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Urban Legend

Starring: Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart
Director: Jamie Blanks
Genre: Thriller
Year: 1998
Rating: 3 / 5

A colleague of mine had prefaced my viewing of Urban Legend with the following thought: "If it had come out before Scream..." The implication being that, while Urban Legend is an entertaining movie, it is not so innovative or fresh in light of recent films to hit the screen. While I am not entirely in agreement with this statement, I will say that it does a pretty good job of describing the strengths and weaknesses of Jamie Blanks' horror film. Urban Legend, a tale of a college campus terrorized by crimes befitting local legends, is yet another collection of hot, young actors in a horror setting, offering intriguing, if not terribly original, plot twists.

Urban Legend starts off at a mythical Northeastern university, where local "historian" Parker (Michael Rosenbaum) is passing tales of urban legends down to his classmates. It seems that a massacre may or may not have occurred on campus twenty-five years ago that same week, so a celebration of sorts is going to be held to commemorate it. When one student is found decapitated in her car, speculation grows that the anniversary is related to the new death, bringing ace student reporter Paul (Jared Leto) to the scene. As bodies mount, a disturbing relationship starts to reveal itself - it seems that troubled Natalie (Alicia Witt) is in some way connected to all of the victims. But what significance does that hold, and is it related to the horrors of yesteryear?

The cast of virtual unknowns does a respectable job of holding Urban Legend together, even if none manage to stand out from the mix. Jared Leto (Prefontaine) probably qualifies as the star of the movie, although he primarily shares the stage with Alicia Witt. Contributing supporting roles are Rebecca Gayheart (yes, that Noxema girl), Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek), and horror master Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street). All are able to hold their own, and Jackson is actually somewhat enjoyable as an undersexed co-ed.

Urban Legend does manage to keep the viewer entertained right until the end, and I found my likely killers murdered one at a time. The twists keep coming, though they are helped along by an exceptionally foolish and arrogant dean of students (John Neville, X-Files). Equally inept is the on-campus police force, but what should one expect from a formulaic horror romp? Maybe the film's best achievement might be the creation of a whole new urban myth. True story: a group of producers found a successful franchise, pawned it off as their own, and rode it to box office glory... Then again, maybe that legend has its foundations in reality after all.

Jared Leto..........Paul
Alicia Witt..........Natalie
Rebecca Gayheart..........Brenda
Michael Rosenbaum..........Parker
Joshua Jackson..........Damon
Robert Englund..........William Wexler

Certification: Rated R for violence and language.
Running Time: 99 minutes.

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