Release Date(s)1998 (November 20, 2018)
Studio(s)Phoenix Pictures/TriStar Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Director Jamie Blanks burst onto the scene in 1998 with Urban Legend, a slasher released during a glut of Scream-inspired horror movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, and Disturbing Behavior. These films all appealed aggressively to a new generation of teenage moviegoers and horror fans, even though at the time and since then, many looked at them with a bit of derision. Twenty years later, Urban Legend and its sequels are now being revisited with nostalgic-colored glasses for some reevaluation.
The students of Pendleton University have a problem: someone is murdering them one by one. However, the faculty is attempting to cover up what’s really going on, claiming that these killings are nothing more than accidents or suicides. Natalie (Alicia Witt), one of the more well-regarded students, puts two and two together and discovers that these killings are actually based upon urban legends of old. Her fellow students and friends (Tara Reid, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, and Joshua Jackson) find her theory far-fetched.
However, the campus newspaper reporter (Jared Leto) takes it more seriously, considering that two of the deaths (Natasha Gregson Warner and Danielle Harris) were people close to Natalie. It’s not long before the bodies begin to pile up and the suspects begin to emerge, including a local gas station attendant (Brad Dourif), a creepy janitor (Julian Richings), the school’s Dean (John Neville), the campus security guard (Loretta Divine), and most of all, the urban legends professor (Robert Englund).
The floating head design of the original theatrical poster for Urban Legend gives you some idea of what you’re in store for if you’re familiar with late 1990s horror films: teenagers, over-the-top performances, big musical scores, and hard rocking/hip-hop soundtracks. While Urban Legend carries some of these traits, a little bit more attention to detail was paid, thanks in no small part to a script by Silvio Horta and strong direction by Jamie Blanks, who would also go on to do the horror film Valentine as well. Both Horta and Blanks have a true love and working knowledge of the genre, but also layer their story with more than just hack and slash material.
The strong cast and the twist ending helped solidify the film as one of the stronger and more enjoyable horror entries of the period, making a decent box office profit in the process. Today, it’s still a favorite of many, including those who were teenagers themselves when the film was originally released.
Scream Factory brings Urban Legend to Blu-ray for a second time, but in an extras-stuffed Collector’s Edition package. Their transfer, like all of their Sony-licensed material, is a dated one, but not necessarily a bad one. Detail isn’t as potent as it could be with a fresher scan, but it appears fairly organic and natural overall. Colors and skin tones are good while black levels are deep, but shadow detail sometimes suffers a little. It’s also a tad soft and dark at times. The bleach-bypassed flashback sequence is the most aggressively stylistic moment of the film, and it holds up well, even in an older HD presentation.
Audio options include English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 track is definitely the way to go as it has the most separation and speaker to speaker activity. Low frequency effects also kick in quite a bit, while dialogue is always clean and clear. Christopher Young’s excellent score for the film is also given plenty of clarity.
This release also features a dynamite extras package as well. On Disc One, which contains the film itself, there’s a new audio commentary with director Jamie Blanks, producer Michael McDonnell, and director’s assistant Edgar Pablos, moderated by author Peter M. Bracke; a vintage audio commentary with Jamie Blanks, actor Michael Rosenbaum, and writer Silvio Horta; and the original theatrical trailer in HD.
On Disc Two, there’s Urban Legacy, a new 2 1/2 hour documentary on the making of the film in 10 parts: The Story Behind Urban Legend, Assembling the Team, A Cast of Legends, There’s Someone in the Back Seat, Stories from the Set, Campus Carnage, A Legendary Composer, A Lasting Legacy, Extended Interviews, and Extended Interviews – Part 2. It features interviews with author Peter M. Bracke; producers Neal Moritz, Gina Matthews, and Michael McDonnell; writer Silvio Horta, executive producer Brad Luff; chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures Mike Medavoy; creative executive for Phoenix Pictures Nick Osborne; director Jamie Blanks; Jamie Blanks’ manager Simon Millar; director’s assistant Edgar Pablos; production designer Charles Breen; director of photography James Chressanthis; editor Jay Cassidy; actors Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Robert Englund, Michael Rosenbaum, Tara Reid, Loretta Devine, Danielle Harris, and Natasha Gregson Wagner; and composer Christopher Young. There’s also nearly an hour of behind-the-scenes footage in 3 parts; a 10-minute archival making-of featurette; 2 deleted scenes; 4 TV spots; and a gag reel.
Even for those who don’t care for Urban Legend, this Blu-ray release will likely change their minds about the film to some degree. The feature-length documentary alone is excellent and filled with enough interviews and information to be entertaining all on its own. Add to that the commentaries and other extras and it’s another recommended release from Scream Factory.
– Tim Salmons