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Urban Legend (1998)

Directed by Jamie Blanks Written by Silvio Horta

  It was in my review of Gossip that I had mentioned the campus used in this film being the same filmed in the before mentioned as well The Skulls; both with Joshua Jackson. Yes, here’s yet another film with Jackson; I believe this is my sixth review within the sub genre that he’s been in, gets around doesn’t he.

  I’ve always  liked the feel of this movie better than some others that were released around the same time; of course the fact that it had a good script behind it didn’t hurt any. Has anyone not seen this by this point? Seeing what’s it grossed makes me think for the most part, no. The story at its basic level is that a campus killer begins taking the lives of those closely associated with Natalie (Alicia Witt) as we find out the reason for her being the one sought out. Not only that but it seems the murders are being done in a manner following popular urban legends that seem to be trying to get a message across of a past she had wanted to forget. Is she able to figure out who it is on time or will she be forced to become an Urban Legend like the rest of her friends, bum bum buuummm. Scary, huh? It was when it first came out, lets see if it still holds up 14 years later. 

The beginning is still great. In fact, the only not great thing was Natasha Gregson Wagner‘s (Michelle) singing. It has all the right elements already; rain, she ran out of gas at an abandoned station and Brad Dourif, who Horror fans may know as the voice of Chuckie in Child’s Play. *In the behind the scenes for this scene Douriff would chant the spell done when transferring his soul to the doll; I got a kick out of it at least* I actually don’t find Wagner to be that great of an actress so I suppose it was a good thing she’s our first victim. Then the ever menacing cry of “Someone’s in the back seat!” with the shadowed figure slowly emerging from the back (great shot) and then BAM! Not really any blood on the ax but still a nice open to later pan to a shot of the voice of campus DJ Sasha (Tara Reid) giving her ever “impressive” array of knowledge on sex to those willing to feed into it.

We find our main group interacting in the cafeteria/coffee shop as Parker (Michael Rosenbaum) finishes his story, concerning the 25th anniversary massacre at their campus. Of which detailed one night when a member of the faculty had done away with an entire floor before stopped and thus was the basis of his frat party to commemorate; all in due time. Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart) takes Natalie to a section of the campus in hopes to be joined in “waking the dead.” They chant “Bloody Mary” out loud 5 times and wait. Returned are distant cries that eventually lead to Damon (Jackson) who had assisted in providing a good scare before the nights end. The next day in class Professor Wexler, the ever talented Robert Englund, begins speaking on the topic of Urban Legends in more specific terms. Telling of the babysitter story in which “the call is comes from inside the house.” He’s great in everything I view him in, no lie, I’m convinced the man is incapable of not giving his all, no matter the role. This is about the time the students find out of Michelle’s death. Do you think she should have kept the fact that she knew her a secret? You have to like the little Paula Cole nod in reference to Jackson’s role in that one show he did. The whole scene in the car being rather fun to watch as he tries to show a semblance of feeling remorse and then his death scene being a thrilling way to kick off some murderous fun.

Not having seen this is some time I’ll admit, I jumped a few times. I also liked the look of the killer in this film. It hasn’t occurred yet but after killing Sasha, that little wave that the killer does was a nice touch…I genuinely enjoy when the killers toy with the victims. Much like in the library though you don’t know if it’s actually the killer or was Sasha all along. Perfect set-up for roommate Tosh’s (Danielle Harris) death. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights?” Why would an urban legend killer be a bit of a stretch? With the all the crazies running around I’d imagine much worse than this. When Natalie and Paul (Jared Leto) snoop through the professor’s office, if you pay enough attention to the background, you’ll notice a Freddy Krueger Doll hanging. Great misdirection when Natalie goes to visit Brenda at the pool, “Nothing is going to happen to me.” Uh huh! Hearing of Natalie’s past Brenda doesn’t seem too fazed by the whole thing. What was Reid supposed to be at the Halloween party? Doesn’t she kind of remind you of the Bride of Chucky? To add insult to injury, Brenda then finds Natalie kissing Paul…tsk, tsk. Guess she more than less did deserve what came to her. What a terrible phone voice I always thought, if anyone can remember what it sounded like. One of my favorite death scenes was Reid’s and not just because I got to hear that annoying scream finally end. The visual of the stairs and her drop, to stumble and barely make it out. Ending up right back where she started and there’s the wave I was referring to. I do believe that is the most rational I’ve ever seen a female act towards a friend who went after the man she wanted; that should have told her something was wrong. As well, if she had been paying attention while entering the building at the end she would have heard that the screams were in fact repeated and sounded kind of off. Ok it could have been real but if your running around in a killer’s world, you should at least try to be a little noticing of those things. 

Didn’t Rebecca Gayheart turn out to be not as bad if knowing who it’d be beforehand? I thought so, she at least had the crazy part spot on. No way would she have been able to do all that by herself though but her attitude helped sell it. “Your cute Paul, but you’re not that fuckin’ cute.” Jackson and Rosenbaum were a nice comedic relief. The death scenes were pretty good in here as well. So why was Scream the one that ultimately came out with over twice of UL’s profits? I think it’s just as simple as they were too late to the game. By this film’s release Scream had released its sequel which on its own made about 30 million more than UL. It was just clear who had made better choices when going through the script. Plus they killed half of their featured cast which undoubtedly made viewers weary to see a second or care past that point. Alicia Witt may be a good side actor but wouldn’t be able to hold a movie like this simply on her own in a sequel, especially with Leto as the “hero.” While this movie may have helped him achieve better roles I still maintain he’s best now with his music. The cameo of Robert Englund is always a great “fan-son” moment and he played the suspicious Professor wickedly. If you haven’t seen the ending then SPOILER!, the killer does not die in the end but instead remains on campus. Why? To explain to a bunch of second-rate versions of the cast just seen the “actual” story of what had happened on campus.

So do they pick up on that in the sequel? Nope. It instead takes place at a college with a bunch of film students dying to come in first place for the, oh so prestigious “Hitchcock award.” Every so often putting their own “lame” attempt at some Hitchcockian themes that was a B film was a C cast at best. I did not bother with the third installment and I’m almost sure neither should any of you. Except for that small bit at the end in the original UL, an otherwise good film that can hold the suspense and deliver in all the right ways.