If the makers of "Urban Legend" had even a shred of honesty or decency in them, the title would be "Horror Film Cliches."
That's because "Urban Legends," only the latest in a line of derivative "Scream" wannabes, pretends that it's based on urban legends - the contemporary folklore popularized by University of Utah professor Jan Harold Brunvand. But all too often this dumb and gory teen-scream flick falls back on gimmicks and cliches instead.Brunvand could probably think of more fitting forms of revenge than screenwriter Silvio Horta did. And frankly, the whole premise is so dopey that it may spawn shrieks of laughter more than shrieks of terror.
In fact, at one point in the movie,things get so bad that Horta and director Jamie Blanks start settling for cheap jolts - with a series of images and shots that are designed to make audiences jump out of their seats.
Alicia Witt (TV's "Cybill") stars as Natalie, a student at a New England college who's noticed some disturbing similarities between a gruesome series of murders on campus.
With help from dedicated student journalist Paul (Jared Leto) and best friend Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart), Natalie does some investigating and finds that the killings have been patterned after urban legends.
And there's an impressive list of suspects, including practical joker Damon (Joshua Jackson, from TV's "Dawson's Creek"), creepy folklore professor Wexler (Robert "Freddie Krueger" Englund), frat boy Parker (Michael Rosenbaum) and the seemingly unconcerned Dean Adams (John Neville).
Blanks, a newcomer, wisely tries to make use of some very creepy sets (likely a deserted dormitory building and a nearby forest). But he's unable to sustain much tension, and the cast is as uninspired as Horta's script, which includes lame attempts at humor.
Also, a killer in a parka (think "Nanook of the North," minus the snowshoes) is even more ludicrous than the rainslicker gimmick in "I Know What You Did Last Summer."
The film's one asset is Loretta Devine, who steals a couple of scenes as an eager-beaver security guard who worships Pam Grier.
"Urban Legend" is rated R for violent attacks with axes and other sharp objects, sickening gore, profanity, vulgar sex talk and use of vulgar slang, simulated sex and glimpses of nude and sexually explicit artwork.