Urban Legend 1998 Review
Urban Legend 1998
Directed by: Jamie Blanks
Starring: Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Jared Leto
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
So here it is, one of the first ever reviews that I wrote of a slasher movie. I posted this way back in 2001 and wanted to see if I still agree with what I said after eleven long years. I have updated some parts of it, but it’s still pretty much the same… Enjoy!
First things first, there are a couple of things that I have to get off my chest before I begin my review of Jamie Blanks’ much-maligned slasher/whodunit Urban Legend. What caught my attention initially was the fact that it boldly states on the front cover that it’s the: `Bloodiest teen slasherfest to come over from the states so far…’ That, I then thought to myself, was one hell of a bold statement to make. Could it be a film gorier than Nightmares in a damaged brain or Maniac? Could it even be a flick with more goo than Blood Rage, The Burning or the uncut Intruder? If so how did it gain a certificate from the BBFC? Or could it be that the unnamed reviewer from The Sun who wrote that article was trying out some freshly picked highly hallucinogenic magic mushrooms? I’m afraid that after watching this I found that the latter is probably the closest to the truth because although Urban Legend has its moments, gore is definitely not one of the movie’s strong points. As for it being one of the bloodiest of its kind to come over from the states so far? Well lets just say that this must’ve been the first slasher flick that the writer in question had seen, or he must have accidentally watched the wrong film. Who knows?
Secondly before watching UL I was biased into thinking it was going to be really rather terrible after the amount of bad publicity it got from its UK release. Almost every review that I read was warning the viewer to avoid it at all costs. But to anyone, who has got a video library filled with as many, how can I put it, ‘matter of taste’ flicks as me will know that is all the invitation I needed.
After an exciting opening, we are shown a campus named Pendleton University and introduced to a few likely suspects or victims that are discussing the recent murder of Michelle Mancini, a girl that was killed in the pre-credits. The conversation then turns to the legend of the ‘Stanley Hall Massacre’, where It’s rumoured that 25 years earlier at that same college a professor went berserk and off’d ‘a whole floor’ full of students before stabbing himself through the heart with a honey knife. In good old slasher tradition the kids decide to have a party to commemorate the aforementioned kill frenzy, which you know is definitely going to be a bad idea.
Before long a butcher in a parka coat puts in a few appearences and starts working his way through the cast in some pretty imaginative ways. Natalie, our obvious heroine, witnesses most of these murders but of course, no-one else sees them or believes her, especially the somewhat suspicious Deane. As more people disappear, the killer’s motive is revealed and it’s left up to Natalie to stop him.
To be honest, and I’m going to be an individual here, I can’t for the life of me see what is so bad about Jamie Blanks’ first attempt at a horror movie. Seeing how this was his directorial debut (previously he had worked as a camera operator on action flick The Huntsman) I think he’s done a pretty damn good job. I was so puzzled when I had finished watching after reading such bad reviews and thoroughly enjoying it that I rang up two of my friends and invited them to come around and view it with me and my girlfriend. When it was finished I asked what they thought and all three of them agreed it was a good film, one even went as far as to say it was better than Scream.
Each murder gets more imaginative than the next, with the killer going to various lengths to stage his slaughter. All are based on popular urban legends and most of them are burning with innovation. The opening gimmick is brilliant with the way it cheats the audience and who can honestly say that they didn’t jump when Damon bit the dust? I agree that when the butcher’s identity is revealed you are left thinking how did he manage to perform those killings unaided, but that is by no means grounds to say that the film is poor. If you’re watching a slasher movie for sensible continuity, then you’re on a losing team there buddy. What lifts Urban Legend way above average is its wonderful imagination, pulsating energy and ability to make the most of its bag full of good ideas. It also benefits from a haunting score and a strong cast, which were at the time of release mostly unknowns. Jared Leto has since gone on to earn roles in Fight Club and American Psycho, not to mention The Thin Red Line. He is an actor that I have seen many times, but has never grabbed the moment or left me with the impression that he’s an outstanding performer. He does very well here though and shows much promise in his delivery. Alicia Witt is solid as the final girl and there’s a fair turn from Rebecca Gayheart as her bubble head friend. This was made before Tara Reid had developed a reputation as a party girl and was hoping for a career as an actress. She had the look and a good agent, but that wasn’t enough to hide her limits as a dramatic success. I did kind of hope that her character would survive, although I believe that’s more because she’s hot. However, Blanks is quite ruthless with the cast and not many players avoid the assassin’s blade.
We are treated to a couple of effective jumps and false scares and some wonderful flowing cinematography, which keeps the energy level at maximum. Due to the impressive momentum, things also gets ‘edge of your seat’ tense toward the end as you play the game of work out the killer’s identity. The story keeps on twisting and pointing the finger at everyone who appears on screen and you can’t help but carry on guessing. I even enjoyed the OTT motive and even though the actor struggled to deliver a believable portrayal of insanity, the revelation just about works.
So all said and done I think it just goes to show Urban Legend is a matter of taste movie; you’ll either love it or hate it. I must admit that I actually thought it was fairly enjoyable and remains far more entertaining than the one-toned Valentine. Don’t be dissuaded by the poor publicity that circled this one, its well worth checking out.
Final Girl: √√√
Posted on March 24, 2012, in Slasher, Superstars hiding a slasher movie on the small print of their CV... and tagged 1998, Hot Chicas, masked killer, Sorority Slasher, suspense, Top 25 slashers, Urban Legend, Whodunit?. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.