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'Urban' Blight: Legendary Tripe

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2000

   


Without meaning to be, "Urban Legends: Final Cut" is a cautionary tale about the devaluation of American movies.

A teen slasher parody that thinks it has the hip savviness of a Wes Craven meta-horror flick (as in "Scream"), it's about as funny as the Yellow Pages. Its idea of creative variety is to alternate gory violence with narrative mediocrity. Written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, this loud, ugly and dull sequel to 1998's financially successful "Urban Legends" reduces what has already become a banality – that everyone deserves to make his own movie – into an even lower one.

"Urban Legends" is about how cool it is to make movies – but without being able to tell the difference between a good one and a bad one. The only quandary in this film is in where to begin despising it.

The story's about a group of film students, at Alpine University, who are all vying to win the prestigious Hitchcock Award. This prize, given to the best student thesis film, will land the winner thousands of bucks, as well as an entree to Hollywood, where the winner can presumably continue his awful work with even bigger budgets.

The story is centered on the listless Amy (Jennifer Morrison), a forgettable sensitive soul whose father was a documentary filmmaker. She's determined to win the prize, but she has to beat such aspiring filmmakers as Toby (Anson Mount), who's shooting a disaster flick that takes place on an airplane; Graham (Joseph Lawrence), the son of a Hollywood mogul; and the enigmatic, chisel-jawed Travis (Matthew Davis).

Amy gets her idea for a movie at the suggestion of a friendly security guard (Loretta Devine): a suspense/horror flick.

But some mysterious assailant is killing off students, mirroring the scenario of her film. And sooner or later, Amy's going to be face to face with the killer herself. Who's doing the killing? I wasn't sure at the time, but I was grateful. After all, the sooner these characters bought it, the faster this movie would end.

By the way, Alpine U. is one heck of a well-heeled film school. Expensive sets and props, as well as other filmmaking facilities, seem to be readily available for the flimsiest of student projects. And every student production is crowded with production assistants, script girls, boom mic holders – an entire arsenal of collaborators. These student filmmakers, it seems, are bound for Hollywood sooner or later, no matter what they make.

If you want to make a movie badly enough, you'll eventually make it! There seems to be a disturbing parallel between fiction and reality here, as the conceptual pabulum from the minds of film students flows directly into the Hollywood mill. Now, that's what I call a horror film.

URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT (R, 99 minutes) - Contains slasher violence and bad language.

 

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