The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: Some Legends Never Die

Slasher Hexmas: Some Legends Never Die

A Sci-Fi Honey Slasher Hexmas Review by Katie

The Urban Legend Trilogy

Did you hear the one about the babysitter who receives menacing phone calls, only to realize they’re coming from inside the house? How about the one where a spider lays eggs in a girl’s face, and the eight-legged babies hatch from inside a pustule on her cheek? And then of course there’s the Bloody Mary fable, in which you repeat the spooky specter’s name three times in a mirror to conjure her vengeful spirit. If you ever spent time in your youth staying up late at a slumber party, roasting marshmallows with friends around a campfire, or reading Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, chances are you’ve heard them all. These cautionary tall tales and a dozen or so others come to life on screen in the Urban Legend trilogy, a trio of slasher films that exploit the oft-recited parables that have been told and retold for generations. While any one of these stories can constitute an entire movie (and most of them have, in fact), they’re used as a tongue-in-cheek way for the psychotic killers in each Urban Legend film to dispatch their victims. So hop in – but check the backseat first, of course – and let’s take a ride through the three Urban Legend films that slashed their way through the 90s and early 2000s.

Before the Jesus hair took over.
Urban Legend (1998)
The first film in the trilogy debuted shortly after Scream reinvigorated the teen slasher genre, featuring a throng of the era’s hottest young Tiger Beat celebs: Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Danielle Harris, Joshua Jackson, Tara Reid, and up-and-comer Alicia Witt. The college coeds contend with a serial killer who gives each victim their own starring role in a notorious urban legend: the deadly combo of pop rocks and soda, flashing high beams from a car, hanging by a noose at Lover’s Lane, and even (sadly) a microwaved pooch. While the film is not revolutionary for the genre – though the reveal of the killer will either leave you pleasantly surprised or rolling with laughter – it fits in handily with comparable slashers of the era such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Valentine. While it’s not “scary” per se, the film does have its fun moments, and features some killer horror cameos (Robert Englund and Brad Dourif as a professor and creepy gas station attendant, respectively). Urban Legend deserves some credit for the way it tries to subvert certain horror movie clich├ęs despite committing a few contrived sins of its own, and is adequately suited to the nostalgic ephemera of 90s teen slasher popcorn cinema.

When Tara Reid had... talent?
Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three flashing high beams out of five.

Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)
Well, color me surprised. Maybe I had low expectations for a sequel to a second-rate teen slasher that was riding the coattails of Scream’s success, but to my curious amazement, I thoroughly enjoyed Urban Legend’s first sequel. Featuring a plot that’s (oddly enough) thematically similar to that of Scream 3, Final Cut takes place at a prestigious film school where a handful of aspiring young filmmakers are competing for the ‘Hitchcock Award.’ The film boasts a quirky jumble of actors – from Jennifer Morrison to Anthony Anderson, Eva Mendes and even Joey Lawrence – but there’s a naturalistic purpose for all of them that never really feels cheesy or forced, even when one character is revealed to have a secret identical twin (soap opera twist!) Rather than a collection of Randy Meeks-esque film geek caricatures, each actor lends some credibility to their roles that is rarely achieved in low-rent slasher fare, especially where sequels are concerned. 

Morrison’s character attempts to center her thesis film on the dramatized events of the first film, whose details change every time the story passes from one person to another, just as urban legends evolve in real life. When people start to die for real and the line between fiction and reality is blurred, the film goes down some formulaic slasher roads; but it does so with more genuine scares than the original film, and featuring one of the creepiest killer getups in recent memory: a rubber suit and a fencing mask. Written by frequent co-collaborators Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, the film has an air of appreciation for horror, especially where Hitchcock is concerned, and functions as a peculiar love letter to cinema itself. If it wasn’t for a few references to the first film as well as a recurring character or two, Urban Legends: Final Cut could’ve been a cult success in its own right as a standalone effort – The Film School Slasher!

Just making a snuff film. NBD.
Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three-and-a-half fright film nerds out of five.

Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005)
Seven years after the original film debuted, the Urban Legend series joyride came to a screeching halt with a direct-to-video third installment: a hackneyed retelling of the Bloody Mary fable. Directed by Pet Sematary’s Mary Lambert and starring Kate Mara, who is now an accomplished actress in her own right, the film appears at the outset to have some potential for the b-movie market. Mara plays a teenager who inadvertently conjures the ghost of Mary Banner (at a slumber party, where else?); a vindictive spirit seeking revenge after being murdered at her prom in 1969. This storyline shifts the series from the slasher subgenre to a supernatural one, regurgitating a tale so trite that a character in the film even points out that a take on Bloody Mary was already portrayed in Candyman. The editing is choppy, the jump scares cheap, and the dialogue so painfully expository that it is borderline unwatchable. Despite all of this, the film holds a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes – far exceeding the sequel and even the original film in the series. The Ring ushered in a revival of vengeful ghost movies just a few years prior to the release of Bloody Mary, and that is my only possible explanation as to why the third and final film in the Urban Legend series was so mercifully received.

Boo! I'm a ghost bitch!
Sci-Fi Honey Rating: One half of a revenge-hungry spirit out of five.

Which Urban Legend film is your favorite? 
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