Urban Legends. Everyone has heard of at least one in their life time and probably told just as many to other people. The good thing about urban legends is that they can be the setup, and sometimes the basis, for a horror movie. Well, someone decided that why use just one urban legend when you can do a whole movie about a lot of them. Now I first heard about this movie and I will admit that my curiosity was piqued about it but I never went to see it in theaters, choosing to rent it when it came out on video. During the dying Blockbuster days, I picked up a copy on the cheap so let’s see if this was worth it as I watch today’s movie, Urban Legend.
The plot: A young woman named Michelle is driving on the highway when it starts raining. Finding herself low on gas, she stops at a run down gas station and is startled when the attendant suddenly appears at her window. Michelle hands him her credit card and after starting to pump her gas, the man looks inside her car then heads into the store. A few minutes later, the man returns and stutteringly tells her that her credit card company is on the phone and needs to speak with her. Nervous, Michelle grabs a can of mace from her purse and heads inside but when she picks up the phone, she hears the busy signal just as the attendant locks the door. The attendant tries to grab her but she fights him off, and tries to leave, macing him when he manages to grab her. Using the phone to break the window, Michelle climbs out and rushes to her car and drives off, leaving the attendant standing there screaming that someone was in her back seat. Michelle drives away, still freaked by the encounter when she sees someone rise up from her back seat and kill her with an axe. At Pendleton University, Parker Riley is telling the story of a supposed massacre that happened at Stanley Hall to Natalie Simons and Brenda Bates but their friend Paul Gardner, who works for the school newspaper, discredits the story as a hoax. Later, Brenda and Natalie walk by a hole in the wall of a dorm that supposedly is able to summon the dead and they try it only to be scared by another friend, Damon Brooks, before Natalie heads back to her dorm room. The next day, Brenda, Natalie, Parker, and Damon are attending Professor Wexler’s class on urban legends when he has Brenda and Damon come up to do a demonstration disproving the legend about pop rocks and soda. As they leave class, Brenda and Natalie see Dean Adams and security guard Reese Wilson removing all of the school newspapers in the bins due to Paul’s story about Michelle’s death. As everyone talks about Michelle’s death, Natalie appears to be especially freaked out by it but doesn’t say why. That night, Damon invites Natalie out to talk about Michelle’s death and he takes her out to the woods but apparently used it only as an excuse to try and hook up with her. Natalie punches him and tells him to take her back and he relents, stepping out of the car to use the restroom. As he is finishing up, someone sneaks up behind him and starts strangling him with a rope. As Natalie yells out for him to hurry up, she is confronted by someone wearing a hooded parka and quickly gets back in the car. As she tries to start the car, she hears something scraping on the roof, not realizing it is Damon, whose is hanging from a tree limb above her and his feet are barely touching the roof of the car. Natalie manages to start the car and drives off, unknowingly hanging Damon as the rope was tied to the car’s trailer hitch. Natalie tries to run the stranger over she finds the car can’t go forward any more due to the rope so she puts the car in reverse and ends up crashing into the tree, and Damon’s body falls onto the hood of the car. Natalie runs back to the college and tells Reese what happened but when they go back to the scene, they find the car and body missing and Reese thinks Natalie is on something. Natalie tries telling her friends but Parker says that it is probably Damon playing a practical joke like he always does. As they keep talking, Natalie realizes that Damon’s death and Michelle’s are similar to urban legends and she heads to the library to get a book on urban legends, running into Sasha, Parker’s girlfriend and campus radio DJ, as she does. Meanwhile, Natalie’s roommate Tosh is attempting to arrange a hookup only to be attacked in their room. Natalie walks in but, having turned on the lights to find Tosh having sex before, she mistakes Tosh’s muffled cries as her having sex and simply keeps the lights off before heading to bed. When she wakes up, Natalie notices a pool of blood near Tosh’s body and finds that she has been murdered and the killer had written “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights” in her blood above Natalie’s bed, mimicking another urban legend. As the paramedics are brought in to take away the body, Dean Adams and Reese talk with Natalie and Adams tries to convince her not to say anything to the police. Paul follows her out of there and asks her what is going on and shows her a picture of Michelle’s yearbook and asks why she didn’t say she knew Michelle. Natalie tells him her theory and Paul doesn’t really believe her but decides to help her check out the truth behind the Stanley Hall Massacre. They go to look at the school records only to find the records for 1973 are missing and when they ask the janitor if he knows anything, he says to talk with Wexler. They head to Wexler’s office and getting no answer, Paul breaks in. When they start looking around, Natalie finds a secret room with a hooded parka and an axe inside but they are caught by Wexler. Natalie and Paul are taken to Adams’ office and they asks him about the massacre but he doesn’t answer, telling NAtalie she is lucky to have gotten accepted as she has a reckless endangerment charge on her record and tells Paul that he has been kicked off of the school paper. Later, Natalie goes to see Brenda at the pool when she sees a parka clad person approaching her and she tries to warn her, breaking a window before the person is revealed to be another swimmer. As Brenda tries talking with Natalie, Natalie reveals to her that she knew Michelle and that when they were in high school, they played a joke based on an urban legend and ended up accidentally killing someone. Meanwhile, Adams is preparing to leave when he is spooked by Reese, who says they should get some more security for the weekend but Adams refuses, wanting to keep everything quiet and under wraps. As Reese leaves, Adams is attacked when someone underneath his car slashes his achilles tendon, then runs him over with his own car as he tries to crawl away, impaling him on the parking deck’s security spikes. At the newspaper, Paul is cleaning out his desk when he finds an old newspaper showing that the massacre did happen and Wexler is the only survivor. Brenda convinces Natalie to come to the Stanley Hall Massacre party when she runs into Paul, who tells her she was right. Paul explains his theory about Wexler and how he might be the killer and as Natalie gets frightened, he says he won’t let anything happen to her. Paul kisses Natalie but they are caught by Brenda, who has a crush on Paul, and she calls Natalie a slut and runs outside, where she sits on the steps and cries. Paul tries to convince Parker to stop the party but when Parker mocks him, he tells Natalie he is going to go get some help. Meanwhile, Parker gets a phone call from someone saying he is going to die but when Parker checks the caller ID, he notices it is coming from Damon’s room. Thinking it is Damon playing a joke, he asks if this is the legend about the babysitter and the call is coming from upstairs but the caller says it is the legend about the old woman that dries off her dog in the microwave. Parker checks the microwave to find his dog has exploded inside and when he goes to the bathroom to throw up, the killer attacks him and force feeds him some pop rocks and drain killer to kill him. Sasha leaves the party to work her shift on the radio and as she takes a call, the killer kills her producer and attacks her while she is on air. Natalie hears Sasha screaming and heads over to the station only to see the killer kill Sasha. She heads over to Paul’s dorm to get him and tells him what happened and he says they should leave, but Natalie is starting to get suspicious of him. The two run into Brenda and they tell her Sasha is dead and they all leave in Paul’s SUV. As they drive, Natalie complains about a smell and they stop at a gas station to see if the phones work there. Paul heads inside to try the phones while Natalie and Brenda wait in the car but the two hear Wexler’s alarm and find his dead body in the back. The two girls run through the woods back towards campus but get separated and Natalie ends up getting picked up by the janitor. As they are driving, Natalie sees his parka and thinks he might be the killer and tries to get out of the car but he tells her the doors won’t open from the outside. As they keep driving, they see a car approaching with it’s lights off and the janitor flashes his high beams to alert the other car but Natalie realizes it is the killer in Paul’s car, as the car turns around and follows them, constantly flashing it’s high beams at them and eventually forcing them off the road. The janitor dies in the crash and Natalie and manages to reach the campus, where she hears Brenda screaming. Going to find her friend, Natalie heads inside the abandoned Stanley Hall, only to be attacked by Brenda. When she comes to, Natalie finds herself tied to a bed and Brenda explains that the man that Natalie and Michelle killed was her boyfriend and she was getting her revenge. Brenda starts to cut into Natalie to mimic the kidney thief legend when Reese shows up to rescue her. As Natalie frees herself, Reese starts to frisk Brenda, who pulls out a switchblade and slashes her. Reese drops her gun and Brenda and Reese struggle for it before Brenda manages to shoot Reese, then points the gun at Natalie. Paul shows up and tries to talk Brenda out of shooting Natalie but Brenda points the gun at both of them. Reese shoots Brenda in the arm, causing her to drop the gun and Natalie picks it up and shoots her, knocking her out the window. Natalie and Paul check on Reese, who is bleeding but still alive, and they leave to get help but as they are driving down the road, Brenda appears in the back seat and tries attacking them with an axe but Paul slams into the side of a bridge and goes flying out the windshield and plunges into the river below. Some time later, at another college, some students are talking about the murders when Brenda, still alive and under a new identity, says that they are telling it wrong and says she will tell them how it really went.
Urban Legend met with poor results from the critics, holding a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Elements of Scream reappear in a vastly inferior vehicle.” In keeping with the movie’s title and theme, 11 urban legends were reenacted and another 5 were referenced during the film. When Paul and Natalie walk into the hidden room in Professor William Wexler’s office, a puppet of Freddy Krueger can be seen just before they see the axe, which is a nod to Robert Englund, who plays Wexler in the movie but is most famous for playing Freddy in the Nightmare On Elm Street movies. The movie was a box office hit, earning $72.5 million off of a $14 million budget and would spawn 2 sequels.
I had high hopes for this movie but it honestly was kind of a let down. The acting was ok, with all of the main characters doing ok jobs, and I mean just that. They were ok but nobody really wowed me and in some cases, they could be embarrassingly bad. I personally liked Robert Englund as Wexler, who made for a great red herring in the movie. I also liked Loretta Devine, as her character of Security Officer Reese Wilson made for some unintentional comedic relief at times. The story was interesting and I did like how they tried using the urban legends to make unique kills instead of making it a stereotypical slasher movie. The special effects were ok, but I feel like they could have done more with some of the kills. Good idea but poor execution (no pun intended) make this just another average horror movie.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5