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Wednesday, October 7, 1998

Urban Legend

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 1998 at 12:00 AM

"People who love movies are sick people," declared François Truffaut in a moment of theatrical abandonment. What he would have said after the release of Urban Legend and Dee Snider's Strangeland is difficult to imagine.

Having screamed (twice) -- still knowing what they did last summer -- having survived Halloween and possible encounters with dead men on campus, we demand an answer. How many more campus massacres and lost high school souls? How many more shallow broads with skinny legs and minuscule IQs mimicking (like totally atrociously) what they believe to be intelligent human beings? How many more platinum-blond guys who, in their desire to be James Dean, end up looking like George Clooney with intestinal cramps?

And now for the Englund connection: in Urban Legend, he's the professor who teaches "Introduction to American Folklore" and subjects his students to histrionic in-class experiments. In Strangeland, he is the object of the experiment. Freddy Krueger must have had a really bad year to let himself be dragged into both Jamie Blanks' embarrassing slasher and Dee Snider's megalomaniacal flick.

Obsessed with rites of passage and body art -- piercing, branding, scarification -- Captain Howdy (Snider) lures his victims from their online chat rooms directly into his house of horrors. There he sews their mouths shut, takes out his chains, hooks, needles, syringes, tubes and handcuffs, and gets to work. So much for the plot. In fact, there is no plot.

Strangeland's dialogue and narrative techniques have all the subtlety and heft of a porn movie. When Howdy kidnaps detective Gage's daughter, the cop utters these memorable words: "I cannot let my concerns as a father override my objectivity as a detective." The other protagonists are as profound and witty as Gage.

So now we have a choice between the nauseatingly disturbing (Strangeland) and the painfully bad (Urban Legend). After all, we are the only true victims here. "What you don't believe can kill you." announces Legend. "We must all go through a rite of passage," hisses Snider. "And it must be painful. It must leave a mark." Thank you. Now we know.

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