Plot: The campus of Pendleton College is supposed to be one of the safest in the nation, but some strange things have started to happen around the school. A young woman is killed near the college in an incident that mirrored an infamous urban legend, when a man hid in her backseat at a gas station. At the school, friends Natalie (Alicia Witt) and Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart) are entranced by a class about urban legends, but especially in one that centers on the university itself. The rumors claim that over two decades ago, an abnormal psych professor went insane and butchered some of his students, so the girls want to uncover the truth. But at the same time, a mysterious figure seems to be stalking students at Pendleton and the school’s administrators refuse to take action, even suppressing a newspaper article on the topic. Is there an urban legend killer loose on the campus and if so, can anyone survive long enough to find out the reason for the maniac’s murder spree?
Entertainment Value: Urban Legend was made in the wake of Scream’s success, so it has some self referential elements, but it is more of a straight forward teen horror flick in most ways. The switch from horror tropes to urban legend tropes ensures that and in the process, helps the movie feel separate from the wave of self aware teen horror films from this period. The narrative is a fun one, as the writers shoehorn in a number of well known urban legends, but manage to make it feel organic within the rather typical horror formula. So while the core story here is a well worn one, the urban legend spin puts a fresh coat of paint on, while the impressive cast and some ridiculous twists help in that regard as well. The movie runs at a brisk clip and doesn’t feel drawn out, so it hooks you in with a dynamic opening sequence, then keeps you reeled in until the outlandish finale. The tone overall is on the silly side, with some light b movie vibes, but it keeps the framework of a more serious horror movie at most times. The finish is beyond over the top and soaked in melodrama, but it is a fun choice and adds to the fun. The cast is impressive as well, with a lot of young, rising talent involved and while the turns aren’t all great, they’re mostly capable. I wouldn’t rate this as a horror classic, but Urban Legend is a fun, watchable 90s slasher.
The movie has some mild sexual elements, but it is all either implied or just talk, with no sleaze or nakedness involved. Urban Legend also scales down the visible violence, with the vast majority of deaths and bloodshed off screen. A few minor instances crop up, but just small cuts or mild violence, despite some of the scenes having great potential for some bursts of madness. This is good news if you prefer a more tame approach to kills, but those looking for the slasher in this slasher movie might be disappointed, since even minor gore is absent in this one. The dialogue here is mostly basic, but we have Jared Leto is an overly serious, sincere performance in the middle of all the silliness, while the finale offers a ramp up in melodrama that is fun to watch. Other than those two though, there isn’t much memorable in terms of lines and exchanges. This also holds true of the general craziness, as the movie never commits to the b movie elements until the finale and that’s a shame. I think if the entire movie was on par with the wild finish, Urban Legend would have risen above the middle of the pack level. So a little wackiness, but not much outside of the hilarious conclusion.
Overall Insanity: 1/10
The Disc: Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition has a solid looking visual treatment, but it looks to be the same one from the previous Blu-ray, so don’t expect a new scan or any kind of restoration. The image is a little soft, but looks passable on all fronts, with decent detail and natural colors. I do feel like contrast is a little light, but it doesn’t cause any serious concerns. This edition does have a collection of new interviews that run over an hour and detail how Urban Legend was created, with participation from most of the prominent cast and crew members. These are presented as individual featurettes, with no option to play all, which is a pain. You can also check out over an hour of deleted interviews, for even more anecdotes and insights. Also new to this release is just under an hour of new behind the scenes footage, so there’s a good amount of new content for fans to explore. This version also includes a new audio commentary track with director Jamie Blanks, producer Michael McDonnell, and assistant director Edgar Pablos, as well as the previously released audio commentary with Blanks, writer Silvio Horta, and star Michael Rosenbaum. The extras also feature a promotional featurette and the film’s theatrical trailer.