We here at Tower Farm have often complained that some movies are so good and have so much going on that it’s impossible to write a thorough review. We’ve tried many times to write about such classics as Exorcist II: The Heretic and Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction, but have yet to actually conquer the beasts. Urban Legends: Final Cut is another of these Mt. Everests; we constantly reference the movie and completely love it, and have finally decided the only way to tackle the review is to do it together. Mind you, this “hard work” involves JM sitting in his Florida home in boxers eating dried cheerios and drinking a Fresca, while Billy huddles over his computer in Virginia constantly cursing at his hands for not moving fast enough -- both with our cell phones on "speaker." We call this Tower Farm teleconferencing.
It’s pretty clear that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with their movie once they finished making it. Instead of making things easy and calling this Urban Legend II (you know, like every other sequel in the world...), for some reason this became Urban Legends: Final Cut -- which almost gives off the impression that they don't want you to think this is a sequel. Except that it references the original AND features one of the same characters. And they even come up with the catchy "UL2" during the credits:
This title confusion is representative of the entire film; pretty much nothing makes sense here, which is why the whole thing is so enjoyable. We saw this movie when it first opened in theatres, and immediately fell in love with the sheer ineptitude of each and every idea that went into it. To begin with, the movie takes place at a “prestigious” film school – a school so prestigious that the first shot we get is of the rowing team, which is as cliché a way to make a school look wealthy as possible (and is an idea that will be repeated about twelve times, leading us to believe this rowing team never stops practicing). And at about two minutes into the movie, we’ve been introduced to every character that will matter, and we already know exactly what kind of character they are by the clothes they’re wearing and the facial expressions they sport.
First off, we get final girl Amy (Jennifer Morrison, who has amazingly maintained a career since filming this movie). We know Amy will be the final girl because she exudes zero sex appeal and is supposed to be smart. Next up is the always-welcome Joey Lawrence; this movie showcases the actor in-transition between the bushy-haired heartthrob of “Blossom” and the creepy Mr. Clean of “Dancing With The Stars.” Eva Mendes plays a tough-talking lesbian and clearly watched Gina Gershon in Bound throughout filming as the two performances are completely identical. Anthony Anderson plays…Anthony Anderson. And so on…and so on.
Also important is Jessica Cauffiel, who plays the same character here that she did in Valentine. We are Tower Farm completely love Jessica, and have no idea why she isn’t showing up more often in films. We mean, come on…her resume boasts this, Valentine, and White Chicks…how can you not love this woman? Jessica gets the wonderful opening scene almost completely to herself, as she has bizarre sex in an airplane lavatory (we particularly enjoy the moment in which this fine thespian looks straight into the camera and laughs like Fran Drescher while her boyfriend’s head is between her legs). The entire opening scene, with swooping camera shots and dozens of cast members, turns out to be part of a student film, which must have the largest budget for student film ever. Then again, this is a film school with a rowing team, so maybe it’s possible.
Also integral to this film’s success is the return of Loretta Divine as Reese, the totally incompetent security guard from Urban Legend. Loretta first pops up in a wonderful car scene in which her hair inexplicably changes styles from one shot to the next. Really, people, we’re not just talking about a wayward strand of hair here; her entire wig transforms!
Reese is an amalgamation of black stereotypes that must be seen to be believed; the character drives around with a gold-plated gun and adds the words “baby,” “sugar,” and “ass” to the end of every line of dialogue…sometimes all three together! Anyway, Reese is here to quickly recap the events of the first movie…oddly changing what happened (and giving herself a promotion to “Security Chief” in the process)…and also to give final girl Amy the idea of making a student film about a murderer obsessed with urban legends.
This, of course, sets off campus killings based on urban legends, and the first one is pretty much the best in the movie. A character that comes out of nowhere (she is never mentioned before, or will ever be mentioned again), gets slipped a drugged drink in a club and in a scene stolen right from the original Black Christmas is attacked in a coat closet. When she wakes up, she’s in a bathtub of ice and her kidney’s been removed. By the way – the drug this woman was given clearly had disastrous effects on her kidney, as it’s alarmingly red and swollen. Anyway, the poor girl manages to get to a phone and dials 911, only to be answered by maybe the worst dispatcher in history, who growls “I’ve got Princess Di on line two” in a well-worn smoker’s voice before abruptly hanging up. Finally, in one of the most brilliant moves by a slasher ever, the killer grabs the woman by the open wound in her back before decapitating her with a window. Oh, and a dog shows up to eat her kidney. Classy.
The next murder doesn’t actually appear to have anything to do with an urban legend; Jessica Cauffiel is on the set after hours and ends up being chased by the killer, who’s wielding a camera and films himself cutting her up with a razor blade. This leads to a wonderful scene in which the rest of the cast and crew of Amy’s movie watch the footage, applauding it – apparently unable to tell that the footage is “real.” Not that we could blame them; with Jessica quacking like an injured duck through the entire ordeal, we don’t think it’s very believable either. We should also go ahead and tell you that this murder, like the one before it, will never really be explained and will make zero sense with the pronouncement of the killer. Let’s move on…
We soon find out that the school’s most talented filmmaker -- a non-character named Trav -- has killed himself. Everyone at this “prestigious” school (or, all 15 of them) show up at the Orson Welles Complex to mourn the passing. Yes, we have an Orson Welles Complex. And something called the Hitchcock Award. Oh, God, this script is ridiculous. It’s amazing they didn’t go ahead and just name the school Spielberg University or something equally obvious and lame.
Things kick into high gear next as Amy ends up in a deserted belltower and finds Travis, the guy who we were just told was dead. But wait…it’s not Travis…it’s his twin brother Trevor! And talk about twins; the guys sport identical facial scars! Now that’s a miracle of nature. Anyway, Trevor is convinced that his brother was murdered, and somehow ropes Amy into helping him solve the case. Now, when we saw this in the movie theatre, we knew instantly that the facial scar was a clue that Travis and Trevor were one in the same character…kind of a Psycho twist or something. Well, friends, we’re not giving much away here to say that we were 100% wrong. Amazingly, they cast someone with a prominent facial mark to play identical twins, and didn’t bother to cover it for one of the characters. Hell, even the crew on “Patty Duke” flipped her hair so we could tell the difference.
A good forty minutes after we last saw Reese, she returns to the film, her character suddenly changed from a woman who has been through all this before in Part 1 to a grumpy security guard who doesn’t believe that anyone is really dying. Amy, at this point, is all freaked out because she saw her cameraman killed on a surveillance tape. Although, come to think of it, it might not be fair to blame Reese, as she’s apparently the only security guard on campus and presumably works 24 hours a day. Anyway, even after witnessing a murder, Amy decides to go ahead with filming like nothing’s wrong, rounding up her cast and crew and taking them to an abandoned amusement park that may as well be filled with landmines, as it’s obvious that the place is a deathtrap. Thankfully, this means Anthony Anderson and his annoying little sidekick, both of whom do nothing but spout off one-liners that aren’t funny, get killed. Thanks, Amy!
Anyway, things come crashing to a sudden climax when Amy sees a light turn on in the abandoned belltower and we get the final chase scene; somehow every character from the film will turn up during the final sequence, in a constant stream of “Oh my gosh…is he/she the killer?” until the unmasking reveals that the energetic, quick-footed killer has actually been a middle-aged film professor all along. Said professor apparently wanted to steal Travis Stark’s film masterpiece and was killing everyone involved with it. Anyway, Reese yet again pops up, says something about Amy’s “white ass,” and then essentially saves the day. This leads to a wonderful ending set at the Hitchcock Awards (which JM has affectionately dubbed “the Cockies”), which Trevor is accepting on his brother’s behalf when a gunman shoots him…only to end up that it’s a scene in Amy’s latest movie (she’s apparently become a big-time Hollywood director in the span of a few days). It’s also worth noting that every survivor of the killing spree appears to now be working for Amy, which leads us to believe she masterminded the whole thing.
And just when you think the movie’s over…this happens:
If none of the above makes any sense to you, don’t blame us. We put in a four-hour phone conversation trying to figure out how to write about a movie in which people are killed for no reason by someone who could clearly never pass off someone else’s movie as his own. It’s exactly this kind of nonsensical laziness that makes Urban Legends: Final Cut one of our favorite movies. Watching this film is like drinking a Jolt soda; all caffeine and sugar with no real substance. And as caffeine and sugar junkies, let us tell you: there’s nothing better.