Back in 1998, a group of friends and I went to the old Regal Cinemas off of Hurt Road. As we ventured in to sit down that day this writer was excited to be in the audience the opening weekend of Urban Legend. For years hearing the stories that traveled about Georgia always fascinated this writer, and this film did not help the matter much. In fact, for years this writer hunted for various urban legend books afterward, collecting them if one will. Finally, I was able to find a encyclopedia of sorts on them, but not as nice as the one in the film sadly. If only, I suppose. At first one of other main reasons I desired to see the film is the fact that horror legend, Robert Englund happened to be in the film as a professor. When the film came out that is all I really knew about his part within the film. While I feel his talents could be given to better films sometimes, upon seeing his various interviews in the Never Sleep Again (2010) documentary it is always amazing to discover that he truly loves his craft. He truly loves the horror genre. Those are the types of actors that should be in these type of films. Why do something for a living that one does not love? This has been my question for a while now, but that is besides the point. Urban Legend is one of the many films that came out after Scream (1996) with the horror comedy combination being used successfully. There are tiny moments that present themselves within the feature that are definitely used to ease any tensions. For me those are the perfect horror films. Then again this could be because I laughed at the part where the guy jumps out at the store at Sarah Michelle Gellar during I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
First off, Urban Legend is about the events that occur after the murder of Michelle Mancini (Natasha Gregson Wagner) being decapitated by a killer who was hiding in her backseat with an ax. While at first the police believe that a gas station attendant (Brad Dourif), committed the crime, in truth he was the one attempting to warn Mancini before she drove off in terror to escape him. The film then begins to focus on how Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt) and her friends handle the aftermath and look out for one another while on campus. While the police will not admit to the fact there is a killer on the lose, Paul Gardener (Jared Leto) is determined that Michelle Mancini’s murder is the first of many to come. All the while, Natalie and her friends are enlisted in a folklore class that semester, taught by Professor Wexler (Englund), who was the only survivor of the murders that occurred to various students in Stanley Hall twenty-five years prior on the same campus. At first no one wants to give Paul’s story any merit, Natalie cannot help but think there could be some truth to what he has reported after all. Maybe there is a killer on campus. After all, Damon (Joshua Jackson) disappeared the night they were in the woods together, her roommate was murdered, though the police are determined she committed suicide based on the stereotypes of the situation, and she is determined she is seeing someone walking around campus with a more sinister agenda. One of the best parts of the film is how there are moments where laughter sneaks upon the viewer. Many of the characters are willing to tell a few crude jokes at times that provoke such.
Despite the fact the film is not perfectly acted, there are a few moments where certain actors tend to stand out. My favorite actress within the film goes to Rebecca Gayheart. She goes through a spectrum of emotions that no one else in the film has to even begin to deal with at the end of the day. Keep in mind this is also being said despite the fact a killer is on the loose, which is bound to freak anyone out. My favorite other character and actress within the film must be awarded to Loretta Devine as Reese Wilson, a campus security guard. During her spare time in the movie, audiences realize that she yearns to be a bit more bad-ass like the females seen in earlier blaxploitation films. Without giving much away Reese gets to live up to her desires by the end of the film. i also adore Englund within the film despite the fact the man does not have that much screen time. In all reality those who did not have that much screen time were some of my favorite roles within the feature. This writer can admit to enjoying watching Witt in the film as well. Natalie, however, is a slightly cliche female who needs someone to save her. This is not to say that she is not afraid to fight, but she always manages to get herself in situations where she needs to be saved by someone, which is a little annoying for any female fan watching the film. Considering how strong Natalie is made out to be at the beginning of the film makes this fact all the more annoying in my opinion. Other actors that are sermi important in regard to Natalie’s group are mainly Michael Rosenbaum and Tara Reid. While probably not their most shining roles ever, the same could probably be said about the majority of the cast sadly. This does not deter me from re-watching the film over and over again, or enjoying the acting for that matter.
Overall, despite the cheese factor that most feel exist within the film and the performances, Urban Legend will always be a Halloween season staple for this writer. The sequels, Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), are not worth a re-watch in my opinion. In fact, this writer feels that the second one is not even worth a first watch. If one wants to venture down that path watch the third one. Despite some of the goofiness and humor within the film, Urban Legend presents an interesting and unique spin on the horror genre. In fact, this writer truly believes this could have been one of the better horror franchises has the content been handled better than a horrible sequel and a not so wonderful direct-to-video release. Excuse me, direct-to-DVD release. I suppose this writer should take the time to be a bit more with the times. This of course made me ponder if this is one of the horror films that is also out on Blu-ray and the answer for those who are as in love with the film that is yes. So if one owns a Blu-ray player, this writer suggests renting this one and enjoying the high definition gore fest for the evening. This writer also suggests taking the time to explore some of Georgia’s own urban legends. A good place to start for those who live in Austell is to take a trip out to Marietta, Georgia for the evening and check out Ghosts of Marietta. Last year, this writer tagged along with my friend and her family on the “Scary-etta” Trolley Ghost Tour and had a blast. Learning about all the legends around the city was absolutely fascinating and I encourage all of those to learn about their own urban legends in the city by attending at least one of these tours. Happy Hauntings Austell!
If you are interested in renting Urban Legend, make sure to check out this title through Netflix, your local Austell Blockbuster, Videodrome, Movies Worth Seeing, or movie channels based upon your cable or satellite provider around Halloween. To purchase any Blu-rays or DVDs mentioned in this review please check out your local Austell Best Buy, Walmart, Target, or Kmart.