Urban Legend
Rating -

Horror (US); 1998; Rated R; 99 Minutes

Jared Leto: Paul
Alicia Witt: Natalie Simon
Rebecca Grayheart: Brenda
Natasha Wagner: Michelle Mancini
Michael Rosenbaum: Parker

Produced by Brad Luft, Gina Matthews, Michael McDonnel, Neal H. Moritz and Brian Leslie Parker; Directed by Jamie Blanks; Screenwritten by Silvio Horta

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Written by DAVID KEYES

The opening scene of "Urban Legend" begins like the "Scream" movies; a murder takes place in a car that pulled out from a gas station, because in the back seat is a masked killer with an ax. This, of course, is an urban legend; a clichéd myth that, as one of the stars of the movie once defined it, is a story that changes as new generations tell it; when it is passed down, the teller intentionally or accidentally modifies it. I don't know if you could particularly pinpoint a meaning to the term, but if there was, it certainly wouldn't mean "something that crazy campus college freaks would make come true when they hear these stories." The setup of this movie plays exactly like this theoretic definition. A college wacko makes all of these different urban legends come to life, despite the fact that they seem obviously unrealistic, or impossible. After all it is called an urban 'legend.' Legends are myths, and have no proof of actually existing.

On the side, we have no proof that the people who made and starred in the movie knew what they were as well. The movie uses them frequently through the process of a horror movie, most of which I'm quite unfamiliar with, and others that I vaguely can remember. I never once heard of an urban legend involving swallowing pop rocks and carbonation, and what it would do to you, but perhaps it does exist. Perhaps it does not.

I don't care. "Urban Legend" is a bloody, unwitty movie that tries to add in those 'hip' and 'cool' vibes that the "Scream" pictures had. Yes, the material is not that different in style and motivation, but instead of the awesome two-hour experiences that we get with those Wes Craven movies, what we get is an endless series of gruesome death scenes that occur right in the middle of an episode of those mistaken fright cords that they play to make audiences jump out of their skin. Someone asks who's there, they look around the corner, and are nearly paralyzed by someone who walks up on them from the back. At this time, a large chord plays in the background that bursts through the sound system and into our ears with little effect. Roger Ebert calls them the "chreep chords." They should more appropriately be called the "chords of chatastrophe." They merely test our attention span, to see if we're still awake or not. Every two or three times after the chord is played, the real murderer shows up, just in time for another one of those gruesome death scenes.

This is not scary. It's downright annoying--so annoying at some points that its no wonder we want to fall asleep. A movie can only repeat a process so many times before it gets tiresome, and "Urban Legend" plays them out to the point where it feels like we're watching the movie in heavy rotation. For 99 minutes, we are forced to sit through these interventions, as if we're supposed to find them terrifying, or worth the money.

And, yes, what's strange is that the material isn't that different from "Scream." In those movies, people saw horror movies, knew that they couldn't be taken seriously, and were proven wrong when one of them seemed to come to life in their own town. In "Urban Legend," no one believes these things until someone begins carrying them out, and only then is it realized that the movie, truthfully, is "Scream"s significant other in the genre. Actually, it's more like the opposite. "Scream" plays very well with its subject matter, while "Urban Legend" grows weary and exhausted of this type of formula.

If something else could be done with the whole concept, then I'm afraid you'll have to wait for "Scream 3." Until then try to avoid movies like this. You can only hear these 'chords' so many times before you get a little annoyed.

© 1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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