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A young lady is alone in her apartment.  She goes to bed with her dog on the floor aside her.  In the middle of the night, she is awoken by a strange sound.  She is alarmed, but reaches down to the dog, who licks her hand.  She is reassured and goes back to sleep.  The following morning, she finds the dog hung in the shower.  And where the dog slept, she picks up a note, which reads “humans can lick too.”

This is what is commonly known as an urban legend, a contemporary tale that emerges from the underground and takes on a colourful life of it’s own. Well that's exactly what the movie “Urban Legend” is based upon, with emphasis on the more gruesome folktales.

Brad Dourith who played Chucky in "Child's Play"
Movie
Urban Legend is set in the campus of Pendleton College and centres on a group of friends that are currently students of the college, who are played by a cast that you would be more likely to see on TV than on the big screen, such as: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum.  The movie begins with a rather gruesome opening scene involving the killer attacking the victim (a student from the same college) from the backseat of her own car while she is driving.  This is probably the best scene in the movie because of the long build up that it is given and the dramatic scene with Brad Dourith (from "Child’s Play") just beforehand.

I don’t really want to give too much away, but as the movie progresses it becomes apparent that a serial killer has taken a particular likening to urban legends, and has extended them to, shall we say, a hobby. Now these killings aren’t your average random selection of students as you might have seen in one of the early 1980’s slasher movies or even in the Scream trilogy. They are in fact linked and there are numerous clues throughout the film to help, and sometimes hinder you choice of “who done it.”

There are lots of potential characters who could be the killer, such as the spooky Janitor (played by Julian Richings), the journalist major, Paul (played by Jared Leto) or any of the numerous students and staff members presented in the film. In particular, Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund appears as the creepy Professor Wexler - just to complicate things further, he was in some way involved in a killing spree at the same college exactly 25 years ago. And the dean of the college, played by John Neville (who you may recognise from the X-Files) makes life very difficult by attempting to cover up as much of the details of the incident as possible. It is worth mentioning that both Tara Reid who plays the college’s radio DJ and Loretta Devine who makes an appearance as the college’s security guard, dominate every scene they appear in.

Robert Englund who famously played Freddy Krueger
Urban Legend does of course have its faults, like the subzero parka disguise used by the killer and worn by a surprisingly large number of students throughout the film, which I would have thought a rare occurrence given the hot climate in which the movie was set.  Also, towards the end, there is a scene in an abandoned building involving a slide projector that is apparently being powered by nothingness!  Unless you can get battery powered ones these days. Probably the most disappointing aspect of Urban Legend though is the climax, where the killer’s identity is revealed.  It has got to be the most unrealistic and unexpected outcome of a movie of this kind, and the killer seemed just a bit too prepared for the event – almost as if it were a parody of a generic slasher film.

Never the less we have a movie that is more entertaining than “I Know What You Did Last Summer” but probably not as well planned as say “Scream”, although maybe more interesting. The movie could have been a lot better - especially when you consider the potential of the subject matter that was available to the scriptwriter.

Video
The Urban Legend DVD has had an excellent transfer offering clear and precise colours, with minimal artefacts and a rightly emphasis on the blue shades.  The darker scenes didn’t suffer from any noticeable degradation, even the fast moving scenes maintained a high picture quality.

Audio
Since this is a region two disc, you are offered both an English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 track, providing a high quality surround sound experience. With a movie of this genre the sound (especially of the surround variety) can be a very important aspect, helping to build the atmosphere with the all-important tension factor and in that respect, it is achieved successfully. Although having said that, it would have been nice to be given the choice of using either Dolby Digital or DTS as offered in some of the recent region two releases from Universal.

Extras
There were surprisingly quite a few extras on this region two disc, especially when you consider all the space that must have already been squandered by the additional German Dolby 5.1 soundtrack and the fifteen supported subtitle languages.

First of, we have the US trailer for the movie, this is in a 4:3 screen ratio and in my opinion, will spoil the movie if you have not seen it before, so it would probably be a good idea to watch it after the movie and before the commentary. While viewing the featurette it actually felt like I was watching the trailer again, but this time more attenuated, with behind the scenes filming and snippets of interviews with the actors and director. Incidentally, they come with both English and German subtitles.

Pay attention to the background in this scene!
The filmographies were present as expected with each mentioning only the most popular movies that the actors played a part in. One thing I did notice, was that Michael Rosenbaum (the actor who featured in the commentary) was missing from the list, although the fact that he hasn’t appeared in many other movies could be a reason for this.

Given that the packaging only gave the slightest mention about the filmmakers' commentary, never mind who actually did it. I was expecting this to be one of those boring – yet informative tracks where they amalgamate a few comments (usually unrelated to the film) in an attempt to make it sound like one complete commentary. This was not the case with the Urban Legend commentary, instead Australian director Jamie Blanks, Michael Rosenbaum who plays Parker and Silvio Horta the screenwriter, produce a lone unadulterated track which ends up being very entertaining, interesting (especially if you are interested in the genre), and doesn't suffer from the usual huge gaps of silence that you get with DVDs that have multiple commentaries.

Overall
As to whether you would like this film, well I have had a good look around the web to compare the different opinions expressed about Urban Legend and was surprised to see such a split.  Those who are fans of the whole slasher movie genre (stretching back to the 1980’s) seemed to like this film because of its combination of traditional scare techniques and the attempt to tie in the fact that the serial killer was using urban legends.  On the other hand, if you preferred the inherent acumen of the “Scream” movies, or just don’t like the entire slasher genre then you may want to give this DVD a wide birth.


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