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Urban Legend – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Scream Factory has been crushing it with the late 90s pop horror as of late, especially due to the new sublicensing they have been doing through Warner Bros and Sony. And with that, comes the slashers that were refreshed and reborn during that time. One of the most notable of such that wasn’t Scream, was Jamie Blanks’ Urban Legend. Sub out scary movies for the age old tales of fear from yesteryear and its pretty easy to run with. This will be the first of two Collector’s Editions of Blanks’ slashers (Valentine is finally coming in February), getting a whopping 2-disc treatment. And, they’ve brought almost every back for this with the exception of an obvious pair of actors you could easily guess don’t show up. I’ll give you a hint before we dive in, but this is a pretty special release that you should lock in your pre-order for in time to watch November 20th!

Film 

A university is beset by a rash of gruesome murders that resemble old urban legends. When her friend Michelle is killed by someone hiding in her car, Natalie begins to notice the pattern. Her suspicions grow stronger when her own roommate is strangled to death. Soon the quiet college campus is transformed into hunting grounds for a maniac, and Natalie struggles to find the killer and stop the bloodshed before she becomes the next victim.

Yeah, I’m a fan of Urban Legend. A one-sheet poster was a fixture on my bedroom wall during my teenage years. I’ve owned the film on VHS, DVD and now twice on Blu-ray. I discovered Alicia Witt whom I’ve always been a big fan of through this film. If there was a sucker buying into most of what the 90s pop horror era was selling, I was the target audience. I had grown up worshiping and studying films that I missed out on in their prime and during their primal runs. But, with Scream, the slasher genre was on the comeback trail!

Urban Legend felt like a natural riff on the Scream formula. Swap out 1980s slasher movies for motivation and replace it with something along those same lines and even more primitive; the campfire tale (Or yeah, I know, Urban Legend). Such thing had been brushed on or hinted at with I Know What You Did Last Summer, but this one was going to live by it. Once again, we round up a cast of up and coming or somewhat established young actors and have them traumatized by a serial killer. And the spinner lands on the college campus locale. Which, that’s one of my favorites as it always lends itself to a lot of gothic architecture for the backdrop to scare sequences and such.

One touch that Urban Legend seems to have over a lot of its contemporary knock offs is that it loves the genre and is handled by people who know and love it as well. And its not in a distracting fashion either. Jamie Blanks, who debuts here, really has the eye of a pro. One of the fun things with the 90s slasher run was to see these film with professional backing, big budgets, big production values and people taking them seriously. Yes, that zaps the fun and creativity out of a lot of what made the 1980s films great, but Blanks would have fit in there as well. Blanks uses a lot of crane shots to make his film feel grand. He also is very effective with his violence by either letting you think you saw something more brutal than you did or doing a quick cut showing everything but just as it happens, letting you live in the shock and piece together in your mind what’s next. The film has devised some creative death sequences for better or for worse, too.

While Scream had a nice Linda Blair cameo a some lighter moments, Urban Legend actually gives full fledged roles to past genre icons that were actually a part of the slasher genre. The film lauds Robert Englund one of his best on screen roles as a red herring college professor. His teaching scene in the first act is one of the best in the whole film. Brad Dourif shows up early on as another red herring in the film’s opening (Which plays as a fantastic little short film just on its own). Danielle Harris is even here in a small role as the goth girl roommate of a our lead character, Natalie. Each of them shows they are far more than just their wink and nod by association with the screen time they are given.

There’s a bit of silliness to the film in some of its sequences that to me are playful, but I’m not gonna argue someone if they think they are stupid. And the killer reveal does call into question the size of the stunt double in some of the sequences, but oh well. Its in some of these bits that it feels truly in line with its 1980s slasher grandaddies. The killer does give a pretty strong turn in the final sequences to make it quite forgivable. Although it does try to do some hip slang that fails horribly by calling and Urban Legend a “UL”. However, with a good fight and some wonderful applaud and cheer moments, its worth it.

Without question, when the first two Scream films are taken away, Urban Legend stands as probably the top original slasher film to come out of the 1990s. I can see I Know What You Did Last Summer fighting it neck and neck (And that one has a HELL of a chase sequence in it), but Urban Legend just seems to embrace its subgenre more and loves being a part of it. Its not trying to stand above it all, its trying to earn its place with all of the other films. The film puts its final girl in a unique place, has a fun cast of characters, plays around with some unique deaths and never tries to reinvent the wheel, it just tries to make a great one at a good cost. I am just as fond of Urban Legend in 2018 as I was seeing it opening weekend in 1998.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: This isn’t Urban Legend’s first foray onto the Blu-ray format. There were no details about a new transfer or any new mastering. So, this likely is based from the same source as the original Blu-ray was. But, I can say it does look like things have been tweaked a tad for this release. The image looks a little bit darker and better saturated. The original image was pretty solid, but this looks a little bit better than it was before. It still has that sort of 90s movie to Blu-ray look, but thanks to stronger lighting and cinematography, most of the scenes hold up and look strong.

Depth:  This isn’t the strongest depth of field, but its above average. Spacing is merely all right, but movements are pretty confident and wander natural and smoothly.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep and never have any sort of graying effect. Details in darker scenes and dark objects hold up well and its surprisingly well saturated. No crushing present at all.

Color Reproduction: Colors are natural with some good pop from time to time with the right filter. The party scene has some good buzz to it. Blood is a lot deeper and pretty rich. Alicia Witt’s hair and lipstick stings very nicely. Blue is a stronger color in this mix.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the start to finish of the film. Facial features like scarring, stubble, razor burn (Nice, Jared Leto), make-up and lip texture come through nicely. There is some smoothness apparent from time to time, but nothing that really harms the image.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Urban Legend moves from a 5.1 TrueHD track to a DTS-HD MA, but this is the same mix as before. Its an effective one that is loud and well nuanced. The effects really make themselves felt here and service the film for maximum impact. Some of them will make you jump just on their power alone.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Thunder clapping, axe striking, musical stings, crashing and any sort of punching gives a great natural pound to the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix really has a good, natural feel for the room. Most of the action takes place up front and not a whole lot of the motion goes from front to back, but the mix really knows how to utilize the rears to add to the environment or to bring together a sweeping bit of the orchestral score.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with a hair big of analog sourcing coming though but fitting with the rest of the mix.

Extras 

Urban Legend – Collectors Edition is a 2-Disc set that has reversible cover art featuring the original theatrical poster.

Disc 1 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Jamie Blanks, Producer Michael McDonnell and Assistant Editor Edgar Pablos
  • With Director Jamie Blanks, Writer Silvio Horta and Actor Michael Rosenbaum

Trailer (HD, 2:28)

Disc 2

Urban Legacy – This wildly impressive eight-part documentary on the making of Urban Legend includes interviews with director Jamie Blanks, writer Silvio Horta, executive producers Brad Luff, Nick Osborne, producers Neal Moritz, Gina Matthews, Michael McDonnell, chairman and CEO of Phoenix Pictures Mike Medavoy, the late production designer Charles Breen (To which it is dedicated at the close), director of photography James Chressanthis, editor Jay Cassidy, composer Christopher Young, actors Alicia Witt, Michael Rosenbaum, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Robert Englund, Loretta Devine, Rebecca Gayheart, Tara Reid, Danielle Harris, assistant Edgar Pablos author Peter M. Bracke and more. Unfortunately you cannot “Play All” with this, but damn, it totals over 2 and a half hours then offers another hour and and 15 minutes worth of extended interviews.

This one TRULY tells the tale of this film from the moment of absolutely thought, through the fine details of the entire process on the film and everyone looking back on its legacy. Included here are clips from Jamie Blanks’ senior short film that he used to sell himself on as well as the trailer for I Know What You Did Last Summer to try and land that job first. Everyone involved has incredibly fond memories of making the film and are quite energetic in talking about it and remembering, which is confirmed when you see the behind the scenes footage that is also included here. You can help but be sucked in on the process and reliving the time in horror films when this was made. This is one of the most impressive documentaries on a film Scream Factory has ever put out. I’m just absolutely blown away. No Joshua Jackson or Jared Leto, which is to be expected, but others provide impressions and fun, playful anecdotes regarding them. This documentary is worth owning on its own.

  • The Story Behind Urban Legend (HD, 9:37)
  • Assembling The Team (HD, 17:44) 
  • A Cast of Legends (HD, 18:46)
  • There’s Someone In The Back Seat (HD, 15:42) 
  • Stories From The Set (HD, 28:39)
  • Campus Carnage (HD, 23:30) 
  • A Legendary Composer (HD, 16:29)
  • A Lasting Legacy (HD, 17:01)
  • Extended Interviews (HD, 39:44) – Christopher Young, Robert Englund, Michael Rosenbaum, Edgar Pablos
  • Extended Interviews: Part 2 (HD, ) – Michael McDonnell, Danielle Harris, Gina Matthews, James Chressanthis, 

Behind-The-Scenes Footage – There is just an absolute wealth of behind the scenes footage here from the entire shoot featuring major sequences, on-set thoughts, strategery and the cast being peppy and screwing around (Anytime Michael Rosenbaum shows up, you’re in for some hijinx).

  • Part 1 (SD, 17:00)
  • Part 2 (SD, 16:20)
  • Part 3 (SD, 20:4)

Archival Making Of Featurette (SD, 10:09) – From the previous releases. This totally pales in comparison with the new documentary here on the disc. But, its cool to have everything and it also contains some behind the scenes footage of composer Christopher Young working on the score.

Deleted Scene (SD, 2:40)

TV Spots (SD, 1:36)

Gag Reel (SD, 2:14) 

Summary 

Urban Legend has aged quite well in the last 20 years and has always been a very well made, fun and thrilling slasher film from the 90s slasher revival. Scream Factory gives it a terrific audio and video presentation as well. They’ve also given us an INSANELY impressive, lengthy and detailed chronicle of the film with the new two and a half hour documentary on the film that makes this release one of year’s absolute best. Horror fans and slashers should pick this one up as soon as it releases!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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