Urban Legend (1998)


I never understood why, if “Urban Legend” is set in New England, does the killer wear a heavy winter coat that drapes over their face during what looks like the early Fall season. You figure the killer would opt for something sleeker and more compact, as well as something that doesn’t directly cut off peripheral vision. But that is one of the many irritating aspects of “Urban Legend” that demands a lot from its audience in the way of suspension of disbelief. This is a world where suddenly everyone owns a winter jacket with white fur lining once we’re aware of the killer’s garb. Even swimmers who happen to be wearing swimsuits decide to wear it while walking along an in-door pool. Only in this universe does that make even the slightest bit of sense.

Director Jamie Banks also subscribes to that obnoxious late nineties horror device where literally everything is a jump scare followed by a shock of the soundtrack. It’s bad enough we have to believe everyone sneaks up on one another and yanks one another’s shoulder to garner attention, but the shock scares come in fast, and become irritating very quickly. “Urban Legend” has a unique premise behind it, but by the middle half of the story it seems to have no idea how to orchestrate it all to form an interesting mystery. A masked killer is lurking around a college campus murdering students in the vein of classic urban folklore. When you discover who the killer is you’re going to laugh at the notion they were able to beat up a large man and string him up in a tree over a car so easily.

You’ll also chuckle at the idea that they can wield a large axe and hack people up without breaking a single sweat. The secondary problem is that the concept overpowers the sense of mystery and suspense. So very early in to the movie, you’ll want to see who is next to die and in what urban legend form, rather than wanting to discover who or whom the killer may be. “Urban Legend” could use the gimmicky concept and use it to fuel an interesting slasher, but in the end it applies the urban legends as a form of self-aware wink to the audience that “Scream” enlisted with horror movies.

Most of the cast are painfully ill-fitted in their roles, especially Alicia Witt who is much more at home as a supporting player than she is a virginal final girl. Jared Leto also seems added to give viewers someone to suspect in the haze of red herrings, while Joshua Jackson’s performance is merely a cash grab for “Dawson’s Creek” fans. “Urban Legend” garners a big reveal and stand off much in the way of “Scream,” but the explanation and unveiling of the killer is so goofy and ridiculous it will completely cancel out any scares the film garnered. It’s surely not the worst slasher film ever made, but it wastes the hint of creativity it promises from the outset.