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Urban Legend
1998 - R - 99 Mins.
Director: Jamie Blanks
Written By: Silvio Horta
Starring: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Loretta Devine, Tara Reid, Joshua Jackson
Review by: John Ulmer
   

They're running out of ideas for these movies. Killers in winter coats are not scary.
When confronted with films of various genres, I usually make sure I criticize the film based on what it is trying to do. For example, critiquing "Scarface" or "Goodfellas" for use of excessive violence or profane language would generally be a pretty silly thing to do. They're not family movies, and they're not targeted at children. The same typically goes for horror films (or films from any genre, for that matter). Who are most of the horror movies geared towards? Teenagers. And let's be frank: the majority of teenagers don't give a hoot about quality. Guys take their girlfriends to see horror movies for obvious reasons; the girlfriends generally scream out loud at the screen and try to warn characters not to do certain things ("Don't go in there, girl!"). They don't really care if the movie is comprised of laughable dialogue unless they're picky filmgoers -- like me.

I hate horror movies.

Not all of them. I respect when they're done well (e.g. "Psycho" or even "Halloween"), but the tiresome reign of repetitive sequels and clichéd storylines have gotten very old very fast. "Urban Legend" is basically just another "Halloween" knock-off; there's a serial killer going around scaring people and jumping out at the screen. But oh, how "Halloween" was masterfully crafted, and "Urban Legend" is...well...not.

This one has a twist: it's about a serial killer who mimics urban legends. You know, those old stories that always contain hidden morals. I've recently become familiar with most of them via snopes.com -- the babysitter who finds out the killer is upstairs/downstairs in her own house/the house next door. The woman whose car is pursued by a crazy driver, only for her to find out that the driver was trying to warn her of a serial killer lurking in the back of her vehicle.

I'll admit that this could have made a splendid, quite original horror film -- but "Urban Legend" resorts to clichés of the worst kind. Filmed in the era of self-aware victims (e.g. "Scream"), "Urban Legend's" characters are aware of the old myths that they are being confronted with. Too bad all of them are too stupid to avoid them. (If a killer were running around campus murdering people in a ritualistic fashion, would you ever wander into an empty dorm room located within an empty college? If you just said, "Yes," then you're as stupid as the characters in "Urban Legend.")

Busty, ditzy female heroines are always so damned stupid that it makes me yearn for a heroine as smart as Sarah Connor or Laurie Strode. And don't get me started on the heroes! Freddie Prinze, Jr., anyone? Ryan Philippe? And now, Jared Leto? Puh-lease. Who's next: Joshua Jackson? Oh, wait...never mind.

Considering how idiotic and naive the recent heroes and heroines have become in the horror genre, it makes me wonder (and fear) what will appear ten years from now. Yes, every once and a while the delightful horror film comes along that is surprisingly good ("Signs," "The Ring," "The Sixth Sense," etc.). "Urban Legend" is not one of them.

P.S. Note the cameo by Robert Englund, a.ka. Freddy Krueger. His efforts at self-parody are completely wasted here.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable. Bland, boring, inept. Forgettable.
  1.5 out of 5 stars

 
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