Urban Legend: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (13th April 2019).
The Film

Sometime around 2001 or 2002, I attended the (sadly) now-defunct Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors in Pasadena and there was a panel late in the day featuring Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Clive Barker, and one or two more familiar faces (Kane Hodder, maybe?). The guys were mainly bullshitting about their careers and despite all of them having a turkey or two in their filmographies the group got a good laugh when someone gave Englund shit about making “Urban Legend” (1998). He was unamused and offered up a moderate defense. I don’t know why that little nugget has stuck with me for almost twenty years but I do know I find recalling it slightly more enjoyable than the film itself. Back in 1998, starting my senior year of high school, my taste in movies was… more forgivable. I saw “Urban Legend” in theaters and liked it well enough. This was the post-“Scream” (1996) era and teen slashers were still in vogue. Seeing a bunch of fresh-faced college freshmen getting sliced in storied ways offered up a tempting hook, but the film isn’t much more than everything we’ve seen before.

The students of Pendleton University are being slaughtered by a fur-lined coat wearing murderer with a penchant for using urban legends as a modus operandi. Well, “students” sounds a bit broad; it’s really Natalie’s (Alicia Witt) small circle of classmates, made up of a 90's fresh-faced roster including Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid, Joshua Jackson, and a few more “oh, that person!” actors. Get ready to see so many of those vaunted urban tales, like the gas station attendant trying to get a woman to exit her car because there’s actually a killer in the back seat, or the one where flashing your headlights to another driver gets you killed, and don’t forget the boyfriend who got hung above the roof of his car by an escaped mental patient, his feet scratching the roof and scaring his girlfriend within. All those old apocryphal tales conveniently collected in one film.

The approach taken to this slasher is certainly novel; these are stories kids have been passing down for years and my only surprise is that it took until 1998 for someone to commit them to film. The murders themselves aren’t noteworthy for being overtly gory and having been pulled off with extraordinary FX work but there is a brutal edge to each that provides a nice visceral twinge. None of the actors are doing Shakespeare here; each plays their respective part well enough and with so many familiar faces half the entertainment is seeing who went on to better things and who got stuck in DTV hell. Englund seems to be having fun, though. I’d have taken that studio money, too. I’ll give the film credit for keeping viewers guessing as to the identity of the killer. Red herrings are everywhere and once the big reveal is made it’s a shock – not only because of the “who” but because it really brings into question everything we saw the killer do. That person doesn’t seem quite as capable as the film would like us to believe. This is a dumb-fun way to kill 100 minutes.

Video

There isn’t much to complain about in regard to the film’s 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p HD 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 compressed image. The picture offers up strong detailing and a pristine picture, free from damage and dirt. Definition is impressive throughout, even during nighttime scenes when lighting is minimal. Film grain is smooth and filmic, with no signs of digital manipulation. This is a superb image and a considerable upgrade over the old DVD, though it is similar to the Blu-ray Sony released some years back.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround sound tracks are made available. Dialogue is balanced and clean and sound effects have a good sense of weight and reality to them. Discreet placement is important in horror mixes and this one does a fine job of putting viewers in the action, with footsteps and creaks all around when the tension is ratcheting. The real highlight is composer Christopher Young’s score, which soars with the expected intensity of his works. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

There are two audio commentary tracks – the first, with director Jamie Blanks, producer Michael McDonnell, and director's assistant Edgar Pablos; the second audio commentary, with director Jamie Blanks, screenwriter Silvio Horta, and actor Michael Rosenbaum.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 28 seconds.

DISC TWO: BLU-RAY

There are several featurettes here that comprise a larger whole documentary:

“The Story Behind Urban Legend” (1080p) featurette runs for 9 minutes and 37 seconds, this is a retrospective making-of that covers the film’s inception.

“Assembling the Team” (1080p) featurette runs for 17 minutes and 44 seconds, this piece covers putting together the actors and crew who would comprise the staff.

“A Cast of Legends” (1080p) featurette runs for 18 minutes and 46 seconds, the title here is stretching it but there are plenty of famous faces to be seen.

“There’s Someone in the Back Seat” (1080p) featurette runs for 15 minutes and 42 seconds.

“Stories from the Set” (1080p) featurette runs for 28 minutes and 39 seconds.

“Campus Carnage” (1080p) featurette runs for 23 minutes and 30 seconds.

“A Legendary Composer” (1080p) featurette runs for 16 minutes and 29 seconds.

“A Lasting Legacy” (1080p) featurette runs for 17 minutes and 1 second.

“Extended Interviews” (1080p) featurette runs for 39 minutes and 44 seconds.

“Extended Interviews - Part 2” (1080p) featurette runs for 33 minutes and 46 seconds.

“Behind-the-Scenes” (SD) featurette clips have been broken down into a trio:

- “Part 1” runs for 17 minutes.
- “Part 2” runs for 16 minutes and 20 seconds.
- “Part 3” runs for 20 minutes and 40 seconds.

An “Archival Making-of” (SD) featurette runs for 10 minutes and 9 seconds.

A single deleted scene (SD) runs for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Four TV spots (SD) runs for 1 minute and 36 seconds.

Finally, a gag reel (SD) runs for 2 minutes and 14 seconds.

Packaging

The two-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible. A slip-cover featuring new artwork is available on first pressings.

Overall

If it wasn’t for the eponymous hook this slasher would have nothing new to offer outside of a different cast. It checks every box on the College Campus Killer list and it isn’t until the final reveal that it feels like the film has stepped ever-so-slightly outside the norm. It’s a decently entertaining film but absolutely nothing more.

The Film: B- Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: A+ Overall: B-

 


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