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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/31/00

Urban Legend
1998 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Urban Legend Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/B+

Specs and Features

100 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, dual-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, commentary track (with director Jamie Blanks, writer Silvio Horta and Michael Rosenbaum), theatrical trailer, "making of" featurette, cast bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"He's most likely holed up in some hotel somewhere with a girl. Or a boy... farm animal... whatever! Weren't you ever eighteen?"

Have you ever heard the one about the baby-sitter who gets a phone call from a strange man, but he's calling from upstairs? Or how about the girl who hears scratching on the hood of her car after her boyfriend goes out for a pee? Yeah! You know that's the boyfriend being hung right? Have you heard what happens if you eat pop rocks with soda?

The odds are that you have heard these stories, but they're not real. They're urban legends, modern myths, or whatever you want to call them. They're stories, usually passed around campfires from generation to generation as true. But they're false. Some of them are downright hilarious, but some of them are rather scary. This is the premise for the film Urban Legend: what if somebody started prowling around a university campus killing people just like in urban legends?

That's the catalyst for the story here - a random murder shocks a small serene college campus. But the terror is just beginning as the first murder leads to another and another, and a sinister pattern begins to appear. The plot is formulaic at best, with murder after murder continually leaving conflicting clues as to the killer's identity. When the climax comes, the killer's identity is naturally revealed. You should be able to figure it all out.

The premise is a very intriguing one, and could have generated a legendary horror film if done well. Unfortunately, what could have been a great film only ends up being pretty good. First, the script gives too little attention to the urban legends and too much attention to the "whodunit" aspect. Second, the suspense just isn't played as well as it could have been. Don't get me wrong - Urban Legend gets the job done, but sometimes you just see things coming a wee bit too early.

Nonetheless, this film is a guilty pleasure of mine. I must have watched it three or four times in theaters. I will usually see a horror film only once in a theater, even if it IS endlessly amusing to watch yet another date jump out of her seat in horror. In the case of this film, however, I kept on coming back. I suppose the reason for that is the humor and fun of the film. It is horribly formulaic, and I've already outlined the major problems above... but it's still fun. It's fun for the one-liners, it's fun for the absolute lunacy of some of the characters and it's fun for the cameo by Robert Englund (who was Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series). In short... it's just fun.

The DVD release of this film preserves that fun with a solid (in terms of quality, at least) presentation. The anamorphic widescreen video is just dead on, preserving the darks at just the right levels and allowing the shadows to hit perfectly. Grain is negligible, but what's there contributes to the mood. The full frame version is also included, but it does no justice to the film's sense of framing. The Dolby Digital audio is also good, allowing the surround effects to come through nicely, while still holding up on the dialogue end. It isn't an amazing audio track, but it's good and lets the screams and jolts get to you.

The extras also compliment the presentation quality. This is by no means a slamming special edition, but it has a decent offering that makes the disc worth the money. The commentary track provides the insight of both director and writer (who had a visible role on set, even showing up among the extras), along with Michael Rosenbaum who played Parker in the film. It's a fun little track for what it is, but it'll probably go down as average over all. A trailer and equally average behind-the-scenes featurette round out the offerings. One nice little bonus is a deleted scene (of really poor video quality but rather humorous content) at the end of the featurette.

Urban Legend is a product of the Scream-induced resurgence of lowbrow horror films. As such, it soars, providing the scares and laughs to make it a fun little film worth watching time and time again. However, this film also had a much more interesting premise than most of your lowbrow horror films and, in that respect, it failed to make the cut. So much could have been drawn from the notion of an urban legend-copying killer. Instead, the cleverness we get here is more of an afterthought. Still, the movie is fun and the disc is solid. Pick it up if you think you might like it... or did I ever tell you about the bombs they used to hide in DVDs? And did you hear that those little "security" tags in the packaging can actually be used to track you by satellite? Just something to think about...

Brad Pilcher
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