Urban Legends: Final Cut

Oct 4, 2000 at 12:00 am
Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison of Stir of Echoes) runs through the night, her back hunched against the driving September rain. She’s soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. A girl could catch her death. Headlights cut through the gloom, startling her: campus police officer Reese Wilson (Loretta Devine of Urban Legend) to the rescue.

Reese, Aunt Jemima in rent-a-cop drag, coaxes the baby-faced blonde into her prowl car. As she delivers the young woman home, Amy opens up. Getting caught in the rain isn’t her most pressing problem: The screenplay of her senior thesis film is overdue; she hasn’t even started it and she’s clueless for ideas.

Reese to the rescue again: The glorified security guard tells the story of a campus security chief who is hired to cover up a series of murders based on urban legends. Amy runs with the concept. Will her film win Alpine’s coveted Hitchcock Award or will she end up part of the body count of the university’s own urban legends serial killer? It’s a question you can probably answer without paying the price of admission. It’s a story you may have heard more than once: a lobotomized Scream 2 with a twist.

If urban legends are the heart of Urban Legends: Final Cut, the movie is halfhearted at best: Only two appear. One legend is wasted as a college prank. The other, though, is arguably Legends’ best and most apt horror sequence. Unfortunately, it’s the first horror sequence, making the rest of the film anticlimactic. Hitchcock pulls off a similar move with the famous shower scene in Psycho (1960). But Hitch deftly holds his climactic ace up his sleeve and reveals it masterfully. In stark contrast, Legends’ revelation seems tacked on, its motivation thinner than the celluloid that projects it. First-time director John Ottman confuses climax with a burst of frenetic action that verges on the comic. He’s no Hitchcock.

It may seem unfair to even compare Legends to the old master, but Ottman and writer Paul Harris Boardman beg for it. After all, the action is set off by competition for the Hitchcock Award. One action sequence even involves a winding staircase in a bell tower, an in-your-face reference to Vertigo.

Urban Legends: Final Cut is Frankensteined together from ripped-off plots, characters and sets. But unlike the famous monster, no amount of power can make it live.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].