Urban Legends: Final Cut Review
In their efforts to be more intelligent, sequels still don't fool me. In the old days, follow up movies were exactly that - follow ups. Rocky has a rematch with Apollo in Rocky II; The Ghostbusters continue their fight against the supernatural in Ghostbusters II and even Ripley carries on her struggle against the Xenomorph in Aliens. However, nowadays, the term 'sequel' tends to suggest a more tenuous link (The Rage: Carrie 2 for example doesn't have anyone called Carrie in it!), and Urban Legends: Final Cut is a prime example of this.
Firstly, only one of the original cast members is retained from Urban Legends, and she (Loretta Divine as Security Guard Reece) herself is a minor supporting character. Also, and more shockingly, only a small portion of the original's premise is retained. In Urban Legends, a college campus is besieged by a killer who bases his murders of students on the mythical urban legends that lie in the back of everyone's memory. As a non-pretentious teen slasher movie, Urban Legends knew its limitations and provided an enjoyable hour and a half of brain numbing entertainment. However, the sequel starts off as a postmodernist 'film within a film', with students making a film based on incidents in the first movie. Approximately half an hour through the movie, this loose inclusion of the concept of Urban Legends is abandoned and Final Cut amounts to nothing more than another bog standard teen slasher movie, a genre that in the year 2001 seems tired and flogged mercilessly to death.
Even so, to say Urban Legends: Final Cut is a bad film doesn't convey the fact that it is moderately enjoyable. For anyone concerned with the plot, the sequel is based not on a college campus but in a film school. Film Students are competing for the illustrious Hitchcock Award which practically guarantees them a chance to direct in Hollywood. Following in her father's footsteps, Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison) ais to prove her critics wrong and make a quality fictional film for her student assessment and win the award. However, it soon becomes apparent that someone will kill for this accolade, as soon enough film students are being targeted and horrifically murdered, particularly the students that are part of Amy's crew.
Acting wise, most of the cast are relative newcomers. The only stars I could spot were Loretta Divine, by virtue of her appearance in the original Urban Legends and Hart Bochner, whose face I distinctly recalled but couldn't for the life of me remember what other films he had appeared in. I then checked the Talent Profiles extra and realised he was the guy who falls in love with the heroine herself in Supergirl. The two leads, Jennifer Morrison and Matthew Davis carry the film adequately enough, although considering the original had such 'relative' stars as Jared Leto and Josh Jackson (Dawson's Creek fame) you would have thought that the studio could have brought at least one star into the fold.
The director of Urban Legends: Final Cut is John Ottman, who many might recall was the editor/composer of Bryan Singer's Usual Suspects. Ottman directs his first feature film here, and also edited and scored it, so kudos to him for carrying most of the workload on his debut. It's a same his first feature could have been a title of a higher calibre, but even so he seems to enjoy the task of directing the film, throwing in many references to Alien and Hitchcock. However, the main problem with Ottman's directing and probably the film's most major fault, is that the film feels completely devoid of tension. You are always aware when a scare is just around the corner, you are always aware of the red herrings, the 'it's-only-a-dream' scenes and you can even guess the killing order of the characters. This is a problem for a teen horror film, which probably corroborates the view that this genre has now been overused, since myself and I'm sure many other cinema goers can dictate all codes and conventions by now. There used to be a time in the early nineties where I could struggle to name a mainstream contemporary horror flick, now there are so many the film should be renamed Teen Horror Flick XXXIII as they all seem to be closely related in terms of plot, characters and action. That said, there are some nice, unique touches in the film that still have a smile on my face. I particular like the scene where Amy is fleeing the killer (Donned in the obligatory black cloak and faceless mask) who when pursuing his victim, stumbles upon a piano and starts to play low, crashing chords on it to give added tension. I also like the shootout towards the end where the only armed real gun is muddled up amongst a box of fake stage ones.
Urban Legends: Final Cut adds nothing new to the already dead slasher genre and should only be considered for viewing when all other options have been exhausted. About an hour into the film loses its way, and becomes a by-the-numbers horror. Even so, it is enjoyable in a 'unnecessary sequel' way and I have seen worse.
The transfer is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 letterboxed PAL. The transfer is flawless, and there isn't a blemish in sight. I would have given it full marks, but I feel that this honour should only be bestowed upon films with breathtaking cinematography as well as a perfect transfer.
Presented in a mix of Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound complements the film well. Noises that are ever present in horror films such as screams, crashes and murderous thuds are made that little bit more eerie with a good 5.1 mix, and Urban Legends: Final Cut delivers the sound very well. The score by John Ottman is quite suitable for the film, and is very haunting on a 5.1 setup.
The director Ottman comes across as a nice, likeable down-to-earth person on the commentary, and it is obvious almost immediately that there were relatively few tensions with the crew, as he talks both fondly and detailed about the making of the film. He also reveals some interesting anecdotes, that both director Bryan Singer is renowned as a tyrant on set, and that actor Anson Mount had to wear a wig in the opening scenes because he sported a crew cut in real life and his character had bushy hair. At times, Ottman talks too fondly for his movie, but you never feel that he is over praising. For any budding film makers, there are also a few hints and tips for low budget art direction, such as how to film snowstorms indoors and how to make the interiors of planes shake!
The deleted scenes are of the quality you'd expect if you watch an abundance of DVD extras, slightly more grainier and lower definition than the film master, and slightly more plotted characterisation than what remained in the film. The deleted scenes all feel unimportant, and they rightly should have been cut. Even so, value is provided in the fact that there are seven deleted scenes with optional director's commentary.
The gag reel is annoying in that rather than show us takes that didn't go to plan they have given us a four minute montage of the stars goofing around that is both unfunny and boring. The stars obviously get the joke, but they seem a little too 'in-joke' for the audience.
The Making Of featurette is a contradiction in its title, in that it is a three and a half minute extended trailer with a few behind the scenes shots and interviews thrown in. Gone are the days when a 'Making of' actually taught you how they 'made' the film. Added value is provided with the trailer and talent profiles of the more major players of the film.
To conclude, the extras make Urban Legends: Final Cut a more valuable DVD than what it would have been as a film only title. Even so, the film is only mediocre at best and the extras, although they though try, do little to increase the overall quality. Even so, Columbia Tri-Star should be credited with producing another extras-full DVD.