Scream Factory's has just released Urban Legend and Urban Legends: Final Cut, the first two films in the francicse. They're both out now, and both given nice releases with plenty of extras. Both films look good, but you may drive yourself a bit crazy riding the volume button due to quiet dialogue cut with loud jump scares. More on that later.
Released in 1998 and directed by Jamie Blanks, Urban Legend is a big-budget, glossy Hollywood slasher that focuses on the students at Pendleton University in New Hampshire, an elite school that's suddenly the site of several murders. The ensemble cast of Alicia Witt, Michael Rosenbaum, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Robert Englund, Loretta Devine, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid, and Danielle Harris.
Witt, who does her best here, stars as Natalie, the stock character who suspects that she's being stalked while her classmates are being murdered in urban legend-style set-ups. Gayheart, another standout, stars as her best friend, who's also a bit of a frenemy, and Englund puts in his standard straight man performance as the main professor in the story.
Addmitedly, I'm not the biggest fan of slashers. The film is... fine. Especially if you don't mind seeing tons of characters you've seen before (the straight final girl, the crazy, manic-depressive, chain-smoking goth, the jokester, the editor who will do anything to get a scoop, etc.) and does a decent job of red herrings and keeping you guessing as to who the killer is. Urban Legend is quite Hollywood formulaic, and it relys on unnecessary jump scares and quite loud stingers to get a rise out of you.
I'm not quite sure how this film played in theaters back in 1998, but I'm sure that it's got an audience. After all, Scream Factory's released an entire disc of extras, including a huge, feature-length making-of documentary with the writer, director, and several of the cast and crew members.
You can watch the trailer and find out more about the original Urban Legend here.
Directed by John Ottman, who's mainly a composer for other Hollywood flicks and some TV, Urban Legends: Final Cut, has the type of premise where you go, "my god, Hollywood just really loves itself."
It takes place at the fictional Alpine University, the most elite film academy in the world, because of course it is. Like the first film, this one takes place in a Northern, wooded location, because it's too expensive to film in Los Angeles.
Anyway, the film students are all hard at work making their thesis films and competing for the prestigious Hitchcock Award, which not only means they're the best in their class, but also comes with a $15,000 stipend and is a stepping stone to a lucrative Hollywood directing career (LOL). The main film professor is played by Hart Bochner (agent cokehead Harry in Die Hard), who starts out as helpful and concerned, but becomes delightfully smarmy later on.
The film students start dropping dead in urban-legend fashion, and it's anyone's guess as to who the killer is here, too, because most of the students are huge egotistical assholes vying to get that Hitchcock Award. As with the first film, Urban Legends: Final Cut suffers from crazy loud jump scares. Proceed with caution. Unlike the first film, there are a few well-crafted, artful sequences which add to the filmic theme of the premise.
Watch either film, or probably any in the franchise, when you want to shut your mind off completely.
To check out Urban Legends: Final Cut, go here.