Thursday, July 23, 2009

Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)

Reviewed By: Billy and JM

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.



  1. At last this film gets the attention it deserves!
    I saw this on original release, too, in a decrepit cinema in Catford, South-east London (not quite as romantic a spot as it sounds)at Christmastime with snow on the ground... well, I won't need to explain to you guys that I danced out singing. What a treat. I've seen it maybe a half-dozen times since on DVD and every time it gets better - though I DID NOT SPOT Loretta Devine's changing hairdo and the facial scar on the twins - now I'll enjoy it even more!
    And now I see that you've also done a post on Tobe Hooper's Night Terrors, so I'm going to end this rambling comment and rush over to see what you have to say about one of my other favourites. Here's hoping for screengrabs of Zoe whatsername hanging in chains in her lingerie while Robert Englund menaces her with that pneumatic whooshy retractable spike thingy. Here I go. See you there maybe.

  2. A great write-up that I suspect is more entertaining than the movie itself! So just to clarivey--was the kidney murder the *only* one that was actually based on an urban legend?

    I saw the first UL because of my long-standing lust-affair with Noxema Girl Rebecca Gayheart. That one had her swimming in slow motion underwater footage AND gave her a chance for an awesome crazy-confession scene in which she got to use her gorgeous huge eyes to great effect. Not much else to recommend it, but that was enough for me! :)

    I love the trope of Bad Shit Blindness--a disorder suffered by persons in positions of authority in horror movies, that absolutely prevents them from registering that any Bad Shit is actually happening, in spite of appearances to the contrary or, in this case, even past experience. What would happen if the first time the teens called the cops, the sgt. on duty was all, "Oh shit! We'd better get out there right away and nip this bloodbath in the bud!" Inconceivable.

    Good job, guys! I don't know if I'll seek out UL2, but I had a great time basking in your glee. ;)

  3. "Clarivey"? I meant "clarify," of course. No more speedballs before lunch for me! ;)

  4. OMG its the girl from the Noxima commercial! I always liked Rese's antics but never noticed the wig change. Wow.

  5. I love this bloody film too! Reese is my favorite black, female horror movie character ever - it was hilarious when she was watching "Coffy" & the girl bursts in (that MIGHT have been the first one...). This film is golden, it's actually one of my favorites.

  6. I've only seen the first one and I didn't mind it all that much. Never seen this one but heard how bad it is. Then again, you love this stuff so I can see why you would review it so wonderfully. I definitely need to check it out. I'll probably bash the crap out of it but it sounds like I'll be laughing on my way to doing it. Great review!

  7. Kudos for taking the time to lavish some praise on the cinematic force of nature that is Jessica Cauffiel in UL2. I can pretty much watch her in anything. (Yeah, I've seen White Chicks and Legally Blonde 2.)

  8. I liked the set up for this one, but I cant remember anything past the first half, I think I consistently fell asleep each time I tried to watch it, but the series is one of the wifes favorites so Ill be sure to get back to it sooner or later! I remember several sweet deaths though

    Edit: my word was Vicar, go figure =D

  9. Wow, I am thoroughly impressed with the write-up. Well more than this shit heap deserved. Bravo kids. I could not have done the same. Agreed that the review was way more entertaining than the movie itself.

  10. I love that you guys love this film! I was a bit too slack-jawed to notice Reese's changing hair style and the identical scars... This will only add to my enjoyment when I next watch UL2 - thanks for pointing out. I was probably too busy playing 'spot the movie references' (a great drinking game to play whilst watching this) - as everything from Vertigo to Alien to Peeping Tom has been stuffed into the script. My only beef is that the Parka coat worn by the style-conscious killer in Urban Legend didn't reappear. Now THAT would've rocked. Can't have everything I guess. 'She's my sister, baby. And she a WHOLE LOTTA WOMAN!'

  11. I'm with Yum Yum...more Jessica Cauffiel please! lol. Great post.

  12. The totally random funhouse stalk-and-slash of the film nerds was a definite highlight for me, (that hammer smash to the knuckles was brutal,yo!)

    Other points of enjoyment include Jennifer Morrison's lesbian-esque film student- turned- granny panties-wearing- ho,the killer's fencing mask,the kidney thieving/decap scene,and repeated shots of t rats eating through Jessica Cauffiel's plaster-cast body in the belfry closet, while she looks on in surprise. Good stuff.