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Urban Legends: Final Cut: Special Edition
Roman numerals used to be so hip. Somehow or another, they were supposed to make serial filmmaking seem more sophisticated. "You liked that? Well, here's Part VIII." These days, sequels are still king, but the Roman Empire has fallen. The antiquated formula has been tossed out in favor of title twists. I Know What You Did Last Summer was followed by, ugh, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. The brilliant Bride of Chucky ditched Child's Play 4 during production and they didn't dare CONSIDER calling the flick Child's Play IV. The Blair Witch Project's title actually got longer the second time around in Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Even ultra-mainstream horror like Silence of the Lambs was sequelized as Hannibal, as Tom Harris clearly knew the score. Now all this burgeoning creativity can also wind up CONFUSING moviegoers. A prime example is the follow-up to Urban Legend -- get this -- Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000, 99 minutes). Singular turns plural! Is it a sequel? Or a new cut of the previous film? Are they related AT ALL? Yes. No. And yes, um, sorta.
The movie: Released precisely two years after the first Scream coat-tailer, this story finds another bright coed (Jennifer Morrison) whose friends are the latest victims of a killer behind a fencing mask. The only FAMILIAR face is wise-cracking security gal Loretta Devine who saw this same sorta stuff go down before. But this time, they're film students dying -- literally -- to make a movie called Urban Legends, and Ms. Morrison is just scrappy enough to find out why. Pretty routine stuff with groaner plot devices like one character dying, but returning to the screen as his TWIN brother. Da! Da! DUMB! Keep an eye out for Eva Mendes as tasty latin lesbian Vanessa who gets her bell rung. CineSchlockers will remember Ms. Mendes and her mole from Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (a film that embraces the Roman tradition, if nothing else).
Notables: No breasts. Eight corpses. Wobbly Blair Witch-run through woods. Three space aliens. Tumbling head. Camera lens to the brainpan. Gratuitous strobe light. Multiple electrocutions. Pick ax to the hand. Multiple cheapo shocks (Fluttering birds, slamming doors, barking dog).
Quotables: A tough critic snarls, "Young man, that woman's acting would be retched in a porno film!" FX hound Dirk (Michael Bacall) is clearly a CineSchlocker at heart, "Digital sucks, man! Latex rules! [email protected]#% George Lucas." And his buddy Stan (Anthony Anderson) on seeing what he doesn't realize is a snuff film, "Ah, come on. They slash a major artery and that's all the blood? O.J. left more blood than that on the Bronco!" The time-honored heroic, but impotent pledge, "I won't let anything happen to you."
Time codes: Yes, that really is Joey "Whoa!" Lawrence of TV's "Blossom" (6:03). Best kill sequence of the movie (17:00). Smoking is hazardous to Simon's health (44:45). Amy dreams about diddling Travis, er, Trevor (1:12:55). Fans of the first feature should wake up in time for this mild treat (1:33:25).
Audio/Video: Pristine widescreen (2.35:1) print. No evidence of digital grain or shimmering even during the film's many dimly lit scenes. Features both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks.
Extras: The commentary track reveals a deeply conflicted John Ottman. An accomplished composer and editor, this was his first project as director (while also wearing his more comfortable hats), and he seems to hold contempt for this "wacky genre." He harps about trying to make his film more "mature" and "sophisticated," which would imply he doesn't think much of horror. He also leans on the typical "thriller" euphemism. Conversely, he embraces, even apes Alien throughout the movie. And in a rare example of when the suits were RIGHT, he was told to shoot another -- unscripted -- kill scene after principle photography had ended. Unlike some of the deaths, it's actually tied to a widely-known urban legend, with Jacinda Barrett waking in a tub of ice minus a kidney. Here, Ottman does a MASTERFUL job, as he EMBRACES the heart of the film, instead of running way from it. Ms. Barrett's gruesome death is especially rewarding for those who suffered through MTV's "The Real World: London." Seven deleted scenes that further evidence Ottman sometimes forgot he was making a horror sequel. Five-minute gag reel with some amusing moments. Brief "making of" featurette. Talent files. Trailers. Also available as a two-disc set with Urban Legend.
Final thought: Has its moments, but too few to earn salvation for the whole. Rent it.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.