It won't take you long to recognize the movie college campus of Pendleton U. One professor, one dean, one security guard, one roommate, one boyfriend, one best friend, one secret and one serial killer. With the dialogue-challenged feel of a television movie of the week, "Urban Legend" gathers all the familiar elements and leaves you counting the bodies and waiting for the showdown between pretty good and incompetent evil in which good escapes and evil improbably lives on, despite all laws of nature and human anatomy.
"Urban Legend" is a low-voltage drive-in movie, made strictly by the book: There's not a surprising moment for fans of the my-prof's-got-an-ax, let's-put-on-a-scary-movie genre. The stars have TV-familiar faces. One of those familiar faces is killed during the opening credits (see, most recently, "Scream 2"). The killer is thrown through the front window of a vehicle (see, most recently, "Halloween H20"). People keep bumping into one another (cue the loud music, the only truly frightening thing about the movie).
In this semester's version, someone is killing the people around Natalie (Alicia Witt), and the murders sure sound like the kind of urban legends discussed in the American folklore class taught by odd professor Wexler (Robert Englund in yet another horror-movie cameo for Freddy Krueger).
After the second or third death, Natalie is forced to go where no movie-college student dares to go--the library. There she looks up the urban legends she should have been studying all along. (She is not alone at the library. Otherwise she would have to be killed.) She runs into one other student, Sasha (Tara Reid), the campus radio sex chat hostess who's looking up the Kama Sutra she was supposed to have been studying all along. Witt, who has a little Shelley Duvall in her gaze, seems more angry than scared, especially since she's the last to figure out who wants her dead.
She also enlists the help of the campus hunk/morality-challenged journalist (Jared Leto), tangles herself up in Pendleton's own urban legend--a 1973 dormitory massacre curiously missing from its admissions brochures--and finds herself the object of one of the more icky urban legends, the kidney-harvest.
* MPAA rating: R for horror violence/gore, language and sexual content. Times guidelines: As these movies go, this one is fairly bloodless. Most murders are done off-camera.
Alicia Witt: Natalie
Jared Leto: Paul
Michael Rosenbaum: Parker
Tara Reid: Sasha
Robert Englund: Professor Wexler
Phoenix Pictures presents a Neal H. Moritz/Gina Matthews production. Distributed by TriStar Pictures. Directed by Jamie Blanks. Written by Silvio Horta. Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Gina Matthews and Michael McDonnell. Executive producer Brad Luff. Director of photography James Chressanthis. Production designer Charles Breen. Editor Jay Cassidy. Costume designer Mary Claire Hannan. Music by Christopher Young. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
* In general release around Southern California.