MOVIE REVIEW H
Urban Legends: Final Cut
Let’s Hope the Legend’s Finally OverBy Ryan Klimczak
Directed by John Ottman
Story and Screenplay by Silvio Horta, Paul Harris Boardman, and Scott
Starring Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Joey Lawrence, Anson Mount,
Eva Mendez, Jessica Cauffiel, Anthony Anderson, Michael Bacall,
Marco Hofschneider, Loretta Devine, and Hart Bochner
Have you ever heard the urban legend about the decent movie that is butchered by its sequel? I'm not talking about Halloween II and III, but Urban Legends: Final Cut, a sequel to the mediocre, but original 1998 film. The legend continues as student filmmakers at the prestigious Alpine University film school must create original films in order to graduate, and even more importantly, to win the esteemed Hitchcock award. Inspired by the events that occurred at Pendleton University (Urban Legends), Amy Mayfield, (played by newcomer Jennifer Morrison), decides to create a psychological thriller about a murderer who kills people based on urban legends.
As she films her movie, strange occurrences happen, and her crew becomes murdered one-by-one by a masked psychopath. Amy experiences both terror, frustration, and disbelief. She must overcome the doubt of others and piece together a confusing puzzle of envy, vengeance, and gore to contemplate the motives and unmask the identify of the brutal assassin.
Along with Amy comes an eclectic, but undeveloped cast including Vanessa (Eva Mendes), the lesbian sound-girl; Simon (Marco Hofschneider), the Euro-trash cameraman; Hollywood-brat Graham (Joey Lawrence); and Stan (Romeo Must Die's Anthony Anderson) and Dirk (Michael Bacall), the two annoying special-effects geeks.
As the most current adaptation to the teen-horror genre, this movie is strikingly similar to Disturbing Behavior, paralleling both in underdeveloped plot and shallow approach to identifying with teen audiences. In both films, we see Hollywood’s false conception that it can fill a cast with untalented, but attractive actors, and replace character depth and plot credibility with awkward sex scenes that reveal the bare chests of Katie Holmes or Jennifer Morrison to win over teen audiences. By anesthetizing moviegoers with gory scenes, Hollywood assumes it can produce a film void of cinematic quality. Such presumptions are obvious in Urban Legends: Final Cut, as Amy witnesses murders that are blatantly enacted from scene to scene and no one believes her pleas, especially Reese (Loretta Devine), the Foxy Brown aficionado security guard from the original Urban Legends.
Another problem is the farfetched motive and identity of the film's killer. One universal underlying rule of teen-horror films, like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legends, is to always maintain the ambiguity of the killer’s intentions, and more importantly, the killer’s identity, to provide some element of surprise. Final Cut successfully follows this tenet by pointing the audience to various characters as possible culprits. It strives hard to maintain a level of unpredictability; so hard that ultimately the real killer’s motives and identity are implausible and lame.
Newcomer Jennifer Morrison provides a surprising performance, despite her inexperience with leading roles. Originally appearing in Intersection and Stir of Echoes, her talent as an actor has progressed immensely as she successfully executes scenes that require a lot of melodrama and intense emotions. Among all the actors in the cast, she presents the most credible approach and reactions to the murder scenes. Joey Lawrence, on the other hand, plays a stagnant role in the film with mediocrity, which in many ways parallels his unintelligible and cheesy acting in the TV series Blossom and Give Me A Break. In his portrayal of the obnoxious Graham, he shows little emotion as he ceaselessly talks on his cell-phone and spews out irrelevant phrases cornier than his clichÉd “Whoa.”
One of the main challenges facing this movie is the incorporation of new urban legends into the script, different than those used in the first movie. However, in this attempt, the writers used a different and unorthodox method from the original, as both Amy and the killer became involved in each crime’s enactment. Amy creates the set of the legend as she films her movie, and the killer utilizes that set to kill the victims. In the original film, the killer did both. This adaptation was an unexpected and original attempt to modify Urban Legends, but ultimately it is confusing. In the tunnel terror scene, for example, Amy tries to recreate the urban legend about the tunnel ride in which people view human carnage and dead bodies and believe that it is part of the ride, when in reality it is the mangled bodies of missing children from the area. As the killer commits the murders, the audience is left wondering how these slayings relate to the original meaning of the legend since the victims are merely killed inside the ride and not publicly displayed to unassuming carnival-goers.
In the words of Reese, “Urban legend my ass.”
Another questionable aspect of the movie is its cohesion of comedy and horror, which sometimes made the movie more like the parody Scary Movie and less like the original film. Most of these scenes involve Stan and Dirk, film geeks absorbed in their own slapstick comedy and practical jokes, like fake latex dog entrails and mock death scenes, which unintentionally turn the comic relief into comic over-dos.
The main disappointment in Final Cut is its inability to tie together the original Urban Legends with its main plot. At no point does it provide any sort of resolution to the end of its predecessor. Furthermore, it fails to incorporate any new insight into the occurrences at Pendleton and the status of its surviving killer (Rebecca Gayheart). Some say legends never die, let's hope this one does.