Urban Legend (1998)

Back in 1996, Wes Craven single-handedly resurrected the teen slasher craze with his seminal movie Scream. After that, the movie going public were subjected to a massive influx of flicks claiming to be just as hip and pop culture savvy. Urban Legend doesn’t quite reach the same pinnacle of horror movie success as Scream but it sure as hell sits right on the cusp.

It’s formulaic to a fault, beginning with the conventional opening scene in which a helpless female is mercilessly slaughtered in what should be a safe-haven; her own car. Here we have ourselves a fairly workaday sequence of events in horror-movie-land, that open up the floor to a crop of cliché-riddled, but virile young characters, as expected. It’s a stretch to ask the audience to suspend disbelief long enough to imagine that this gaggle of 20 and even 30-something actors are College aged but if you can get past that, there are lots of familiar faces and some decent performances from all involved with the exception of silicone-loving party gal Tara Reid. Hell, Tara Reid isn’t even very good at being Tara Reid so we can expect nothing more, I suppose.

The rest of the film plays out thus; a masked (duffle-coated?) killer picks off the unsuspecting ‘teens’ in increasingly bizarre ways and each of the killings takes its inspiration from a popular urban legend. A hanging body scratching on the roof of a car, a dog in a microwave, car high-beam something-or-other, blah blah blah. You get the picture.

There are some relatively offbeat methods in which the characters are despatched but unfortunately they never really break new ground. That’s not to say they aren’t done well however, some of the gore effects are first-rate and the filmmakers allow the killer to mix it up a little with regard to weaponry and setting.

Some of the pop culture references grate after a while. One of the most notable being when Damon (Joshua Jackson) turns on his car radio only to be embarrassed by the theme from Dawson’s Creek blaring from the speakers. One assumes that the intended audience for this flick would be familiar with the fact that Jackson’s most famous role up to that point had been in Dawson’s Creek and yet the whole scene seems very heavy-handed and, short of the character giving a knowing wink to camera, feels as though we, the audience, are being patronised and spoon fed.

Alicia Witt is an adequate scream queen but I can’t help but wonder why the casting director didn’t choose someone with a little more on-screen charisma to carry the movie. In addition to the plethora of household names, there are brief appearances by horror stalwarts Robert Englund and Brad Dourif who, quite frankly, steal their respective scenes, making everyone else around them a little less able, by comparison.

Urban Legend is a fairly average movie, raised above soulless mediocrity only by some sufficient acting, the occasional hint at originality and a sizeable budget. The direction is mostly uninspiring and there are few surprises. The finale is hampered by the fact that the explanation that we’re given only serves to raise more questions and the false ending is laughably predictable more than it is unsettling. A fairly standard addition to the teen slasher sub-genre but by no means a bad film.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “Urban Legend”

  1. [...] murder scenes you’ll ever see, mostly due to the passion which Crowley puts into his work. 89. Urban Legend (1998) – Young people start getting killed off in the style of various urban legends. [...]

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