Following Scream 2 and I know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend offered a just-fresh-enough take on the Second Cycle Slasher while keeping to comfortably, pleasantly familiar territory. In so doing, it proves one of the more enjoyable entries in the ’90s Slasher film revival begun by 1996’s Scream.
The film features the now required set of they’re-hot-cause-they-were-in-these-other-movies-and-TV-shows actors beset by a series of mysterious killings, killing which—as the title suggests—are modeled after urban legends. It’s a clever concept, allowing the filmmakers to inject creative and otherwise preposterous kills into their screenplay, while maintaining a certain movie-logic. Sure, the kills are complicated for nothing, but if you accept the premise, well, you’ll accept it all—and besides, it’s fun to recognize the legends upon which the kills were built.
And that’s the operative word when discussing Urban Legend: Fun. The film never takes itself seriously, perfectly aware that it isn’t terribly original, but also confident that it delivers in the entertainment department.
Urban Legend takes self-reference in a slightly different direction than its Kevin Williamson-scripted predecessors, opting for tongue-in-cheek dramatic irony rather than allowing its characters in on the joke. The film is riddled with wink-wink cameos, including Robert Englund as a college professor, Danielle Harris as a goth, and Brad Dourif as the gas station attendant Billy Bibbit would have become had he survived Nurse Ratched.
Along the way, we also catch Joshua Jackson’s character, Damon, listening to “I don’t Wanna Wait” by Paula Cole. The only thing missing would be a reference to Rosenbaum’s full head of hair, or maybe Leto sporting eyeliner and singing about how hard it is to be emo.
All of it serves to heighten the aforementioned sense of fun. This is not great cinema, but it’s hard to watch the film without a smile on your lips. It’s an easy, well-made Second Cycle Slasher that never overreaches and never oversells, content to provide a few pop-culture nudges along with its mild suspense and moderate surprises.
Recommended for a fun night in and/or to satisfy a yearning for late ’90s pop-culture (remember when Dawson’s Creek was huge and Tara Reid was relevant?).
Length: 99 min