Director: Jamie Blanks
Year of release: 2001
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 93 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only (as far as I know)
Also known as: Love Hurts
Taglines: "Fall in love with terror", "Love hurts" and "Remember that kid everyone ignored on Valentine's Day? He remembers you".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Years ago at a high school dance held in honor of Valentine's Day school dork Jeremy Melton asks several pretty girls to dance with him but is rejected nastily by the first few and given a "maybe later" by the last. Disappointed but not yet beaten young Jeremy approaches a tubby girl named Dorothy who herself seems to be ostracized with no one to dance with. The two hit it off and are soon kissing at which point they are interrupted by some bully boys who throw scorn on the pair. Not wanting to be tarred with the same brush as Jeremy, Dorothy pretends he forced himself on her which prompts the bullies to pour fruit punch all over the unfortunate Jeremy and strip him and beat him in front of everyone. We then move forward several years to a time where the females asked to dance by Jeremy are now young women whom are all dealing with men issues of one kind or another as Valentine's Day fast approaches. After receiving a threatening Valentine card one of the women is killed whilst working late by a stranger wearing a cherub mask. As the others begin to receive their own Valentine themed warnings all signed with the initials JM they begin to suspect it could be the work of the boy they all rejected years ago at the school dance. The trouble is he has disappeared, all the police know is that he spent time in psychiatric care in his adolescent years. Paranoia begins to run high as the friends suspect the killer could already be in their midst under a new identity.
Good points: I think this one had a tight engaging story with the right mix of action, mystery and drama to keep it ticking over nicely while at the same time keeping hold of the traditional slasher ingredients. It isn't very original of course but still enjoyable and I appreciated seeing slasher staples holding things together like the humiliation of Jeremy at the start and the clever poems reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.
The killers outfit and mask is really good with the cherub mask of course linking in very well with the February 14th theme. It manages to take something that is normally innocent and turn it into something chilling and creepy. Also the nose bleed blood trickling from the mask when the killer gets excited at the conclusion of each kill was a clever touch.
Although not particularly bloody by any means (it carries a 15 certificate here in the UK) there are some good death scenes on display. I enjoyed the bits where Lily hides in the body bags at the start, the iron kill, the woman having her throat shoved on to the exposed glass shards and the death using the sauna towards the end.
Going hand in hand with the above point I felt there was a fair bit of tension in the film with some good chase/hide and seek style sequences or just creepy parts where people realise they aren't alone just prior to the killer making a move.
They make a decent fist of giving us several candidates as to who the killer is as well. Paraded before us at one time or another is Campbell, the artist Max, recovering alcoholic Adam and even one or two other minor characters we meet near the start who seem a bit weird such as the odd guy one of them goes on a date with who later turns up at the art exhibition. A lot of people might realise who is behind it all pretty quickly but they at least try to keep us guessing.
There is a nice twist style ending (again playing into the slasher film conventions that I mentioned before that the film sticks to) which makes for a strong closing scene to the film. Some people seem to be a bit confused by the ending though and I've heard that back when the IMDB message boards were still around that there was heated debate going on as to who the killer really was. I didn't find it confusing though as I think they made it fairly clear. I think I may have read once there was a deleted scene knocking around which explained it better so perhaps that should have been included but for me at least it worked well enough as it was.
Bad Points: There were a handful of parts in the film which I thought were overly silly where it was kind of sliding into bad comedy territory which I didn't appreciate. The speed dating scene for example was too over the top with the guys all being too obnoxious or behaving in a way which clearly wouldn't be attractive to hot women so for them to act that way while speed dating when you are trying to impress was unrealistic. Kate's stalker was also a bit silly with his speaking in rhymes. I guess they were trying to build him up as a suspect to tie in with the poetry on the card but it seemed lame. Finally the part with the guy that wanted Paige to shave his pubic hair was very silly. People have that fetish I know but I don't think anyone would bring it up with a really hot woman the first time you were going to bed with her in fear of putting her off.
It could be said it is a bit funny that the killer only goes after the girls that ruined his night at the dance and not the male bullies who behaved in a worse way towards him really. On the other hand though you could say he perceived it easier to target women than men plus if the girls were people he fantasied about as a kid perhaps it stung more when they rejected him than it did just getting beaten up. It was a bit unrealistic though. Perhaps would have been better if one of the women had done some digging and discovered that one or two of the male bullies had disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the past. We would have then guessed he had maybe gone after some of them in previous years.
Lastly be careful of reading the back of the DVD case if you haven't seen the film because it could potentially make it pretty obvious to you who the killer is.
Verdict: I don't think this film is liked very much generally among horror fans but I really loved it and found it to be a real treat. I was so close to giving it a ten out of ten but due to the silly bits where it felt like a lame comedy I had to give it a nine in the end but it is a very high nine! About as high as you can go without getting top marks. Definitely recommended if you haven't seen it.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Lily: Throat cut after she is found hiding in a body bag.
2) Shelly: Shot with several arrows causing her to take a high fall into a dumpster.
3) Kate's neighbor: Beaten to death with an iron.
4) Campbell: Hacked in the back with an axe while he tries to relight the hotel furnace.
5) Maid: Killed off screen, body appears to have stab wounds.
6) Ruthie: Throat shoved onto exposed glass shards.
7) Paige: Injured with drill in the sauna and then electrocuted after the drill is thrown into the water.
8) Detective Vaughn: Decapitated, head found in pond.
9) Dorothy: Shot multiple times in the chest with a handgun.