When I sat down to watch Urban Legend, I was ready to watch yet another Halloween imitator, trying to chip in on the success of Scream and make a quick dollar. I had heard many bad reviews from the main-stream critics, so I wasn't expecting much, despite my anticipation... But what I received was an original, scary, witty movie that was far more entertaining than any critics had made out. True, Urban Legend was undoubtedly inspired by Scream, but why should we see that as a bad thing?
The use of the urban legends was handled extremely well - the writer picked out the most scary and disturbing of them all - and they were well integrated into story. [Writer] Silvio Horta was clever to pick both well-known legends as well as basically unknown ones to keep the unpredictability up. Also, the legends fitted the characters he created better than I had expected. A scene that is particularly effective is when Natalie hears her roommate's strangulated cries from her bed across the room but ignores them - thinking that they are cries of sexual ecstasy. To say she got a shock the next morning is a bit of an under-statement. Also cleverly handled is the idea that perhaps most of the murders are practical jokes or suicide cases (as Natalie's roommate is accused). This also, once again, shows how well the writer chose the legends.
The acting is consistent and believable, particularly enjoyable performances come from Alicia Witt (a surprisingly unusual choice for a lead in a horror movie, but still an excellent choice), Joshua Jackson and Rebecca Gayheart - all respected actors and actresses in the teen commercial circle. A nice cameo from Robert Englund was also great, and he had a surprisingly small part, although he does manage to keep the viewer suspcious of where his loyalties lie. Although a couple of characters are annoying from the word 'go', that is just another believable aspect of this movie - wherever you go these days you are confronted by self-involved, obnoxious teenagers!
The directing is probably the greatest aspect of the movie, and Jamie Blanks creates a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere - even in murder or tension scenes that occur in daylight. Despite the movies flaws, the dazzling direction makes up nearly all mistakes in it's stylish-ness. The director knows that in 'chase' scenes the viewer needs to know the full layout of a building to feel fear for a character's whereabouts (i.e if you know the door is only just around the corner the tension mounts when you know how close to surviving a characters is) - and so a lot of good, open shots are given on the screen.
Over all, Urban Legend is a clever, frightening horror movie that boasts not only an original concept and some breathtaking scenes, but a brilliant score from Christopher Young.