The original _Urban_Legend_ grossed only $38 million at U.S. theatres in
the fall of 1998, but given how cheaply (in _every_ conceivable meaning
of the word) that horror flick was produced, a profit was
inevitable--and, of course, a sequel. However,
_Urban_Legends:_Final_Cut_ is less sequel than very loose spinoff--a good
thing, considering how abysmally ludicrous the original was. But to say
that the new film is a step above its predecessor isn't saying much at
all, for _Final_Cut_ simply takes a more tolerable approach to the same
sort of slasher silliness.
_UL2_ (as the title initially appears onscreen) marks the feature
directorial debut of film virtuoso John Ottman, who has already made a
name for himself as a score composer and film editor (two positions he
once again holds here in addition to the directing reins); his
contributions are what elevate the film above the original. His most
savvy move was the casting of unknown Jennifer Morrison, who does a much
more capable job in the lead than the unimpressive Alicia Witt in the
first film. Morrison is likable and convincing as Amy, one of a number
of student filmmakers at Alpine University vying for the prestigious
Hitchcock Award for best thesis film--which, we are repeatedly told,
"guarantees a career in Hollywood."
With that preposterous plot point, writers Scott Derrickson and Paul
Harris Boardman immediately throw all story plausibility out the
window--long before various co-eds get bumped off by a mysterious
stranger wearing a fencing mask. Of course, all these students are all
in the running for the Hitchcock, and presumably the masked murderer is
killing to get his or her hands on the award and that coveted career.
Much to Ottman's credit, the requisite scare sequences are refreshingly
light on the cheap fakeout (which was plentiful in _UL1_), and they are
done with a reasonable sense of style and some dark, cheeky humor; this
is especially the case with the first major murder scene, which begins
with a riff on the "kidney heist" urban legend. However, though the film
is called _Urban_Legends_, this is the only concrete reference to that
idea. Amy's thesis film is supposed about an urban legend killer
(namely, the story of the first film), but all the "legends" are invented
ones. And the one major tie to _UL1_, the character of security guard
Reese (Loretta Devine, again wasted), adds nothing to the mix.
Which begs the question--why even make this film as an _Urban_Legend_
sequel? The answer is simple: without the tangential ties to the first
film, _UL2_ would too obviously be a low-rent version of the also
moviemaking-themed _Scream_3_. Ottman does what he can to make this bad
idea work (there are some stylishly edited visuals, and his score is up
to his standards), but ultimately he and the actors--excepting _Blossom_
alum Joey (I refuse to call him by his new, official moniker of "Joseph")
Lawrence, whose work is dreadful all around--must go down the path laid
down by the writers, and the course they have mapped out is not pretty.
The subtitle of _Urban_Legends_, _Final_Cut_, is meant to be a play on
words referring to filmmaking and the slice-and-dice killings, but one
can only hope it also means something else--that this is the final lame-o
youth horror film we see in a very long time.