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I will die.
The Title Is the Spoiler...In the Best Way!
Today what passes for horror films are far too steeped in the self-referential -- one "Scream" winking at the audience was successful statement enough -- and even straightforward ones like "Wrong Turn" are overpopulated with WB and UPN outcasts. So it should be heartening to acolytes of exploitation horror films of the past that writer-director Nick Palumbo has delivered a retro slasher film that hearkens back to "Maniac" and European giallos. Simply on looks alone, "Murder-Set-Pieces" is a throwback that is easy to appreciate for its technical merits; it is a flawed horror film, however, oddly lacking tension or surprises.
Beautifully shot on 35mm film, "M-S-P" immediately captures high marks for successfully resurrecting the seedy color palette of the exploitation horror pictures from the 1970s and early 80s: The blood runs deep red, and the flesh looks unforgivingly un-"digitally-refinished" and real. Palumbo also has a keen eye for framing shots and camera movement, which keeps the film consistently watchable regardless of the film's shortcomings. Furthermore, he has assembled a game cast who seem to have been plucked from backgrounds in which they are used to pushing boundaries; by appearing to be up for anything, they lend their scenes authenticity. By working without being constrained in what can or cannot be filmed, the screen unapologetically oozes decay, in sexuality and violence.
"M-S-P" is pretty straightforward: The "Photographer" (Sven Garrett), is a serial rapist/killer driven in his misogyny by a Nazi fixation and torturous childhood memories of his mother. There exists a main plot concerning a young girl (Jade Risser), whose sister is dating the Photographer, and who alone suspects that something is not right with him. But the bulk of "M-S-P," as with "Maniac" before it, is a series of the Photographer's attacks. The film follows him as he savages and murders numerous women: actual whores, women he feels are acting like whores, and even little girls he believes might grow up to become whores. The title itself spells out the film's selling point: it is all about the "murder set pieces" and the gore it entails. And "M-S-P" delivers it equal to that of "Maniac" or "Pieces" or any number of similarly gruesome classics. The effects are physically-created and once again proves its superiority to the unconvincing CGI ones.
Laudable are these technical accomplishments, but the film falters in another horror department: the requisite surprise or tension. One of the handicaps is Garrett, who plays the "Photographer" and resembles a beefier, Teutonic Judd Nelson. This is not meant as a cheap knock on Garrett, since Nelson himself has been entertaining when portraying a character that is well-suited for him, as in "The Breakfast Club." Granted, Judd Nelson himself also portrayed a serial killer in "Relentless," but neither he nor Garrett pulls it off convincingly. Garrett is seen in scene after scene committing sadistic and repellent deeds with lots of fire and brimstone; but in much like Nelson's style of acting, he often looks more ticked-off than actually crazed. Certainly in the real world there must be a wide range of serial killer types, but what actually works on a movie screen is more discriminating. (Conversely, certainly many actors who convincingly portray serial killers would be out of place in "Breakfast Club.") And because Garrett is unconvincing, it undermines the central conceit of tracing his exploits as he is on screen for the majority of the film. Although Palumbo may have been aiming for a "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"-like character study, the film might have worked better as a giallo mystery, with the killer's identity disguised and focusing on the action. Establishing the killer's identity from the beginning worked for "Henry" and "Maniac" because of the genuinely unsettling characterizations by Michael Rooker and Joe Spinelli, respectively. It is simply difficult to invest similar interest in Garrett's character.
The other factor that hamstrings the film from achieving genuine horror is how certain scenes are set up. One especially tension-killing type of scene features the Photographer seen stalking his victim before he attacks. The potential victim is seen; the Photographer comes into view and follows; and the victim is killed. But no concession is made to elevate tension. It makes the viewer yearn for even a cheap "Boo! Gotcha!" scene. In "Halloween," although Michael Myers's presence is established often, he disappears from view momentarily and allows the viewer to lose track of him, thus creating tension; then the viewer subsequently is surprised as Myers pops back into the frame unexpectedly. In "M-S-P" the viewer often is left to intellectually admire how convincing the murders themselves look, instead of being viscerally affected. Furthermore, the attacks involving rape and torture are brutally graphic, but instead of causing the viewer to squirm uncomfortably, they are numbing. The problem is twofold; these scenes go on for a long stretch, and from the beginning to end they are ratcheted up the way a Jerry Bruckheimer production gooses up the action. Again, the artistry Palumbo achieves is in how faithful such scenes look in recreating reality, but they are not executed to effectively affect an audience. Perhaps Palumbo felt it to be beneath him to use the usual shock tactics, but without a compelling lead this horror film needed to find even a few conventional ways to force the viewer to leap out of his seat in shock or to further crumple into it in excruciating tension, as do the shotgun blast blowing apart a head in "Maniac" or the sloooooowwwww splinter-through-the-eye in "Zombi 2," respectively.
That said, "Murder-Set-Pieces" is akin to a cool cover band: Not quite the real thing -- but admirable in how technically faithful it tries to be to its source material in many respects. It is a tribute to a time when cinema was not afraid to make room for the unapologetically nasty. Even for that alone, it has achieved much.
The Grudge (2004)
Populating a remake of a foreign film with well-known American actors helps to attract an American audience who otherwise might not watch the original. The makers of "The Grudge" have brought in Sarah Michelle Gellar for Takashi Shimizu's American reworking of his own "Ju-on." While "The Grudge" succeeds in being a masterful film in its own right, placed alongside the original it still cannot weather some drop-off in the chill factor.
In "Ju-on" a curse envelopes and dispatches ordinary people for no apparent rhyme or reason besides bad luck. The film's success has its basis in its ability to sustain throughout its running time, a permeating mood of unease. The obscurity of its actors (especially for a foreign audience) coupled with the banality of the film's minimalist, documentary look creates a sense for the audience that they are watching something real. Once this perception of ordinariness is established, whenever something surreal and out of place appears in frame, the effect is truly unsettling.
Unfortunately, the introduction of Gellar (as well as Bill Pullman and others) in the remake thwarts the attempt to cast the same spell. While there is nothing technically wrong with Gellar's performance, her very identifiability is a liability. Her presence signals too loudly that the person on screen is an actress and calls too much attention to the film as "film." Similarly, the Hollywood gloss of the film's look also takes some of the polish off the original's simulated realism.
Since most of "The Grudge" is shot-for-shot identical to the original, the remake still is expert in generating its fair amount of shocks. (Furthermore, "The Grudge" also reveals the origins of the curse for those for whom explanations are a plus.) As with "Ringu" and its remake, the recommendation to the viewer who desires maximum queasiness would be in favor of the original.
With the bar set high by the "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" franchises, today there is a certain expectation for movie adaptations of comic books. "Catwoman" fails to live up to the simple expectation that such a movie be more entertaining than "Daredevil." It is as if the filmmakers simply stopped thinking beyond the concept of "Halle Berry in a catsuit," and could not be bothered to fit around her an engaging story, a memorable villain, or colorful supporting characters. And most toxic of all is Berry's performance itself.
Nearly a decade ago another film similarly tried to coast on the sex appeal of its central character. While "Barb Wire" did bomb at the box office, it nonetheless offered up entertainment. Pamela Anderson, as the title character, displayed little acting talent; as a walking, talking caricature, however, she thoroughly infected the movie with trashy appeal. Her utterly guileless line-readings even made the deadly dialogue spring to life. ("Don't call me 'Babe'!")
Neither blessed (nor cursed) with Anderson's larger-than-life persona, Berry turns in an earnest performance not so distinguishable from her "Storm" in the "X-Men" movies, minus some garments. Whereas there she blended in as part of an ensemble, Berry's blandness is brought front and center here. Oscar-winning performance not withstanding, Berry's lack of range renders her transformation from timid Patience Phillips to Catwoman a mere cosmetic costume change from dowdy to S&M; she displays no matching inner change, aside from playing up some cattiness. And this exposes a fundamental weakness in the casting of Berry as Catwoman: instead of a transformation of a girl into a woman, the girl remains, only playing dress-up. The role required an actress who could project the sly, worldly adultness of previous Catwomen Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer.
But then again, with nothing else in place to prop up the central character, even better-suited actresses would be hard-pressed to transcend this material. Sharon Stone, as the villain, here lacks the charisma she brought to "Basic Instinct," "Total Recall," or even episodes of "The Practice." Benjamin Bratt ends up almost as anonymous as the rest of the supporting characters. And the only thing director Pitof brings to the table with semblance a comic book is his name.
Successful comic books achieve the illusion of fluidity from panel to panel. In "Catwoman" the effect is the exact opposite: The movie always feels oddly static, as if entire scenes are stuck in singular panels. Fittingly enough, "Catwoman" never seems intended to be anything more than the movie equivalent of a Maxim magazine photo spread. And the costume itself reflects this entirely: Ill-suited for fighting, and made to fall off during a pillow fight at a soft-core slumber party.
"Cellular" has the setup for a solid straight-ahead thriller: A kidnap victim who does not know where she is being held phones a total stranger who must then stay connected on his cell phone to find her before she is killed. Joel Schumacher scored earlier with a similarly phone-themed Larry Cohen story, "Phone Booth." As executed by tone-deaf director David R. Ellis, however, "Cellular" becomes an unintentionally hilarious cousin to Brian de Palma's "Raising Cain" and "Snake Eyes."
Ellis seems to have unwittingly spliced together two different films with mismatched tones: Kim Basinger as the kidnapee and Jason Statham as the kidnapper occupy the deadly-serious, straight-to-video thriller half, while Chris Evans as the rescuer and William H. Macy as a police officer seem to be in a "Saturday Night Live"-alum action comedy. Nowhere else is the disjointedness in tone more apparent than when Basinger and Evans's performances are placed side-by-side during their conversations: The scenes keep cutting between an overwrought Basinger wringing out every drop of melodrama, while a blissfully inept Evans seems to be channeling a cross between Chris Kattan/Jimmy Fallon and Ben Affleck/Keanu Reeves.
Meanwhile, Ellis pulls out tricks intended to generate thrills and surprises. He throws in out-of-nowhere "shocks," a la "Final Destination"; he throws in flashbacks; he throws in a gun-blazing Macy in Jerry Bruckheimer action-hero slo-mo; and yet, Ellis has no handle on staging any of them competently. Case in point: "Cellular" is the proud owner of one of the most ineptly scored chase sequences ever, as if Ellis simply heard a snippet of the song's lyrics ("...where you gonna run to?") literally and paid no attention to the inappropriateness of the accompanying music (which just bop, bop, bops along). (The song is even reprised during the closing credits, which itself is misbegotten in conception.)
And yet, for all of its failures as art, "Cellular" is always entertaining for those very same faults.
King Arthur (2004)
A King's Ransom for Fool's Gold
What kind of individual inspires a legend? The conclusion from "King Arthur" seems to be: one who disguises lack of charisma with smoldering glances. More importantly, what it is about Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movies that dulls any attempt at sharp characterization? While Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean" was one rare exception, Clive Owen is rendered virtually anonymous in the title role. Other principal characters fare no better. Here is a movie that gives its characters not much more than perfunctorily distinctive fighting styles to set them apart from one another.
The movie-makers also eshew the fantasy aspects of the "sword in the stone" and "Merlin's sorcery" and try to play up historical accuracy; what is left, however, fails to convey the advertised "untold true story" in any compelling manner. As a salute to accuracy, the battles do look gritty enough (with the "unrated" version apparently restoring all its bloody glory) -- and the movie musters up one exciting battle scene on ice -- but the movie rewards no one searching for a point about the man and the myth. All that remains is a movie that neither informs nor entertains, but is not jaw-droppingly bad enough to be memorable. "King Arthur" falls on its own sword: it is easily forgotten and ironically destined to become an arcane historical footnote in an obscure film encyclopedia.
Final note: Why make a big deal about making a female character strong, if ultimately she is just going to fall back on needing a man's protection? And what is with the female battle outfit? Do only "naughty bits" need protecting? Keira Knightly looks undeniably sexy, but there is no feminist gain here.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Nice Running-Mate to the Original "Candidate"
After achieving only so-so results in reworking an old classic with the timid "The Truth About Charlie," director Jonathan Demme confidently updates "The Manchurian Candidate." Here he prevents the viewer from being distracted into keeping active count of the differences between his film and the original; the viewer can relax and watch an "original" film from the beginning. Demme immediately establishes his own distinctive approach: Bring characterization to the foreground. The original was compelling mainly due to its novel and intricate plot, but the acting was no-frills. Demme and his actors -- Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber (and even minor players like Jeffrey Wright) -- create characters that are fleshed-out and human. They are far from the chess pieces of the original and thus better draw us into the film, offering the viewer an emotional entry point and a rooting human interest from beginning to end. While not superior to the original -- conspiracies in of themselves simply have lost their ability to shock these days -- the new "Candidate" achieves its own success by being a rare thriller: one that is emotionally moving.
Wicker Park (2004)
The trailer for "Wicker Park" invites immediate comparisons between this film and "Fatal Attraction," and even the DVD cover promises a "sizzling, action-packed noir thriller." That, coupled with a cast of young stars and almost universal panning by critics, created expectations that this film would be 2004's "Swimfan." The film does indeed feature characters who possess unhealthy romantic obsessions, but these characters are not presented here as cartoonish psychopaths. Instead, they are presented as otherwise reasonable people compelled to do things that are less-than-reasonable, but understandable. Accordingly, the "action" here is not of the harpy-with-butcher-knife variety: "Wicker Park" builds excitement cumulatively, in the manner of a good mystery, as the complete picture coalesces through events revealed in a non-linear structure (reminiscent of several sequences from "The Rules of Attraction"). The acting appropriately lacks flashiness (with the exception of comic relief, Matthew Lillard), which grounds the film in a more believable reality. These things said, one's enjoyment of "Wicker Park" may owe in great part to knowing to which genre this film belongs. Hint: It does not follow the rules of "Fatal Attraction."
Serviceable Romantic Comedy
"Wimbledon" is another one of those agreeable, English-flavored romantic comedies which in years past would have starred a stammering Hugh Grant. This time the principals are professional tennis players and the setting is Wimbledon. Paul Bettany makes for a good romantic lead in the Grant mold without the latter's sometimes annoying cloying and also is convincing as a tennis player at the tail end of his career. But Kirsten Dunst, the love interest, while giving a very likable performance, does not look her part. She also is not helped by the screenplay, which does not present her as a particularly compelling match. In fact, the character seems more like one that usually would be set up as the rival, missing the elements of the "intended". Further causing the film to come across less than compelling: Every character, save one, is nice, making it nearly conflict-free. Not a waste of time, but nothing memorable, "Wimbledon" is a tension-free, pick-me-up: The movie equivalent of a lightly-flavored carbonated water: effervescent, but lacking any distinct taste.
Reindeer Games (2000)
Affleck-ted, but Not Fatally
John Frankenheimer follows up his great comeback film, "Ronin," with "Reindeer Games," a flawed but efficient thriller that recalls his earlier "52 Pick-Up."
Freshly paroled ex-con Rudy Duncan (Ben Affleck) assumes the identity of his cellmate, Nick (who misses out on his parole when he is taken out during a prison riot), when Rudy falls for Nick's gorgeous pen-pal, Ashley (Charlize Theron). The ruse goes awry when he is also mistaken for Nick by a gang of thugs (headed by Gary Sinise) who recruit him in their planned heist of an Indian casino at which Nick had been employed.
Like "52 Pick-Up," "Reindeer Games" has a central character whose flawed behavior puts him at the mercy of dangerous individuals who conceive a scheme that spins out of control. "52 Pick-Up" was successful because the entire cast, beginning with Roy Scheider as the trapped hero, was equal to the task of bringing the grittiness of the material to the screen. The one significant problem with "Reindeer Games" is the casting of squeaky-clean Affleck as its central character. Through no fault of his own, Affleck looks like a lightweight alongside a supporting cast that includes Sinise, Clarence Williams III, Danny Trejo, and Dennis Farina -- all actors who look like they have lived a little. Affleck cuts a profile similar to that of Scheider, but without the lived-in look that made him convincing as someone who would be able to go toe to toe with his tormentors.
"Reindeer" is helped greatly by the performance of Theron, who, while also young, always has been able to project a more adult presence like the young Kathleen Turner. Credited more for her on- and off-screen glamour, Theron often is underrated as an actress. Here she conveys equal parts sweetness, intelligence, dismay, and ferocity. Of course, she also livens up her sensual scenes. For many actresses, nudity itself is the extent of their sexuality, but Theron generates heat simply by looking comfortable and bringing an unforced quality to the proceedings.
The other major plus is Frankenheimer's direction, which turns an adequate screenplay into a solid thriller. He keeps the story moving and handles the action scenes economically, avoiding the excesses of Michael Bay, Simon West, and other directors of MTV-inspired fireball-fests. As in "Ronin," the action actually stays within the bounds of plausibility, which makes them more involving.
Hollow Man (2000)
Paul Verhoeven directs truly nasty films ("Showgirls", "Starship Troopers") that are often defended on the basis that they are intended to be satire. That said, "Hollow Man" is another satire. At face value, though, it is an invisible-horny-boy teen sex comedy cross-bred with a slasher film, minus the humor, intended or otherwise. The only way to salvage this film would have been to bring back the cast from a 1970s disaster flick to ham it up (the way Robert Davi redeems his scenes as a pimp-channeling-Fonzie in "Showgirls"). What there is in "Hollow Man" instead is an all-too-earnest cast. For all its visual pyrotechnics, this film lacks any spark. As for Verhoeven, the next logical progression would be for him to direct a live-action version of "Urotsukidoji".
Under-appreciated Box-Office "Loser"
When first released in theaters during the summer of 2000, critics roundly dismissed "Loser," whose unfortunate title made their jobs that much easier.
("Hollow Man" was another film whose title seemed to write its own reviews.) "Loser," however, is anything but. Most seemed to expect the high-school hijinks of Amy Heckerling's previous "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Clueless," but as it follows its characters in a college environment, "Loser" is a more mature work that is more focused on the relationship between its lead characters than on providing laughs (which it does have).
The "loser" of the title is Jason Biggs's Paul Tannek, a nice but naive small-town boy who experiences a rude awakening upon arriving as a freshman at a big-city New York college. He is met with indifference and scorn from most of his fellow students, who range from the standoffish to the cynical. Things brighten when Paul ends up falling for Mena Suvari's equally sweet Dora Diamond, a homeless classmate who is involved in a relationship with her smug professor, Greg Kinnear's Edward Alcott.
The plot which follows is basically "Will Paul and Dora end up together?" Although this is a standard scenario that has played itself to its inevitable conclusion in many a similar film, "Loser" is fresh in its lack of pretentiousness and melodrama in getting there. Instead of trying to hold the viewer's attention by heaping on bucketsful of soap-opera twists and turns, it concentrates rather on taking the time to show Paul and Dora's friendship develop and possibly lead to love blossoming between these two appealing individuals. An especially nicely realized series of scenes are those that comprise Paul and Dora's first "date." The idea that their day- and night-long tour of New York is a zero-budget one is charming enough, but Biggs and Suvari are the ones who sell the scenes. This is best exemplified in a brief, dialogueless portion in which Biggs's and Suvari's expressions speak to their feelings. Biggs brings off Paul's enthusiastic wonder as he takes in the new environment to which Dora has introduced him, and Suvari is equally effective at showing Dora reading Paul's expression and realizing Paul's guileless appreciation for the gift she has given him without realizing it. It is small touches like these throughout the film that sets it apart from a routine exercise in sentimentality. By the time Dora finally decides between Paul and Edward, the choice seems far less an outcome predetermined by convention than the result of a plausible progression of the interaction that has occurred between the characters.
Get Carter (2000)
Hard to "Get" Reason for "Carter" Update
Sylvester Stallone's "Get Carter" is an ill-conceived update of the 1971 original which starred Michael Caine as the revenge-seeking title character. Yet, while the 2000 version is pointless, it is highly watchable, due to the uniformly good acting throughout.
The novelty of the original "Carter" was that the "hero" was a thoroughly ruthless and cold-blooded psychopath -- a character who would be thoroughly unpleasant if not for his wit and cool efficiency. (He was like a less erudite Hannibal Lecter.) The current film, though, humanizes Jack Carter, which is to miss the point. Stallone's mob enforcer is just a nice guy with a not-so-nice profession. Fortunately, the character rehabilitation makes for one of Stallone's most likeable performances in recent memory (if one actually remembers much of "Judge Dredd" or "The Specialist"). He has a warm rapport with Rachael Leigh Cook, who plays Carter's niece, Doreen. While Stallone naturally is at home in the action pieces, the best scenes in the film are Stallone and Cook's quiet moments together spent talking.
Whereas Carter has undergone a personality change, the screenplay keeps intact much of the original plot and quotes. This, too, is a major misstep because the actors inhabiting the characters placed around Carter have a different feel than those of the original. One of Carter's adversaries, Cyrus, was a weak, shifty character in the original. Now, he is a muscular, vibrant (non-straight-to-video) Mickey Rourke. Carter's quip as he sizes up Brumby is brought back, but with hulking Stallone delivering it to a decidedly less-imposing Michael Caine, it seems ridiculous. (The filmmakers do attempt to manufacture new catchphrases for Carter ("This is going to the next level."), but they shouldn't have.) Once again, though, a major misstep makes for a pleasant surprise. The most memorable character in the original was Carter because the other characters were simply there for Carter to lay into and dispose. In the new version, memorable characterizations abound from Rourke, Caine, John C. McGinley, and Alan Cumming.
Stephen T. Kay, if memory serves correctly, previously directed the equally misguided update of the "Mod Squad," which had nothing to recommend it. With "Carter," however, he has made a welcome mistake -- a Stallone film redeemed by its acting.
The In Crowd (2000)
Likeable performances stand out in "In Crowd".
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
While it holds no surprises plotwise when compared to a labrynthine erotic thriller like "Wild Things", "The In Crowd" makes up for its lack of an ambitious screenplay with charismatic performances from the lead actresses, Susan Ward and Lori Heuring, as well as from a few other actors in secondary roles. Furthermore, due to its more playful nature, "In Crowd" is a far sexier, and more fun, PG-13 alternative to its more explicit R- and unrated counterparts.
"In Crowd" contains a plot that one would expect from mixing ingredients such as the stranger-with-a-dark-past, a mental institution, a missing sister, class conflict at a country club, and sex, lies, and murder. Who is good and who is bad is easily discerned early on, and the few weakly scattered red herrings do nothing to distract from it. The real value of this film is found in individual scenes within which the actresses sketch likeable performances and hint at what they could do in better films. (SPOILER BEGINS HERE.) Ward's character is an obsessive character a la Glenn Close's Alex in "Fatal Attraction", but Ward exudes a cheerfully amoral malice from her character as opposed to Close's larger-than-life portrayal. Ward is so likeable in the role that it is believable that her character could get away with a lot of what she does. Heuring also defies convention by not playing her character as a frail, put-upon former mental patient, but rather adding a layer of toughness. (SPOILER ENDS HERE.) Both Ward and Heuring offer vivid characterizations that play off each other well. Another standout is Nathan Bexton, who portrays a character who is perpetually drinking. He draws notice and a few laughs, however, not from the usual slurred speech or stumbling about, but from a nervous, goofy energy that emanates from his facial expressions. The only overacting comes courtesy of Taylor Negron's, welcome, unfortunately very brief, throwaway cameo as an effete, thickly Bayou-accented hairdresser -- a character in the mold of Bill Murray's lawyer from "Wild Things" (though not nearly as integral to the plot).
The other reason for recommending "In Crowd" is the film's ebullient eroticism. "Wild Things" fumbled this point by being self-conscious. Its "notorious" three-way sex scene involving Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, and Denise Richards, for all its fondling and bared flesh and characters who are supposedly consumed with lust, was quite uninvolving because it seemed studied and the actors moved tentatively and uncomfortably. This was underscored by Dillon's character actually doling out instructions to the other characters. On the other hand, the PG-13 "In Crowd" contains a fully-clothed three-way bump-and-grind at a dance club, which is sexier for its more teasing quality and the expressiveness of the actors in portraying characters enjoying their sexuality. "In Crowd" contains other scenes of same- and opposite-sex sensuality which similarly succeed because the actors are engaging and the staging is suggestive rather than explicit.
The best way to view "In Crowd" is on DVD, since it contains a running commentary track featuring Ward and Heuring, whose chemistry is even better showcased here. Because the film itself is fluff, there is no illuminating insight. Unlike the sometimes dry, technical commentary found on DVDs of far superior films, however, Ward and Heuring's enthusiastic banter throughout offers an unscripted, more intimate viewing experience and suggests that they really enjoyed making the film together.
A "Valentine" to 1980s slasher films.
While not a complete return to the "go-for-broke" nudity and gore-filled slasher films of the 1980s, "Valentine" most competently captures their feel by sticking to the clichés of those films and not to those of the post-"Scream" incarnations. For the most part "Valentine" eschews the name cast, intrusive pop songs, and in-jokes. It is also less prudish than its 90s predecessors, which in cutting back on the graphic violence seemed almost apologetic for being of this genre and missed the whole point of their existence. "Valentine" is more brutal than par, and while there is no nudity, it does have Denise Richards wearing very little.