Spiders II is an early 2000’s Sci-Fi film, and that’s all it is. I don’t hold that against the movie too much, because I’d definitely take this over much of their post-2010 animal movies (such as the atrocious 2-Headed Shark Attack series). It doesn’t make it good, but there are far worse movies out there.

5.5/10

Hannibal (2001)

Directed by Ridley Scott [Other horror films: Alien (1979), Alien: Covenant (2017)]

I can’t recall exactly how long it’s been since I’ve seen this movie in full, but I will say it’s been at least eight years. I remembered some of the scenes here, but not that many, so the film had a somewhat fresh feel to it. Also, it’s a decent amount more graphic than The Silence of the Lambs, which only works in it’s favor. Honestly, I enjoyed this one, and thought it a mostly fun romp.

The idea of a previous victim of Lecter’s seeking revenge against the good doctor is pretty fun, and it casts the victim, Verger, as both sympathetic, but also somewhat blood-thirsty (though certainly not without reason). Even before Lecter gets back to the USA, seeing him ingratiate himself in Italy is a lot of fun too, and in fact, the Italian portions of the film were perhaps the most interesting to me (it doesn’t hurt that the segment ended with a fantastic disembowelment).

Unlike some, I didn’t think Julianne Moore’s presence in lieu of Jodie Foster’s was that bad. Obviously, it would have been great to get Foster to reprise her role, but Moore did perfectly fine playing Clarice, and got on well with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Of course, Hopkins does fantastically as Lecter, and stole the show, especially in his Italian scenes, but really, throughout the film, he’s great. Gary Oldman, playing a rather disfigured victim of Lecter’s, does a great job, and his voice creeps me out as much today as it did when I was younger, watching the film. Other stand-outs include Giancarlo Giannini and Zeljko Ivanek. I didn’t particularly care for Ray Liotta’s performance, but that’s partially because his character was so over-the-top scummy that I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for him at any point.

This movie isn’t particularly violent, but like The Silence of the Lambs, there are a few good scenes here, ranging from a previously-mentioned disembowelment to some solid pig action (and I don’t mean in a Wedding Trough fashion). There’s nothing that seems over-the-top in Hannibal, and the ending, which leans more toward disturbing than it does violent, was pretty solid.

Really, Hannibal’s gotten a decent amount of flak, which is a shame, as I think it’s a solid follow-up to one of the most classic films of the 1990’s. Truth be told, while I do enjoy The Silence of the Lambs, I think I prefer Hannibal, and a large part of that might be because this has a little more of the horror feeling than it’s predecessor does. I’d give them roughly the same score, but Hannibal was one that, surprisingly, I found I really enjoyed after revisiting.

8.5/10

Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell (2001)

Directed by Chris Angel [Other horror films: The Fear: Resurrection (1999), Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (2002)]

This movie was ill-advised. Of course, I also hold the somewhat unpopular opinion that the second film was also ill-advised, but I promise that in this case, I’m more in the mainstream of popular thought.

If this movie has anything going for it, at least on a personal interest level, it’s that it stars A.J. Cook. Sure, she was in Final Destination 2, Wer, and The Virgin Suicides (which I saw once, and found decent), and also hilariously had a young appearance in an episode of Goosebumps, but I best know her from her long-running role on Criminal Minds, which is one of the few crime shows I regularly watched on television. Seeing J.J. (her character on Criminal Minds) dealing with a Djinn was oddly fun.

Unfortunately, that’s the best I can say about this one. It’s true that Jason Connery (who was in one of Colin Baker’s better stories during his stint on Doctor Who, Vengeance on Varos) was moderately entertaining, but the rest of the cast, such as Louisette Geiss, Aaron Smolinski, and Tobias Mehler, did little to nothing for me. I don’t really blame the cast, though, as the story strikes me as far more troubling.

Like I mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of the second movie, and I don’t even know if this is that much worse, but I do think the story here was lackluster. Now, the story wasn’t great during the first half of the film, but it took even a worse turn as soon as St. Michael the Archangel took possession of Tobias Mehler’s body. Our lead wished for St. Michael’s help, and so, by God, we got it, which lent a strong fantasy feel to the second half of the film (including a magical flaming sword) but did nothing to cause any more enjoyment for myself.

The base of the story was almost interesting, or at least as interesting as a low-budget Wishmaster movie can muster, but I don’t think there was all that much heart in this. The movie is noticeably cheap, the college doesn’t really seem like a college to me, and some of the more amusing scenes (such as Connery, who is possessed by the Djinn early on into the film, berating a bunch of history students for not accepting the importance of the Djinn during the war over Helen of Troy) are scarce indeed.

A.J. Cook aside, I can’t think of any good reason to really give this a watch, but obviously, you do you. Just don’t expect this to rival the first film, or come anywhere close.

4/10

Thir13en Ghosts (2001)

Directed by Steve Beck [Other horror films: Ghost Ship (2002)]

This is only the second time I’ve seen this film (which I possess on DVD for some reason), and again, I find it underwhelming. There’s plenty of good elements: the setting (a futuristic, mechanical house), many of the actors, and half the humor all make for a fun film. But what’s lacking is some additional background, along with the answers to some questions that came up. I’ll not give anything away, but the ending doesn’t exactly strike me as a positive one, despite what one might think. And having some background origins on these ghosts would have been nice, but absolutely none is given. Many of the ghost designs are cool, but without cemented origins, it just falls flat.

Tony Shalhoub has never been a favorite actor of mine, but he does decently well here. As prone to overreaction as he was, Matthew Lillard had some of the most amusing lines throughout the film. And Shannon Elizabeth (who played Shalhoub’s daughter)? I’d buy that for a dollar. She was an attractive actress, though she didn’t have all that much screen time. Thir13en Ghosts is a fun enough midnight movie, I suppose, but there’s not much substance to it, and overall, it’s not that memorable of a film. I feel it could have been better under the direction of another writer or director. As it is, Thir13en Ghosts is below average, but only just. You could certainly do worse.

6/10