Friday, October 25, 2013

Film Review: Urban Legend (1998)

Urban Legend (Review)
United States/1998
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...the ending of the film is one of the most disappointing... I've ever seen."

After a fellow student is killed near a gas station, a group of students become targets to a serial killer who uses urban legends to kill his victims. Natalie Simon (Alicia Witt), a student, fears for her life as the people around her share similar deaths...

Urban Legend is a 90s slasher, which continues with the same premise. A friend of Natalie dies in a manner similar to an urban legend, and they continue to be picked off one by one; each suffering from a unique death and directly relating to Natalie. But, who's the killer and why? I love the premise of the film since I love urban legends, and the execution is mostly great, as well. Every urban legend kill is executed with great suspense and the chills you'd expect from these classic stories. It's basically a traditional slasher with reenactments of urban legends for kills, and it stays consistent for the first two acts, and even during the final act for a bit.

However, the ending of the film is one of the most disappointing, most cliché-filled, shittiest endings I've ever seen. (I really don't curse much in my reviews, so you know I mean it.) Every bit of originality this film had is killed off when the killer is revealed, and said killer suffers from a ridiculously over-the-top performance you've seen a million times -- really, there isn't a pinch of originality in this person's performance, it's laughable. Add in a handful of plot contrivances, and some cheesy, cheesy dialogue, and you've got yourself this terribly disappointing ending.

Now, aside from the bad ending, Urban Legend doesn't really give you much to root for. Every character in this film is horrid, filled with easily dislikable characteristics. (i.e. They're douchebags.) And, you really don't get to spend time with each individual, so their deaths lack impact and significance. The final act itself feels like it ditched the urban legend concept and focuses more on Natalie's bipolar paranoia (cause she doesn't trust anyone and goes around overreacting.) At least most of it is tolerable, and the kills are satisfying in a slasher sort of way -- great suspense, unique execution, and some solid jump-scares.

Alicia Witt is mostly tolerable throughout the film, despite some of her dialogue feeling forced and unnatural, but her character is annoying to spend time with anyway. Rebecca Gayheart also delivers a weak performance throughout without much energy; and when she does energize, she disappoints. Robert Englund was good, though, but underutilized. Other than the performances, it's a straightforward horror film -- not exceptional, but well-made on the technical side.

Overall, Urban Legend is a fascinating concept with great execution... until it reaches its very, very disappointing ending. If you can excuse the b-acting and annoying characters (most of them die, anyway), you'll find much to enjoy in the first two acts of the film; you'll be tested when it falls apart during the third act, though, as the film loses its identity.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex.

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