Urban Legend (1998)

Of all the 90’s and 00’s sequels we’ve covered this week, I’d say the first two Urban Legend films were the best. Admittedly, that’s a low bar to trip over. But at their heart, they have more in common with the giallo than making fun of the formula of slashers.

I have a fondness for urban legends, as I was obsessed by the books of folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, from whom I learned that so many of the stories that came by way of a friend of a friend weren’t true and merely our way of moving legends of the past into the modern era.

This film was written by the late Silvio Horta, who was still working as a perfume spritzer at Nordstrom while he was trying to get into Hollywood. He’d eventually be the head writer and executive producer on Ugly Betty, the American version of the telenovela Yo Soy Betty, La Fea.

The film starts with the “The Killer In the Backseat” coming true as Michelle (Natasha Gregson Wagner) is murdered, despite the best efforts of a Brad Dourif cameo as he tries to warn her. While that’s happening, Paul (Jared Leto), Parker (Michael Rosenbaum),  Natalie (Alicia Witt) and Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart) are discussing a variant of the “Hatchet Man,” which in this movie is all about a series of murders that happened in their school’s Stanley Hall.

Michelle’s murder is quickly hushed up by Dean Adams (John Neville, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) and security officer Reese Wilson (Loretta Devine), Damon (Joshua Jackson) tries to console Natalie, who is disturbed by the murders, but after she rejects his attempt to aardvarking, he’s killed outside the car. All she knows is that he never comes back, just like “The Boyfriend’s Death.”

Danielle Harris shows up as Natalie’s roommate Tosh, who spends much of the movie flimp-flopping before she’s murdered and a note is left behind, which is “The Roommate’s Death.” That’s when Natalie tells Brenda that Michelle and she were once close, but caused an accident after driving without their headlights and chasing the first person who flashed their brights — a long-standing “gang initiation” urban legend. while that’s happening, Paul discovers that Stanley Hall was real and only one person survived: Professor Wexler (Robert Englund), who has already spoke about urban legends with the students, showing them how the Pop Rocks and soda story didn’t murder Little Mikey.

After “The Slasher Under the Car” takes out the dean — oh yes, I forgot “Bloody Mary” was used as well — we also get the “Love Rollercoaster” death story (as Tara Reid’s character Sasha is murdered while doing her radio show), “The Microwaved Pet” and stories of kidneys being stolen while their owner is still alive. By the end, the murders in this movie have taken on a life of their own and thus, become urban legend.

Director Jamie Blanks wanted to make I Know What You Did Last Summer that he directed a mock trailer for the project. After losing out, he made this film as well as Valentine, which is another very, very late to the game slasher that is way better than you’d think. He also made the remake of Long Weekend. It was scored by Christopher Young, who also did the music for The Dorm That Dripped Blood, HellraiserTrick or TreatThe GiftThe GrudgeDrag Me to HellSinister and many more movies.

If the school in this movie looks familiar, that’s because it was also the setting for Killer Party. It’s the University of Toronto, in case you were wondering. If you look closely at the Latin motto of the school, it translates as “The Best Friend Did It,” which makes sense at the end of this movie, which has a well-done closing.

You can get this on blu ray from Shout! Factory.

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