Bloody Valentines: 14 Blood-Soaked and Testosterone-Fueled St. Valentine’s Day Massacres

With February 14 once again upon us and Fifty Shades Darker siphoning an obscene amount of money out of the pockets of couples in the market for something “romantic,” it’s useful to be reminded that sometimes Hollywood presents audiences with an alternative to the mushy, lovey-dovey stuff. This year brought with it the second chapter of the John Wick saga, which may not have beat Fifty Shades, but at least it put up a good fight. (And they both lost to The LEGO Batman Movie, animation being the one thing more appealing than sex or violence.) In honor of John Wick‘s noble sacrifice, here are 14 more examples of pulse-pounding counter-programming, some of which got the arterial blood spraying while others flamed out spectacularly.

My Bloody Valentine (U.S. release date: 2/11/81)

It’s only natural to kick off this list with this Canadian slasher, made during the sub-genre’s original cycle when many of Halloween’s imitators set their murder sprees around recognizable holidays. My Bloody Valentine was the first to capitalize on the most romantic day on the calendar, pitting a psycho in mining gear against a town that unwisely revives its Valentine’s dance 20 years after the mining accident that put a stop to it.

How Did It Fare?

Box Office Mojo’s weekend reports don’t go back this far, but My Bloody Valentine’s total domestic gross was around $5.6 million. It had enough name recognition that it was remade in 2009, but this time the distributor chose to release it in mid-January, missing the whole point of making a Valentine’s-themed horror film. (See also: Valentine, released February 2, 2001. Or don’t. It’s pretty terrible.)

The Beast Within (2/12/82)

Following in the paw prints of the previous year’s The Howling and An American Werewolf in London, Phillipe Mora’s The Beast Within is beholden to its big showpiece, the transformation of mixed-up teen Paul Clemens into a giant, homicidal insectoid creature. (It’s this lengthy and gratuitous sequence—and others of its ilk—that Mora skewered so mercilessly in Howling III: The Marsupials.) Filmed in rural Mississippi, the film cast Ronny Cox and Bibi Besch as Clemens’s concerned parents, who travel to the backwater town where Besch was raped to find out who or what her assailant was, thinking it may be the key to why their son has mysteriously fallen ill. (Spoiler: It was a giant insectoid creature.) Unlike its forebears, the film didn’t spawn any sequels, but that’s probably just as well. Seventeen years is a long time to wait between franchise installments.

How Did It Fare?

The Beast was clobbered by On Golden Pond, still raking in the dough in its 11th weekend. The best it could manage was a measly 11th-place finish.

The Delta Force (2/14/86)

Cannon’s entry in the anti-Valentine’s Day sweepstakes is this jingoistic actioner which teamed up a tired-looking Lee Marvin with a bored-looking Chuck Norris. Even though co-writer/director Menahem Golan based its plot — about the terrorist hijacking of an airline flight out of the Middle East — on an actual hostage situation that took place the previous summer, the film enters a high-octane fantasy land in its back half, with reluctant warrior Norris tooling around on a souped-up motorcycle, killing countless faceless foreigners (and terrorist leader Robert Forster) with his front-mounted rocket launchers. Among the hostages the Delta Force rescues are Martin Balsam, Joey Bishop, Lainie Kazan, George Kennedy, and Shelley Winters. None escape with their dignity intact.

How Did It Fare?

The Delta Force only managed to capture third place for the weekend, bested by Down and Out in Beverly Hills in its third weekend and The Color Purple in its ninth.

The Fly II (2/10/89)

After winning the Academy Award for Best Makeup for his stellar work on David Cronenberg’s The Fly, special effects maestro Chris Walas was given the opportunity to direct its sequel, released three years later. New stars Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga were unable to replicate the genuine chemistry of real-life couple Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, though, and without a beating heart at its center, The Fly II is reduced to a parade of gross-outs and uninvolving corporate intrigue. The one time it shows any real sign of life is when Stoltz and Zuniga visit recluse John Getz (the only actor from the original to reprise his role), who’s justifiably bitter about being permanently crippled during the first film’s climax, but at least he has a sense of humor about it.

How Did It Fare?

The Fly II won the weekend, but suffered an immediate and precipitous drop-off. No one would be clamoring for The Fly III.

The Silence of the Lambs (2/14/91)

One of the few films released in the dead of winter to clean up at the Academy Awards, Silence also broke the mold in a number of other ways. Staying true to the pulpy source material, director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally plumbed the depths of their characters — aided in no small part by actors Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, and Ted Levine — while delivering the requisite scares. The film’s most gruesome sequence, in fact, is the one where Hannibal Lecter escapes from custody, setting in motion the sequels and prequels to come, all of them keyed to Hopkins’s increasingly hammy performance as Lecter. While Red Dragon bypassed Valentine’s Day weekend, 2001’s Hannibal and 2009’s Hannibal Rising aimed right for it, hoping some of Silence’s midwinter magic would rub off on them. It did not.

How Did It Fare?

The lambs would not be silenced at the box office, beating out Sleeping with the Enemy in its second weekend and going on to top the chart for the next month.

Dead Alive (2/12/93)

Before going mainstream with the fact-based thriller Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson was the auteur behind a trio of splatter comedies that showcased his talent for devising stomach-churning special effects. This reached its apex with 1992’s Braindead, released stateside the following year as Dead Alive and shorn of seven minutes of footage that has yet to be seen here. Whether it’s character-based scenes or over-the-top gore, there’s plenty of both to go around as Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Stephen Sinclair dig into their story of a hapless mama’s boy whose domineering mother continues to make his life hell after she dies, coming back as a zombie with a lethal bite capable of turning a house party into a bloody free-for-all. They also end on one of the grossest depictions of a mother’s smothering love imaginable, so it’s a good thing Trimark Pictures chose to put this out for Valentine’s Day and not, say, Mother’s Day.

How Did It Fare?

Groundhog Day ruled the roost, but Dead Alive had the third-best per screen average for the weekend, getting Jackson’s foot in Hollywood’s door.

Collateral Damage (2/8/02)

Originally slated to come out in October 2001, this terrorism-themed action film had its release pushed back four months when it was determined some elements of its story (including the hijacking of a plane) wouldn’t fly so soon after the 9/11 attacks. A long-in-the-tooth Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a heroic, selfless Los Angeles firefighter (introduced rescuing an old woman trapped in a burning building, in case the audience wasn’t sure how it’s supposed to feel about firefighters) whose wife and son are killed in a terrorist bombing. This prompts Arnie to travel to Colombia on a lone-wolf mission to kill a guerrilla leader nicknamed “El Lobo,” leading to multiple people drawing comparisons between them. Aiding and abetting is an overqualified cast including Elias Koteas (as a rogue CIA agent), John Turturro (as a sarcastic Canadian mechanic), and John Leguizamo (as a motor-mouthed drug kingpin), all of whom give the film a lift whenever they’re onscreen, but otherwise it’s a leaden affair punctuated by explosions and tedious gunfights.

How Did It Fare?

While it topped the charts its opening weekend, Collateral Damage slipped to fifth place the next and slunk out of theaters with a paltry $40 million, less than half its production budget. And it did even worse overseas, hastening the end of Schwarzenegger’s reign as America’s preeminent action star.

Final Destination 3 (2/10/06)

After sitting out Final Destination 2, writer/director James Wong and co-writer Glen Morgan returned to the dead-teenager franchise they started to shepherd another group of unwary teens toward their gory deaths. This time out, instead of a plane crash or a freeway pileup, a poorly maintained roller coaster is the vehicle of their demise, but premonition-prone protagonist Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a freak-out that prevents her and nine of her peers from meeting their grisly ends right away. Instead, death has to pick them off by ones and twos, employing increasingly absurd Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to get the job done. It’s no great shakes as a horror film, but viewed as a comedy Final Destination 3 is actually pretty funny, and the kills are creative enough (hello, tanning beds) to sustain the premise for 85 minutes sans credits. Any longer, though, and it would have definitely worn out its welcome.

How Did It Fare?

While it was destined to be beaten by the remake of The Pink Panther, this was not to be the franchise’s final outing as it managed to double its budget domestically, leading to two more sequels.

Friday the 13th (2/13/09)

Considering it’s tied to such a specific date on the calendar, it’s surprising that only five of the twelve entries in the Friday the 13th series have been released on a Friday the 13th. And the only one to come out Valentine’s Day weekend was the 2009 reboot made by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company and director Marcus Nispel, who ported over the grimy aesthetic from his Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. Dispensing with the notion that it’s going to be a facsimile of the 1980 original, this Friday spends about 40 minutes rooting around in Part 2 by having its Jason Voorhees take out a group of horny and/or pot-addled teens while wearing a makeshift hood before he stumbles onto his iconic hockey mask, leaving the audience to continue counting his victims until he reaches 13. Then the movie can pretend to kill him off and end. Lather, rinse, repeat.

How Did It Fare?

Unsurprisingly, the twelfth Friday won the four-day weekend, its $43.5 million haul more than doubling its $19 million budget. It still wound up being a dead end for the franchise, though, which was in the process of being rebooted yet again this year before Paramount elected to pull the plug.

The Wolfman (2/12/10)

Once upon a time, Lawrence Talbot was all set to go head-to-head with Jason Voorhees, but in the midst of its turbulent production (which saw original director Mark Romanek replaced by Joe Johnston at the last minute), The Wolfman’s release was postponed a couple months, then pushed back twice more until it landed on the next Valentine’s Day weekend, when its competition was … Valentine’s Day. The first of Garry Marshall’s sappy, holiday-themed ensemble comedies, it had one up on the tepid romance between Benicio Del Toro’s Lawrence and his chaste love interest, played by Emily Blunt. Of course, it didn’t help that Universal’s tinkering stunted their relationship’s development, rushing the story to get to the first transformation scene that much sooner. What the execs didn’t realize was if the audience doesn’t get to know the characters first, they won’t particularly care when one changes into a vicious, hairy beast.

How Did It Fare?

Not only did Valentine’s Day come out on top by a wide margin, but to add insult to injury, The Wolfman couldn’t even best the second Percy Jackson movie.

A Good Day to Die Hard (2/14/13)

The fifth time was not the charm when Bruce Willis overestimated America’s eagerness to hear him say “yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers” to yet another group of greedy evildoers a quarter-century after the first Die Hard hit movie screens. Compounding its crimes against cinema and good taste is A Good Day’s attempt to get the audience on board with the idea of Jai Courtney taking over the franchise by introducing him as John McClane’s estranged son Jack, a CIA operative on a secret mission in Russia when dear old Dad flies over to help him out of a jam. “Try not to make a big mess of things,” says daughter Mary Elizabeth Winstead (returning from 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard), so of course that’s what he proceeds to do, cracking wise while father and son bond over their mutual love of killing bad guys and director John Moore revels in enough vehicular destruction to make Blues Brothers-era John Landis jealous.

How Did It Fare?

It was not a good day for Willis to return to the franchise that made him a bankable star. While it narrowly won the weekend, its domestic gross fell well short of its $92 million budget, so if there’s going to be a Die Hard 6, it’s going to be made primarily for the foreign market.

RoboCop (2/12/14)

The world wasn’t crying out for a RoboCop remake in 2014, but it got one all the same. Retrofitted with commentary on drone warfare and the U.S.’s misadventures in the Middle East, Joshua Zetumer’s screenplay brings Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner’s story kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but loses much of its satirical intent in the process. (The few vestiges that remain of the original’s sharp media critique are to be found in the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson’s hawkish cable news host.) Saddled with a ballooning budget, director José Padilha was required to deliver a film with a PG-13 rating, further blunting its impact and satisfying few fans of Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian fantasy, which still holds up even as it approaches its 30th anniversary.

How Did It Fare?

The RoboCop remake no one wanted came in third for the long weekend, beaten by The LEGO Movie in its second weekend and the remake of About Last Night. All was not lost, though, as it still topped the remake of Endless Love.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2/13/15)

Fully aware that little was going to stop the Fifty Shades of Grey juggernaut, Fox countered with Matthew Vaughn’s second adaptation of a graphic novel by Mark (Kick-Ass) Millar. True to bone-crunching form, Kingsman is a hyperviolent riposte to the suave James Bonds of the world, leaning into its R rating with bloody close-quarters combat and lizard-brain-satisfying head explosions. It’s all very glossy and intentionally unrealistic, but there’s an emptiness as its core that the performances of the game cast — including Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Samuel L. Jackson (as a lisping internet billionaire with a diabolical plan to save the planet) — simply can’t disguise.

How Did It Fare?

Kingsman had no choice but to lie back and think of England while it was crushed by Fifty Shades, but it held on to second place for two more weekends and outlasted its direct competition in theaters by two whole months. It’s no wonder we’re getting Kingsman: The Golden Circle later this year.

Deadpool (2/12/16)

To paraphrase Mel Brooks, if there’s one thing Hollywood likes more than making money, it’s making a shitload of money. Hence, Deadpool’s mega-success this time last year led to announcements that more R-rated superhero movies would be coming down the pike, and the expectation that movies aimed squarely at guys would continue to get slotted into the Valentine’s Day release window for the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely any will be as riotously profane and self-aware as this one, though. Deadpool may not please everybody, nor was it intended to, but moviegoers weary of Marvel’s house style and DC’s desaturated palette sure appreciated its commitment to being colorful in every sense of the word.

How Did It Fare?

Deadpool slew the competition three weekends running, easily besting the likes of How to Be Single, Zoolander 2, Risen, and Gods of Egypt on its way to a domestic gross of $363 million, coming in sixth place for the year. It also boasts the best opening weekend in the month of February and the best opening weekend ever for an R-rated movie. Not bad, Captain Deadpool.

Craig J. Clark bleeds and loves in Bloomington, Ind. 

Image credit: Nate Koehler

Craig J. Clark watches a lot of movies. He started watching them in New Jersey, where he was born and raised, and has continued to watch them in Bloomington, Indiana, where he moved in 2007. In addition to his writing for Crooked Marquee, Craig also contributes the monthly Full Moon Features column to Werewolf News. He is not a werewolf himself (or so he says).

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