The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Urban Legend

Urban Legend came close to the tail end of the '90s slasher revival, started with Scream and followed by its first sequel, as well as two I Know What You Did Last Summer movies and Halloween: H2O. The formula involved casting hot up-and-coming actors, often from WB series, and taking a winking approach to the material. Upon its debut, Urban Legend was easy to overlook. It felt a little stale by the time it was released. Twenty years later, we can re-examine it with fresher eyes -- something Scream Factory's sterling Collector's Edition Blu-ray helps facilitate. (They're also putting out the sequel Urban Legends: Final Cut.)

The story takes place on a fictional college campus where, legend has it, a group of students were viciously murdered twenty-five years prior. Now someone is going around killing students again, using various urban legends as a blueprint.

The first person to figure out what's going on is Natalie (Alicia Witt). She initially believes the murders are either coincidental or the work of practical joker Damon (Joshua Jackson). A reporter for the college paper, Paul (Jared Leto), is investigating the murders, and he seems intent on pushing the buttons of the dean (John Neville). Paul thinks the original massacre was more than legend, but the school officially denies it ever took place. The only one who might know for sure is Professor Wexler (Robert Englund) who, perhaps not so coincidentally, teaches a course in urban legends. Does he know something about the current murders too? Paul and Natalie team up to find out.

Urban Legend starts off very clever, then gets a little less clever the longer it goes on. The way it uses folklore is often amusing. There's a very funny bit about the old myth that your stomach will explode if you eat Pop Rocks and drink Pepsi at the same time. The film also uses that story about gang members who drive around with their headlights off, then follow and kill the first person to flash their own lights in warning. We've all heard the stories used here, so it's fun to see them integrated into a horror plot.

By the end, though, Urban Legend devolves into a more routine slasher pic, with bodies piling up left and right. It's not hard to guess who the killer is because, by this point, almost everyone else is dead. The unmasking of the killer is done in typically overwrought style, with all sorts of corny cliches, including the one in which the supposedly-dead killer comes back for one last grab.

The movie develops a sudden sadistic streak with two of its final legends, resulting in some unsettling violence, including a re-enactment of the legend about the woman who puts her wet dog in the microwave to dry. Of course, any movie like this is going to have a certain amount of gore; it's part of the formula. The early violence is handled more discreetly, with an emphasis on the myths behind the violence rather than on the violence itself. A scene of someone being sliced into with a scalpel is too brutal to be fun.

Urban Legend falls into that nebulous area between being original and being derivative. A very captivating concept eventually falls victim to the requirements of the slasher genre. Still, the parts that work are really entertaining, and it's cool to see Jared Leto in an early role. Any fan of '90s slashers will, at the very least, find it fun to revisit, especially when the copious bonus features are factored in.

Blu-ray Features:

This is yet another phenomenal release from Scream Factory. Any Urban Legend aficionado will become absolutely giddy at the sight of the supplementary material.

The first disc in the set contains the movie, with two optional audio commentaries. The first is from director Jamie Blanks, producer Michael McDonnell, and Assistant Edgar Pablos, moderated by author Peter M. Bracke. The other is from Blanks, writer Silvio Horta, and actor Michael Rosenbaum. The theatrical trailer is here, as well.

Disc two has everything else, starting off with "Urban Legacy," a feature-length retrospective documentary that runs a whopping 147 minutes. That's 48 minutes longer than the movie itself! Anything you could possibly want to know about Urban Legend can be found, and most of the key cast and crew members are present to reminisce. (Yes, even Tara Reid!) The thoroughness of this doc, which is in eight parts, is impressive. Extended interviews from it are included as a separate bonus, so that gives you an idea of how much good stuff there is.

The Blu-ray additionally includes some behind-the-scenes footage, an archival making-of segment, a deleted scene, a gag reel, and some TV spots. All of it is worth devouring.

The Urban Legend Collector's Edition Blu-ray is, in a word, magnificent.

For more information on this and other great titles, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Urban Legend is rated R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.

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