LOS ANGELES - With Valentine's Day two weeks away, Hollywood begins debuting several movies that either romance audiences to death, or threaten to kill them outright, starting on Friday when the comedy ``Head over Heels'' couples with horror flick ``Valentine.''
The two films, along with the tale of Christian Armageddon, ''Left Behind,'' hope to knock Jennifer Lopez' romance, ``The Wedding Planner'' from its No. 1 position at the box office and get a jump on next week's ``Hannibal,'' the highly anticipated sequel to ``Silence of the Lambs.''
``Sex and love go hand in hand with death in all horror films. You're already going into a holiday that focuses on the former, so it's only natural that death comes along for the ride,'' said ``Valentine'' producer Dylan Sellers.
``Valentine'' stars former James Bond girl Denise Richards (''The World is Not Enough'') with three other up-and-comers, Marley Shelton, Katherine Heigl and Jessica Capshaw, portraying four fast friends from school days.
After they meet as adults at a friend's funeral, the four begin receiving threatening letters that lead to a boy they tormented at a junior high school Valentine's Day dance. But the police cannot find the boy, and the girls are left to wonder if the notes are from him or some geek they met in a singles’ bar.
Enter David Boreanaz, the warm-hearted vampire from TV's ''Angel'' and ``Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,'' playing a sports writer, Adam, who is in love with Shelton's character, Kate. Together, the two must uncover the killer.
The director, Jamie Blanks, also directed 1998 horror film ''Urban Legends,'' which should give fans who saw that movie some idea of the kind of slasher flick ``Valentine'' is, too.
At the opposite -- really opposite -- end of the movie spectrum is ``Head Over Heels,'' another film starring a relatively new heartthrob, Freddie Prinze, Jr., surrounded by beautiful women. Only Prinze gets five to Boreanaz' four.
The women are Monica Potter portraying a rather normal art restorer, Amanda Pierce, whose four roommates played by Shalom Harlow, Ivana Milicevic, Sarah O'Hare and Tomiko Fraser, all happen to be fabulously fab models with paper-thin waistlines.
Amanda is a rather plain girl who rarely has a date, so the models give her a makeover that turns her into a Pierce fit for a prince (or Prinze) in the building next door who goes by the name, Jim Winston.
Cupid seems to strike love with his arrows as Pierce and Winston begin to fall for each other, but the models soon see Winston committing an unthinkable crime -- certainly not one suited for the boyfriend of a roommate of models.
The revelation sends the girls on a sleuthing search on the streets of Manhattan to find out just who this Winston is. If it sounds like a madcap model caper made in model heaven with gorgeous gals and handsome pals, well, that's about it.
Meanwhile, ``Left Behind'' is out to put an end to all that Hollywood slashing and dashing with its Christian-oriented tale of mankind's demise as predicted in the Book of Revelations.
The movie stars Kirk Cameron, formerly of TV's ``Growing Pains,'' as a television journalist who stumbles on a plot to control the world's food supply. But then, millions of people on Earth disappear. They are the chosen ones and the others, like Cameron's character Buck Williams, are left behind to live in a world controlled by Satan's disciples.
The movie is steeped in Christianity but it tries to bring some good, old-fashioned Hollywood special effects and action sequences to the genre.
What's more is that the producers at Canada's Cloud Ten Pictures started a grass roots campaign in churches and bookstores to pack theaters. Their strategy, which included releasing the movie on video and DVD first to build publicity for the theatrical release, just may work.
If it does, then it's a sure bet that audiences will see a lot more Cloud Ten movies. If the strategy fails, then it's back to good old Hollywood style slashing and dashing, and a cannibal named Hannibal in theaters next week.