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Urban Legend (1998)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Slasher Film, Teen Horror, Urban Legends
Director:
Jamie Blanks Jamie Blanks
Starring:
Jared Leto Jared Leto
Alicia Witt Alicia Witt
Rebecca Gayheart Rebecca Gayheart
Michael Rosenbaum Michael Rosenbaum
Loretta Devine Loretta Devine

5.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: July 17, 2006
There's nothing quite as exciting as the teen slasher films that flooded the market after the success of Scream. While most of them follow the same formula - disposable characters that are present only to serve as fodder for the killer, plenty of red herrings, some sort of unique spin to keep things slightly fresh, and a twist ending that is completely unbelievable - some of them do manage to bring something fresh to the genre. Urban Legend is not one of those films, but it was more entertaining than the vast majority of the teen slasher films.

As the title suggests, this movie focuses on a killer that disposes of his or her victims using methods and setups from popular urban legends. For example, the opening scene of the movie features a young woman driving down a desolate road, when she realizes that she's about to run out of gas. She pulls into a run-down gas station, only to be greeted by a creepy attendant (Brad Dourif) who seems a little... strange, to say the least. He convinces our feminine lead to come inside the station after telling her that her credit card company is on the phone, but once inside, we find out that this attendant has something else on his mind. Not waiting to find out what it is, the little lady runs back to her car and quickly drives away... and then, the attendant runs out to the road and yells "There's someone in the backseat!" Sure enough, an axe-wielding murderer had been laying down back there, and takes this opportunity to behead this fine female.

It turns out that this girl was a student at a nearby college, and obviously, the news of her death has sent shock waves throughout the student body. A group of six friends consisting of "good girl" Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt), Natalie's best friend Brenda Bates (Rebecca Gayheart), the practical joker Damon Brooks (Joshua Jackson), sex-talk radio DJ Sasha Thomas (Tara Reid), newspaper editor Paul Gardener (Jared Leto), and the obnoxious Parker Riley (Michael Rosenbaum) attempts to get to the bottom of this mystery Scooby Doo style, but of course, solving this case will require more than just a couple of Scooby Snacks. Could the murderer be William Wexler (Robert Englund), a professor at this college that specializes in urban legends and just so happens to have a huge axe in his closet? Perhaps it's the weird janitor (Julian Richings) that seems to be a small step away from the loony bin, or perhaps it's the desperate-for-action rent-a-cop Reese Wilson (Loretta Devine)... or maybe, just maybe - cue ominous music - it's the person that you'd least expect.

Granted, the general storyline found here is a horse that has been beaten to death, resurrected, and finally had its zombified-brains blown out the back of its skull. What makes the film worthy of at least a rental in my eyes, however, is the urban legends theme found within. I'm a huge fan of those things, and watching the numerous myths played out on screen as either actual death sequences or just small references in the dialogue made up for the otherwise bland film. However, I must point out that if you don't share my love for those pieces of folklore, then this film will offer you nothing more than yet another tired Scream clone.

Although I did enjoy watching those urban legends acted out and referenced as the movie trudged along, that last sentence from the above paragraph is what hurts the film - other than these references, the film is nothing more than a Scream wannabe that offers nothing new to the horror genre. The storyline reads like an example out of the horror cliché handbook, the characters are nothing short of disposable and one-dimensional, and the final twist becomes blatantly obvious after a single flashback scene that occurs in the middle of the running time. As I've mentioned, I did enjoy watching those urban legends played out on the "big" screen; however, a couple of neat scenes can not save an otherwise lackluster film.

Overall, it's better than the majority of the teen slasher films that Hollywood pumped out during the peak of their popularity, but that's really not saying a whole lot. It's worthy of a rental if you're as much of a fan of those urban legends as I am, but otherwise, skip. 4/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 07/18/2006, 04:26 AM
As much as I tend to tear this film apart, it is entertaining as hell. Sure, Robert Englund is waaaaaaay too over the top, but John Neville and Loretta Divine and Brad Dourif add a nice amount of stability along side the young guns like Jared Leto and Rebecca Gayheart. This is one of the better teen slasher films inspired by "Scream", and I think it is underrated -- many times by myself. 7/10.
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