Urban Legend: Collector's EditionOverview -
Urban Legend came at the tail end of the Kevin Williamson Scream era slasher craze and it didn't reinvent the wheel. It doles out exactly what you expect it to in a competent manner with just enough style to hold your attention. Is this rote? Yes. But it’s also a mildly enjoyable diversion from the horror genres that are out there today, and a fun watch. Pair that with a slick video and audio transfer and you have a Collector's Edition release that’s Recommended for any 90’s horror fan.
When New England college student Natalie (Alicia Witt, TV’s The Exorcist) finds herself at the center of a series of sadistic murders seemingly inspired by urban legends, she resolves to find the truth about her school’s own legend: a twenty-five-year-old story of a student massacre at the hands of an abnormal Psych professor. As the fraternities prepare to celebrate the macabre anniversary, Natalie discovers that she is the focus of the crazed killer’s intentions in the ultimate urban legend: the unfolding story of her own horrific murder.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Maybe it’s nostalgia, or maybe it’s because I like the mystery aspect, but I am always up for the Kevin Williamson-style slasher flicks that were all the rage in the mid-to-late 90’s. They usually have the same Scooby-Doo style mystery to them. And let’s face it, even the Scream sequels couldn’t pull the mystery off with as much credibility as the original Scream. But to me, the “who done it” mystery is part of the fun: to just sit down and speculate who done it, and why. And even though it was in heavy rotation on my DVD player during its initial home release, I knew it was the beginning of the end for this particular subgenre of horror.
Alicia Witt stars as Natalie, your typical squeaky-clean role model college student with a dark past, popularized by Neve Campbell. Then murders start happening on campus that dig up old memories making her question what exactly happened. Who is committing these heinous acts of violence? Could it be Parker (Michael Rosenbaum), the typical frat boy stereotype? Or Paul (Jarred Leto), Natalie’s boy toy? Urban Legend follows the typical slasher formula with very little variance until its forehead slapping end reveal that was glaringly obvious well before its unveiling. The premise of killing victims through urban legends makes less and less sense as time goes on. But at least the film has its fun during its brief runtime, and in return, I did as well. My wife and I took gleeful joy out of pointing out the litany of horror clichés on display and anyone looking for a fun blast from the past will have a good time as well. Read our full review of Urban Legend Here.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Shout! Factory brings Urban Legend to Blu-ray for its very first double dip in grand fashion with slipcover to hard cover casing, and new artwork (that I actually prefer) that is reversible, revealing the original artwork on the opposite side. Enclosed lie two BD-50 Blu-rays, one for the main feature and audio commentaries and one for the litany of Special Features listed below. Once popped in, we are brought straight to the main menu without any theatrical trailers, and we can navigate from there.
Urban Legend slashes its way onto your big screen for a second go around, with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode that impresses from the start. Framed at a 2:40.1 aspect ratio, Urban Legend was filmed on 35mm and, like most similar releases, there is still a healthy amount of grain here. It never protrudes on the picture, but is noticeable throughout. Clarity and detail are the stars of the show, boasting close up shots that appear crisp and full of detail even in darker scenes. Strands of hair and particles on clothing are clearly prominent, especially in daytime scenes. Exterior establishing shots can appear a bit soft, while still displaying detail in trees and landscapes.
Specifically, during the daytime, the palette is rich with color, featuring punchy green exteriors, and warm woodgrain color tones for interiors that resemble a time before the digital age we live in today. Right from the opening scene in the rain, it is evident that blacks are also deep and inky without becoming a hindrance. Shadow detail is also very good, as the detailing of the killer wearing a black parka has a clear edge from the dark sky background. In fact, the foreground does pop from the backgrounds throughout, providing a decent dimensionality considering the fact that this film actually turns twenty this year. Urban Legend might not be the sharpest transfer on the shelf. But it is a consistently pleasing one that will satisfy any lover of 90’s slashers out there.
Urban Legend cuts deep into your surround system, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is more aggressive than you would initially give it credit for. I had not known this until I did some research, but our composer here is the great Christopher Young. Even in a “mediocre” movie such as this, Young developed an engaging score that is well represented in 5.1. The score flows through your fronts to your surrounds, widening the field of sound, and hits in the LFE track with intensity at all the right times providing weight and heft to the score. Speaker separation is also on point during kill scenes, proving this can be a dynamic mix when it needs to. Overall, vocal and sound levels are at a generous volume. This is the kind of sound mix that elevates its material. There are portions of Urban Legend that are rote (some would say by design), but during those portions, this sound mix pulls you through and keeps viewers engaged.
- Audio Commentary with Director Jamie Blanks, Producer Michael McDonnell, and Assistant Edgar Pablos; Moderated by Author Peter M. Bracke – An interesting commentary where Peter M. Bracke moderates a discussion between the director, producer, and assistant producer. They provide a lot of information, and with Bracke’s guidance, the discussion has a nice forward momentum to it.
- Audio Commentary with Director Jamie Blanks, Writer Silvio Horta, and Actor Michael Rosenbaum – recorded in 1998, this is a lighter commentary that still has its entertainment value as the three men share experiences about the film and have a good time sharing stories about the production.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:28)
- 8-Part Documentary (HD 147:00) – An in-depth documentary that goes over just about every aspect of Urban Legends including two interviews with the cast and crew that takes up a little over an hour, a lengthy discussion with Christopher Young, and a documentary discussing the casting process. Along with that we are given a handful of deleted scenes that do add character moments, but ultimately were rightfully cut.
- Archival Making of Featurette (SD 10:09) – A smaller EPK style featurette that goes into the same topics above only with less detail.
- Deleted Scenes (SD 2:40)
- TV Spot (SD 1:36)
- Gag Real (SD 2:14)
Urban Legend is a movie that has resonated a lot better for me as a nostalgia trip to a time in horror films that has long been forgotten in my mind. The meta slasher film genre, by design, never took itself too seriously, which provides a little more leeway for rote storytelling. There is so much horror today that wants its audience to take it seriously, so it is refreshing to see a movie that is more self-aware. Urban Legend isn’t the best in its genre by a long shot, but it does a competent job at giving its audience a ridiculous, fun horror film with a winking eye. This release is crammed with special features, and a great video and audio transfer that is easily a Recommended pick up for any fan of the film.
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