must admit, I wasnít looking forward to
this film. URBAN LEGENDS wasnít exactly
hot stuff, and I contemplated suicide
after seeing I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID
LAST SUMMER last summer. I am pleased
to say I did not go out and buy razors
this time. Somehow, Phoenix Filmsí URBAN
LEGENDS: FINAL CUT manages to rise out
of the ashes of the flaming failure that
was the original. In fact, it joins the
ranks of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, SUPERMAN
II, EVIL DEAD 2, DRUNKEN MASTER 2, STAR
TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, and AIR BUD
2: GOLDEN RECEIVER as that rare beingóthe
sequel superior to the original.
movie picks up at a brand new school with
a brand new set of white, privileged college
students. Amy Mayfield (Morrison) is a
senior at Alpine University, a fictional
film school. There she vies against several
other students to make the best short
film and win the coveted Hitchcock Award,
which guarantees a big-time Hollywood
directing career for the winner, and also
guarantees a cavalcade of Hitchcock homages
for the audience. After talking to campus
security guard Reese (Devine, the only
holdover from the first film), she decides
to make her film about a serial killer
whose murders are inspired by urban legends.
those of you who missed URBAN LEGENDS,
Reese was the single minority character,
sensitively characterized entirely by
her constant obsession with Pam Grier
as Foxy Brown. The sequel delves more
deeply into her character: This time around
we learn sheís also a Coffy fan. Needless
to say, members of Amyís cast and crew
begin to be knocked off in ways which
have less and less to do with urban legends
as the movie progresses. The movie is
populated by cardboard cutout characters
who mainly serve as red herrings to the
identity of the killer. Amy makes several
very questionable judgments that conveniently
move the plot forward. And the actual
killerís motivations come completely out
of left field during the last 15 minutes
of the movie. Oh, and Joey Lawrence is
in it too, and he never says "Whoa!"
Not even once.
why did I enjoy this movie? Well, for
one thing, the ridiculously complex story
actually holds together, and more importantly,
itís aware of how silly itís being. The
heroineís missteps play as intentional
concessions to the teen horror genre.
The regular silly "surprise"
plot developments come off less as sloppy
writing and more as tongue-in-cheek. And
even given all of this, first-time director
Ottman also consistently manages to build
real moments of gut-wrenching suspense.
Several cleverly staged murders had me
cringing in my seat (but in a good way).
The visuals are stylish, the editing suspenseful,
and the setting unique and moody. The
architecture of the campus on which it
was shot, Trent University in Ontario,
is a refreshing departure from the faux-Ivy
League look that populates these films.
for the cast, they tackle their shallow
parts with the kind of gusto that can
only from knowing their careers will sink
like stones if they donít put out. The
standout performer is definitely Jennifer
Morrison as the heroine-in-distress, although
she also had the most to work with. And
I gotta say, Joey Lawrence was raptastic.
a side note, John Ottman served as director,
editor, and original music composer. The
only other director/composers I know of
are John Carpenter and Hal Hartley, and
I always found Carpenterís scores especially
charming (e.g., HALLOWEEN, BIG TROUBLE
IN LITTLE CHINA). Unlike his predecessors,
Ottman heretofore has solely been a film
composer (hear THE USUAL SUSPECTS and
APT PUPIL, among others). So it was a
letdown that his music here is so generic.
A small consolation is the way in which
the movie uses source music to increase
tension. One character whistles "In
the Hall of the Mountain King" (the
creepy music child murderer Peter Lorre
whistles in M) in the dark while being
stalked; the killer stands at a grand
piano and hits a low note over and over,
unaware that Amy is hiding right underneath.
That one actually gave me chills.
of course URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT canít
escape the limitations of its dying genre.
Itís still inescapably shallow. Itís also
good fun. If youíre in the mood for yet
another Self-Referential Teen Horror Film,
this oneís definitely better than most.
Worth a matinee, if only to see a good
one before they all die off.
ARBEITMAN: Thespian Extraordinaire
ACTOR! SUPERHERO! ALL-AROUND NICE GUY!