Urban Legends – Final Cut Review (2000)

My History With the Film:
I’m not sure exactly when I saw Urban Legends – Final Cut for the first time, but I’m pretty sure it was on VHS or DVD shortly after it came out. I’m a big fan of the original Urban Legend and the sequel was on my radar as soon as I heard about it. I remember enjoying it  and thinking it was almost as good as the first.

On my most recent re-watch in March 2018, I realized that I remember this film wrong. It's not very good.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A student is shooting a thesis film on urban legends when her crew begins dying.

What I Liked About It:
-The cast is not bad. No one is very memorable, but they all perform their job well. I was shocked while checking IMDB that both Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) and Joey Lawrence (Blossom) are in this film. I watched a lot of Blossom and Brotherly Love, but I didn't recognize Joey Lawrence until I saw his name and was looking for him. He was going by Joseph Lawrence and I'm assuming he was attempting to ditch his teen idol image.

-While no kills really stand out, I feel like the film really tried to give the audience what they wanted. The chase scenes are adequate in length.

-It was old by this point, but Urban Legends does channel some of the meta storytelling that Scream started, especially when using the two special effects students. It was a tired cliché by this point in horror history, but I still liked it.

-It was nice seeing Fruitopia in a scene. I'm actually thankful for product placement for once.

-I appreciated the neat cameo during the credits sequence.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The single biggest thing is how stupidly unbelievable the characters are at a times. For example: in one scene our main character Amy (Jennifer Morrison) is attacked and narrowly escapes death. The next morning, she's out for a leisurely jog with her ear buds in jogging around the same campus she was just attacked on. I have a hard time buying that anyone would want to go outside, let alone near where they were almost killed, while cutting off one of their senses, for no particular reason other than exercise.

-Another dumb unbelievable part of the storyline involves the mysterious appearance of Travis' twin brother, whom our main character starts to fall in love and begins to trust completely almost immediately. I believe they were trying to mislead the audience by allowing us to think he might be the killer, but I was too distracted by how stupid Amy was being by trusting a guy she just met. Especially when she invites him over to watch her sleep.

-I liked Reese (Loretta Devine), the campus police officer, in the first movie, but she had too big of a part in this film. To be honest, she was useless in this film, and they just stuck her in this film to tie it to the first. I would have been fine with a cameo, but they decided to make her a part of the story and it just doesn't work. She isn't productive, doubts a killer is actually on campus (despite going through this a year or so before), and really offers nothing to the story. They wasted her character.

-Then there is the story, the story is not very good. It starts off simple enough: a promising, young film student decides to make a horror movie for her thesis film and her crew starts getting killed off. But then you start weaving in the mysterious appearance of a twin brother, the motive of wanting to win an Alfred Hitchcock Award, the new foreign DP, a hidden past of our main character and the man who wants to blackmail her, and suddenly this film goes from fun horror flick to Lifetime movie. It feels rushed and none of the characters are properly fleshed out. I don't believe the actors are to blame, it just feels like bad writing.

Additional Notes:
-The music that plays during the credits is the theme from Alfred Hitchock Presents.

-Reached number one at the box office despite only having an eight million dollar weekend.

-The snowstorm in the film was unexpected.

-The kidney in the bathtub scene was an actual goat’s kidney.

Urban Legends: Final Cut is a pretty terrible movie. The story is very weak, the killers reveal is even weaker, and the film feels like it needed two or three more re-writes on the script before going into production. As much as I love slasher films from this era, I would recommend skipping this film and just sticking to the first Urban Legend. I'd rate it a two out of ten.

I Know What You Did Last Summer Review (1997)

My History With the Film:
Scream set the box office on fire in 1996 and its success launched a resurgence of the slasher film. One of the first films to cash in on Scream’s success was I Know What You Did Last Summer. The marketing for the film was huge and I got caught up in it like all other teenagers. I rented the movie the weekend it first came out on VHS and watched it with my parents, who were fans of Party of Five. Since the star of the film was Jennifer Love Hewitt, they took a surprising interest in a horror film, something that rarely happened in my house.

I remembering thinking the movie was good, but nowhere near Scream good. It felt like a PG-13 Scream, although the film was rated R. I always group I Know What You Did Last Summer in with Scream, but in all honesty, it a much inferior film. My most recent watch only confirmed that.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A group of teenagers accidently run over a man in the middle road. The next summer they are stalked and hunted down one-by-one.

What I Liked About It:
- The cast is a lot of fun to look back on. Jennifer Love Hewitt (Party of Five), Freddie Prinze Jr (She’s All That), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Ryan Phillipe (Cruel Intentions), Anne Heche (Volcano), Johnny Galecki (Roseanne), and Bridgette Wilson (Billy Madison).

-The story is simple and the twist is decent. I’m not a huge fan of who the killer ends up being, but it does work within the context of the story.

-I’m a huge fan of world building, and when a movie establishes a realistic small town I love it. I Know What You Did Last Summer created a believable east coast small town without involving a dozen generic townsfolk.

-The car scene with Ryan Phillipe after he leaves the gym.

-The film being set around The Fourth of July is great. It used the holiday as a backdrop but doesn’t exploit it for the plot.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-Kevin Williamson wrote a very competent screenplay, but the film is obviously no Scream and that is a letdown. If there is any real complaint to have with I Know What You Did Last Summer is that it didn’t try hard enough to not be a generic slasher.

-The killer is a bit of a stretch.

-The acting can be a little cringe worthy at times, but this is a horror movie so I let it slide.

Additional Notes:
- The script was written by Kevin Williamson (writer of Scream). He was unable to sell the script until Scream became a success.

-Author of the novel, Lois Duncan, has openly said she detests the film, especially since it was turned into a slasher film.

-The film was shot in North Carolina.

-The film spawned a sequel the following year I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and a third film in the series I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer in 2006.

-Cast members with roles in other notable horror films:
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Ring, Scream 2)
  • Anne Heche (Psycho)

I Know What You Did Last Summer stills holds up as a competent slasher film. There is nothing unique or creative to the story, but it does work. I think it is a must watch when it comes to 90’s teen horror, just because of the cultural impact it had. It was the first real post-Scream slasher and because of that it became a cultural horror icon in the 90’s.

I give I Know What You Did Last Summer a three and a half out of five and say it’s worth a rental.

The Craft Review (1996)

My History With the Film:
The Craft was so cool. It came out the year following Clueless and was sort of the anti-Clueless. It featured four goth girls being bad, dabbling in witchcraft, and torturing the type of girls who’d hang out with Cher and her other clueless pals. It was marketed with a great trailer and a killer soundtrack, which set the stage for a great film.

Luckily, the film was as good as its marketing and I remember buying it on VHS as soon as it was released. The film made me fall in love with Fairuza Balk and also made it hard for me to buy Neve Campbell as the hero in Scream released six months later.

I’ve revisited The Craft maybe six or seven times of the years, and I always find it enjoyable.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A young woman moves to Los Angeles where she meets a trio of witches who help her realize her true power while enforcing their own.

What I Liked About It:
-The casting is perfect in this film. Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor, and Breckin Meyer all do amazing jobs in their roles. I never appreciated Neve Campbell’s performance until this most recent rewatch and was enthralled with her evolution from shy class freak to arrogant hottie. Skeet Ulrich also does an amazing job going from nice guy to dirtbag to love obsessed psycho.

-The film does a great job at building sympathy for the witches by showing all of the issues they deal with (being poor, being a minority, being scarred). This helps rationalize why they desired the power to do spells and make their lives better. It also makes it understandable when they go too far.

-The sleepover scene is particularly well done and it truly feels like you are just an observer inside a high school sleepover. The way the girls joke, interact, and talk just feels naturally, even leading up to the light as a feather stiff as a board scene, which is well done and filmed beautifully. 

-There is a horrifying scene towards the end where Sarah (Robin Tunney) goes into her house and finds it full of all sorts of bugs, snakes, and creatures. Real snakes were used and from my perspective, real bugs. It’s impressive how many creatures they actually got all in one spot.

-CGI is used, but sparingly. Lots of the practical effects are very well done. The skull cap that Christine Taylor wears to show her losing hair is haunting. The scar tissue on Neve Campbell’s body is well done and I particularly enjoyed the scene where the scar tissue begins to come off.

-The music! Man does this film have a great soundtrack.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-This comes up commonly with these reviews, but the CG in some spots is really bad, especially in the final act.

-Nancy’s (Fairuza Balk) scene following her invoking the spirit scene really should have been cut. I think they wanted to show that she had some sort of power in her, but her overacting and insane antics just doesn’t go over well, especially when she starts rubbing on a dead shark.

-Robin Tunney’s wig is all over the place. Some scenes it looks fine and in others it’s horrible. 

Additional Notes:
-The film was planned to be a PG-13 release, but because of the plot involving teenagers and witchcraft the film was rated R.

-Love Spit Love’s cover of The Smith’s “How Soon is Now” found on The Craft’s soundtrack was used as the theme song for Charmed, a show about three sisters who are witches.

-Fairuza Balk is actually a Wiccan.

-Both Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich star in The Craft as well as Scream, both released in 1996.

-In Fangoria 153, Rachel True discussed how the film undertook to some major changes following a test screening. "They put in a lot more special effects, revamped the ending and made the final conflict in the movie a little more heightened. Now you get a bigger sense of the struggle between good and evil. The evil is so strong in the film that they had to tone it down a bit to let humanity know that good can trump in the end."

-Fangoria also mentions that there was a "old, wised witch" Lupe Ontiveros (Tony Gardner in makeup) that helped the girls right all their wrongs, but this character was cut out and all her important lines were given to Lirio (the shopkeeper).

-A couple of the cast members had roles in other notable horror films:
  • Robin Tunney (End of Days, The Zodiac)
  • Christine Taylor (Night of the Demons 2, Campfire Tales)
The Craft holds up well as a very enjoyable witchcraft movie. It’s not scary and I struggle to call it horror, but I think it’s a worthy (although neutered) addition to the genre. The performances alongside the awesome soundtrack make for a very 90’s experience that has substance. I enjoyed The Craft on my most recent rewatch possibly more than ever and feel like the movie is a very solid four  out of five and is a worthy rental.