Sequels that surpass their predecessors are a rarity in the movie business. In the words of Randy in Scream, 'by definition alone they are inferior movies.' But does the same apply for non-sequel sequels? Apparently not, for Urban Legends: Final Cut is a truly remarkable film, let alone sequel.
UL has a very sophisticated edge which gives the movie a far more adult feel, and John Ottman's direction is on par with the veterans of the genre as he demonstrates a great knowledge of both how to create good scares/jumps, and also how to make the images on screen look good without being too crowded. In truth, the entire movie reeks of visual style, and the settings are beautifully shot. For a low-budget film, it definitely doesn't look it.
All of the cast members are a joy, including Jennifer Morrison - who brings the heroine Amy to life on the screen - and the viewer can't help but like her from the start. There is something very fresh and original (in truth, this can be said about the entire movie) in her performance, and when paired up with Matt Davis the film becomes something very special. Additional cast like Jessica Chauffiel (whose bubbly energy fills all her scenes with a gritty humour), Joseph Lawrence (who is under-used, but makes a good red herring) and Anthony Anderson & Michael Bacall (who play Dirk and Stan respectively, and are hilarious with their geeky one-liners) are all nice departures from the cliched bit-parts of most Horrors. Another nice addition is Eva Mendes, as Amy's best friend, who strays from the typical 'heroine's timid field-mouse best friend' clichť as a loud-mouthed lesbian. It's a shame that she didn't have more screen time (although, granted, for a movie of this genre she gets her fair share), as the scenes that she is a part of are all filled with some nice banter between characters.
Director Ottman's subtle score is another bonus, as the combination of his already-spread composer wings and unique visual penuche create something that is genuinely creepy the entire way through. The combination of quite, music-less moments and loud crescendos give the film an off-beat ambience.
The killer's costume itself (a fencing mask doubled with a long trench coat) is very different to most outfits, and added little touches - like the killer's breathe steaming through the mask, and electric sparks rebounding off the metal - give our weapon-wielding maniac a very human-yet-sterile feel, which immediately invokes fear.
Despite many viewers' criticisms that no urban legend deaths (save the first) were involved in the film, this is not true - how could this movie be called Urban Legends unless it had that feature? All deaths cleverly used legends that most of us have heard of (although perhaps not many have heard the 'Tunnel of Terror' story...), and there is a gritty realism to them. Most use only sound alone rather than graphic detail in order for the audience to use their imagination (what's in the mind is always far scarier than what we see on-screen), and for once the motive behind the deaths isn't hugely ambiguous!
There are some brilliant scenes to be found in UL. The opening scene is very unique and different, and displays perfectly just how chilling this movie can be. The first and second death are both some of the scariest moments ever put onto film - again, Kudos to Ottman for his clever direction and editing! - and a scene in which the killer plays the keys on a piano Amy is hiding under was extremely unsettling, and for some reason really gets under your skin (maybe it's the out-of-control emotion that the chords stir inside us). As well as these more action-based scenes, there are some very nice character scenes, including the moment that Amy discovers Trevor in the bell tower, and the first time Amy meets Reese. The climax is excellently worked, and provides a memorable ending to the film.
I recently purchased the DVD, and after watching the deleted scenes footage, it was a shame that some of the more emotional scenes were not kept in the final print. A scene which demonstrates first Amy's writer's block (before encountering Reese), and then her guilt at straying from documentaries gives an often-ignored insight into her character, and could have done a lot more to let the audience see what makes her tick. I can understand that for the younger audience who are only interested in seeing blood and guts, the deletion of these scenes would have been no problem, but for the more mature audience we would definitely have liked to have seen these scenes involved. A director's cut someday please, John?
Other than this quibble (which probably only affects the DVD-viewing audience of this movie) Urban Legends: Final Cut is an atmospheric, character-fuelled movie that cleverly mixes Hitchcock-ian-style mystery with scary scenes that will have your skin crawling. Congratulations to John Ottman for a masterful movie debut, and let's hope we see more from you in the future!
Very different to its predessecor, Urban Legends: Final Cut is a movie that will grab you right from the chilling opening scene to the surprising ending. As a debut director, John Ottman has made an excellent movie, with twists along the way and a genuinely shocking unmasking. Could the ending be hinting at a possible Urban Legend ?...