Nineties horror holds a special place in my heart. I think it does for all of us who became old enough to watch scary movies during that decade. The films from that era are unique in that they combine scares with fun, but not in a campy way like the 80s. It’s a more thought out, often insightful structure full of gotcha moments and thrilling stories. I loved Scream and I am a huge fan of I Know What You Did Last Summer, so it’s only natural that I freaking adored Urban Legend. Full of 90s favorites Joshua Jackson, Tara Reid, Rebecca Gayheart, Jared Leto and more, this movie is a fun sleuth that’ll even make you jump out of your seat. Plus, it rocks a killer ending with not one, but two twists and a huge gotcha.
Urban Legend is simple - it’s about a serial killer who wreaks havoc on New England college students using the templates of familiar urban legends. You know, what does the professor (played by Robert Englund, no less!) say? Urban legends are folklore passed off as truth. Or something like that. This in a nutshell is why this movie is scary. We’ve all heard some, if not all, of the urban legends in this film. I myself can remember my mom lecturing me about checking underneath my car in parking lots before I got close to it so I didn’t get my ankles slashed. And I know nearly everyone’s heard the flashing lights/gang initiation legend. I heard about these legends from people who believed they were true, people who swore they knew someone who knew someone this happened to. That is the power of the urban legend and this movie perfectly illustrates the paranoia and fear behind it. Since so many people can relate to these legends, it makes the movie that much more scary. This isn’t some ghost haunting the campus and stretching our believability - this is a serial killer using good, old-fashioned stories to murder people.
This movie won’t haunt you for days, but it’s jumpy as hell. And those urban legends will stick with you forever. The characters are vibrant and interesting. Plus, it’s a fun sleuth as you try to figure out who the killer is and who’s going to die next. Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a 20% and basically called it a poor man’s Scream. I disagree wholeheartedly. Urban Legend is a great 90s horror in its own right. Scream takes issue with horror films and the rules binding those films; Urban Legend takes issue with… urban legends. Similar but not the same. Scream is certainly more insightful, but Urban Legend is almost as awesome. Plus, I think the ending to Urban Legend is arguably better.
Creatures of horror island beware! This serial killer may be lurking in the back seat or calling you from the telephone upstairs. Those stories your mother told you and warned you about - they just might be true.
If you liked Urban Legend, you might also like Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3.