Urban Legends: Final Cut 2000 Review
Urban Legends: Final Cut 2000
Directed by: John Ottman
Starring: Jennifer Morrison, Eva Mendes, Hart Bochner
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
In a film packed to the brim with clichés, one character uses an equally common proverb at one point, ‘Those that can’t do teach’. Perhaps the more fitting one would have been, ‘An optician is no good when you have a toothache‘ but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The first Urban Legend was two things that the slasher genre needs, pretty darn good and very successful, so a sequel had to be on the cards. It’s never the best sign though when a second chapter doesn’t include the survivors from número uno, so instead they just brought back who they could and set it as an unrelated story in the same fictional universe. They even mention the earlier massacre, but by then it had also become an urban legend due to a cover up. Good gimmick.
At Alpine University or ‘the greatest film school in the world’ the students are each working on their own project to be entered in to ‘the Hitchcock awards’, which will give the winner a shot at Hollywood recognition. Junior director Amy Mayfield soon notices that her crew members are disappearing. Could it be that there’s a murderer on campus or is it all a prank?
The Final Cut looks the business with its high production values and expensive sets. Whilst some of the best slasher pictures of the category were either shot on unlicensed property or anywhere cheap that could be found, Ottman had a whole Bell Tower built at the same cost that was spent on the entire production of Honeymoon Horror, The Prey, Halloween and Friday the 13th. The film opens with a campy, fleetingly photographed sequence that unleashes some stylish strobe flashing lights and break-neck editing. Set aboard a plane, Ottman creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia, panic and desolation to great effect. It turns out that it’s a film within a film and even though that was supposed to be the first building block or an example of the director’s talents, unfortunately the picture had already peaked by that point.
It’s interesting nowadays to look back at these late nineties slashers and spot the fresh-faced newcomers who would go on to a big career (hey it’s Eva Mendes!) and there’s an extremely solid cast at work here. Whilst a slasher of old was really all about the director, these big financed tributes are credited with good dramatics from real performers. There was some nice bonding between the players and they were quite well-developed. I didn’t feel that I could relate to the good guys here so much, but that was more the fault of a lightweight script than bad acting.
I mentioned earlier about an optician doing nothing for a toothache and Ottman may well be a great editor and composer, but in the hot seat he doesn’t even get anywhere near his franchise predecessor, Jamie Blanks. There are numerous occasions that came so close to building suspense, but his framing is wasteful and his attempts are poorly delivered. Let’s take the first killing for example. A girl wakes up in a bathtub full of ice and notices she’s a kidney light. The killer is in the next room and unaware that she’s conscious. She accidentally slams the door shut, which alerts his attention and the boogeyman races after her and begins smashing through the paneling. Recipes for building suspense don’t come much easier to deliver than that, but the pace didn’t change at all.
There’s another great opportunity where a grim tone is built whilst the nut job is searching for our heroine and she is hiding on a soundstage. Clearly frustrated, he begins playing low chords with one finger on a piano in order to unsettle his intended victim, which gives the sequence a morbid and pulsating atmosphere. It could have been really good from then on, but Ottman doesn’t really take it anywhere. Loretta Devine returns to the series as the characteristic campus security guard, but even after being stabbed and shot last time around for not believing the stories that there was a killer on the loose, she does exactly the same thing this time and the implausibility of her actions is no less than infuriating. Ottman references Hitchcock with both the dialogue of his characters and again verbally in his final scene. For me, the best homage that he could have paid was by attempting to deliver a similar flair for suspense, which he never captures.
I couldn’t write a review of this feature without mentioning the fencing mask, which we’ve seen before in Graduation Day. Obviously, it looks better here, but I wonder if Ottman had intentionally borrowed it from that cheese feast from 1981 or it was just the recommendation of someone in wardrobe?
I guess that the mystery is good enough and it all ends with a Tarantino-esque multi-gun stand-off, which was fun; but it closes with an unshakeable feeling of hollowness. There’s too much missing here that made the first one a blast; the most obvious thing being the alluring sense of fun. We get a big enough body count, some nice photography and the odd idea that is commendable. Unfortunately, the punctured plot, lack of excitement and silly motive leave it being no more or no less than average. Not surprising that Ottman never directed again, but instead stuck to what he knows best.
Final Girl: √√
Posted on August 8, 2012, in Slasher, Superstars hiding a slasher movie on the small print of their CV... and tagged Eva Mendes, masked killer, Slasher, Sorority Slasher, USA, Whodunit?. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.