Horror is one of the most immediate genres, in terms of how it ages. That’s because to get a mass audience to react to something you have to have something that everyone can relate to. When you look at horror films of the 70’s,
But when horror films re-emerged from a slumber of sorts in the mid-90’s, it was irony that was the tune of the day. From Scream and its sequels, there was a self-awareness that permeated what was being done. At the end of the 20th century, everything was all right, and the idea of being stabbed by a madman was creepy but wholly removed from being palpable. Enter the slightly ironic genre, pioneered by Kevin Williamson. He wrote I Know What You Did Last Summer, whilst Urban Legend was his progeny, even though he nothing to do with it.
IKWYDLS was directed by Jim Gillespie – who followed it up with D-Tox, AKA Eye See You, so the film was viewed as successful… but the director got fucked really hard with his follow up. It’s based on the Lois Duncan novel. … Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as Julie James, a smart young girl with boyfriend Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze Jr.). Her best friend is Town Princess Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and she’s dating the rich boy Barry Cox (Ryan Phillipe). The four “accidentally hit someone in the road, and decide to cover it up.
This where the film gets interesting. All four are wrecked by guilt, and their lives do not go as planned because they find it hard to live with themselves. Then the mechanics kick in and you’ve got a countdown clock of who’s going to live and die (smoking and drinking will not help your case in films like this). The results are predictable, but it’s also fair to say that Gillespie delivers this familiarity with enough panache to make it palatable (though I’ve always preferred the infinitely stupider sequel). Jennifer Love Hewitt has large breasts, and that seems to be her greatest assets, while Gellar and Phillipe seem most capable of doing the heavy lifting, but have the smaller parts. The film gets points for casting Anne Heche as a crazy woman. Well played.
Urban Legend is slightly better, though revolves around a fairly preposterous hook. Alicia Witt stars as Natalie Simon. She’s surrounded by cute boys (Jared Leto, Joshua Jackson, and Michael Rosenbaum), and cute girls (Tara Reid, Rebecca Gayheart, and Danielle Harris, Natasha Gregson Wagner), and one of whom may be trying to kill them all. It seems that all are taking a class on Urban Legends, taught by Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund),
The film is put together in a snappy fashion, and with the hook that people die in the manner of urban legends, the grand guignol theatrics are amusing – though not as bloody as their 70’s/80’s counterparts. Witt makes a good lead, and the cast is strong for this sort of thing. But it’s a very minor key work. As with both the projects, the directors are trying to prove themselves, so there’s at least energy, and interesting choices, even if neither finds anything all that remotely scare to dwell on.
Sony presents both films in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 for both) in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The transfers are uniformly excellent. Urban Legend looks especially strong in this new version, and the widescreen framing in both is essential to their pleasures. Legend comes with a commentary by director Jamie Blanks, Michael Rosenbaum, and writer Silvio Horta. This was a track done for the original DVD release when that format was in its infancy. Which may explain why there’s only one extra feature, a ten minute making of. That’s cause this all had to fit on one side, as this was a flipper (WS on one, Pan and Scan on the other). The film also comes with bonus trailers.
The real treat here is IKQYDLS, which has a behind scenes retrospective (27 min.) featuring the director, writer Kevin Williamson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Anne Heche, and producer Stokley Chaplin. It’s amazing that they’re all so enthusiastic about the film, which helps makes this a fairly palatable half hour piece. Gillespie also shows up with editor Steve Mirkovich for the DVD release commentary track. Gillespie’s short film “Joyride” (10 min.) is also included with commentary by the director, as is a music video, and bonus trailers.