Urban Legend (1998) – Film Review

click to purchase URBAN LEGENDSOne of the interesting things about Urban Legends is that, although people believe them, many do not hold up to scrutiny: simply examining the details will reveal that they are wildly improbable or outright impossible. This problem haunts URBAN LEGENDS, which asks us to believe in a serial killer who is modeling murders on such folk tales as the Killer in the Back of the Car. Left dangling are the same questions posed by the stories: how did the killer get back there, and why didn’t the driver notice? Compounding this is the script’s having the victims act in ways that conveniently set up the legend that the killer then carries out. Is screenwriter Silvio Horta implying some kind of complicity between killer and victim? (No, its just a lame plot device.) Finally, most urban legends don’t end with the death of their lead character – apparently, the killer is not adverse to rewriting popular folklore.

These problems show why the premise is not promising, but then the film is not really interested in its topic. This is just another post-SCREAM fest desperately in need of a gimmick to distinguish it from its progenitor. The result is a formulaic, cliche-ridden genre piece that never develops any identity of its own, and in fact runs out of urban legends and ultimately resorts to standard stalk-and-slash tactics (including a predictable “twist” ending).

In keeping with the current trend, the killer when finally revealed is not particularly interesting or frightening, and the motivation for murder is weak: revenge for a fatal prank based on an urban legend. Okay, that explains killing the two people responsible, but what about everyone else? There is a last minute lip-service explanation by the murderer to Natalie (Alicia Witt) about killing “all your friends,” but most of the victims were unsympathetic jerks that Natalie never liked anyway – they are there merely to pad out the running time with gratuitous slaughter.

There are a few bright spots, including Robert Englund’s scene as a professor discussing urban legends, and THE X-FILES’ John Neville (as the school principal) gets one or two laughs with lines expressing contempt for students. Director Blank’s work is professional enough, but he seems completely ignorant of his scenario’s shortcomings, dishing it all out as though the multiple absurdities have not destroyed credibility beyond any hope for suspense. And by the way, have we not had enough films set in college that are aimed at high school viewers? This idiotic pandering to teen fantasies (all booze and sex with nary a test in sight) is way past insufferable.

 TRIVIA

Australian native Jamie Blanks returned to his homeland to direct and score the much more effective (although much cheaper) STORM WARNING.

URBAN LEGENDS (Tri-Star, September 1998). Director: Jamie Blanks. Writer: Silvio Horta. Cast: Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid, Natasha Gregson Wagner, John Neville, Robert Englund.

Copyright 1998 by Steve Biodrowski

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About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

2 Responses to “ Urban Legend (1998) – Film Review ”

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