Urban Legend

on September 25, 1998 by Jon A. Walz
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   "Scream" was supposed be the film that once and for all excised the cheaply produced, thinly conceived, and badly acted slasher picture from the lexicon of the horror genre. While the renaissance of horror born from that film is in full swing, it was inevitable that a film would come around as a reminder of how bad the form was pre-"Scream."
   The self-serious "Urban Legends" is a horror picture form the old, awful school, despite an attractive young cast and some nice photography; that's as high as the praise will get for a picture that in virtually every other category is reprehensible and laughable.
   The plot concerns an array of murders at fictional Pendleton College hidden somewhere along the eastern seaboard--a place that is apparently dark and stormy 24 hours a day. Natalie (Alicia Witt) and her friends take a class on urban legends, those unauthenticated but purportedly true grisly tales of horror always prefaced by claims that "this really happened to a friend of a friend."
   Natalie's clique becomes obsessed with urban legends, especially as the 25th anniversary of a rumored bloody massacre on campus draws near, and students and faculty start turning up dead. No one, including the student newspaper's star reporter Paul (Jared Leto), Natalie (who seems to be the ultimate target of the attacks), or Natalie's beautiful but anorexic best friend Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart), wanders into town to rent "Scream." A big mistake, because they would have known far earlier who the killer was. Yes, "Urban Legends" not only hops on the "Scream" genre bandwagon, but even shamelessly apes the killer's modus operandi and motive. The blatant ripoff, and utterly inept attempt to pull it off, is the only thing that's really scary about this film.    Starring Jared Leto, Alicia Witt and Rebecca Gayheart. Written by Silvio Horta. Directed by Jamie Blanks. Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Gina Matthews and Michael McDonnell. A TriStar release. Horror. Rated R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content. Running time: 101 min.
Tags: urban legend, horror, myth, rumor, college, serial killer, slasher, murder, killer, Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Robert Englund, Brad Dourif, Jamie Blanks
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