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Is it just a legend?
Urban Legend (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Urban Legend (DVD)
Advantages: An enjoyable watch
Disadvantages: An enjoyable watch
Following the death of a young girl who was hacked to death by a murderer hiding in the back of her car, Natalie, who knew the murdered girl, is at University, taking a course about urban legends. This includes the story of the University's own legend - that of a professor who killed six of his students. Natalie believes that her friend's death was related to one of the urban legends and, after another murder, comes to the conclusion that a serial killer is echoing urban legends. No-one believes her at first, but as the body count starts to grow, her friends, Paul and Brenda, begin to realise that there might just be some truth in what she says. Natalie, meanwhile, believes that the killer is after her- and it could just be related to something she did in the past. Can she and her friends stay safe? Or will the killer eventually catch up with Natalie.
Directed by Jamie Blanks, this 1998 film is often brushed aside as just another slasher film - and that is for a good reason, it is just another slasher film. The only real difference with the story is that it is based around a series of common urban legends, rather than just the one legend that most slashers are based on. Nevertheless, if you like the odd scare, a bit of mystery and lots of gore, you can't go too far wrong with Urban Legend - provided that your expectations aren't too high.
Alicia Witt plays the lead role of Natalie and she is perfectly competent in the role. The fact that she looks great doesn't hurt either. She perhaps overdoes the terror towards the beginning of the film, but, as it happens, it is called for and her reactions improve during the course of the film. There isn't much character development throughout the film, so she doesn't have much of an opportunity to show off anything other than how to look terrified, but then, this is a slasher and character development isn't really necessary. The same can be said for Rebecca Gayheart, who plays Brenda. She is a little more smug than Natalie and appears to have a bit more about her, but ultimately, her main characteristic is looking scared out of her mind.
Tara Reid (American Pie) is one of the more familiar faces in the film as a friend of Natalie's. Her character isn't that different from the one in American Pie (although Urban Legend came first), so she doesn't really bring anything exciting to the table. Jared Leto, who is top billed, plays Paul, but is largely disappointing. He's smug and way too suave to be likable, although he's supposed to be playing the hero of the piece. He could have been interchanged with almost any good looking Hollywood actor and it wouldn't have made much difference. The only other role worth mentioning is Robert Englund as Natalie's Professor - it's not that he is particularly outstanding, it was just good to see him as someone else other than Freddie Krueger.
If you're looking for scares, there are a few, although the build up to them is not as effective as it could be. At the beginning of the film when the girl is murdered by a mad axe man in the back, it is obvious from quite some time beforehand that this is what is going to happen, so it isn't really something that is going to make you jump. The same goes for the other murders; a little less preparation beforehand would have made everything much more scary - we even get to see pictures of a couple of the murders before they've happened. It is a budget horror, but that isn't much of an excuse for the pacing. There are a few false alarms, where the viewer is led to believe that something awful is about to happen and then it doesn't. These generally fall a bit flat, so don't add anything to the film as a whole. Thankfully, there are a couple of twists towards the end that keep the viewer's attention before the desire to give up becomes too strong.
The fact that it is a budget horror comes out strongly with regard to the special effects. The gore really isn't that noticeable, because most of the deaths are seen from a distance, or are represented by pools of blood and a quick flash of the dead person's face. This shouldn't really be a criticism, except that it does make the characters even less of a person than they were before, so the viewer is left not really caring that someone has just died. Having said that, it is better than having to watch poor special effects. There is a classification of 18 on the film; this is perhaps a bit over the top, but certainly the content means that it is unfit for children under 15.
There are a few special features, including the usual theatrical trailer and filmographies of the main actors and actresses. The behind-the-scenes featurette doesn't really give the insight into the film that I was hoping for. It is only a few minutes long and basically retells the story, with the odd clips of interviews with the actors. It's more of an advert for the movie than it is an explanation of what went on behind the scenes. Finally, there's an audio commentary for those who want to sit through the film while someone the director explains scene by scene why the film is presented in the way it is.
I don't think anyone is going to watch this film expecting a masterpiece. However, if you're after something that doesn't involve a lot of thinking, with some blood and gore thrown in, then it's worth a watch. Just don't expect to see anything original and you won't be too disappointed. Just make sure that there aren't any children around while you are watching. Recommended to horror fans, three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 99 minutes
Summary: Same old, same old