Urban Legend is a 1998 slasher film starring Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, and Tara Reid. The film is based on the premise that a killer is using the methods of death described in certain urban legends as a means to kill the victims.
Plot[edit | edit source]
At a gas station, Michelle Mancini (Natasha Gregson Wagner) fights off an apparent attack by Michael McDonnell (Brad Dourif), the stuttering attendant. However, McDonnell was actually trying to warn her of an attacker in the back seat, and as Michelle drives off, the attacker in the back seat decapitates her with an axe. The next evening, on Pendleton University campus, voluptuous radio host Sasha (Tara Reid) receives calls from sexually inexperinced students and offers advice. Across campus, her frat-boy boyfriend Parker (Michael Rosenbaum) relates to Natalie (Alicia Witt) and her best friend Brenda (Rebecca Gayheart) how one of the campus halls, Stanley Hall, had been the site of a massacre in 1973. The story is discredited by school journalist Paul Gardner (Jared Leto).
News about Michelle's death spreads across campus, and Dean Adams (John Neville) tries to discredit the reports that the killer may be a student. As Natalie is shaken by Michelle's death, prankster Damon Brooks (Joshua Jackson) offers to talk and the two drive into the woods. Damon is attacked by the killer, who hangs him from a tree with the rope attached to the car. As the killer approaches Natalie, she attempts to run him over, strangling and killing Damon in the process. Natalie returns to the scene of the crime hours later with campus security guard Reese (Loretta Devine), but Damon and the car are nowhere to be seen.
The next day Natalie tells Brenda, Parker, and Sasha about Damon, but they deny her story and try to convince her it was just an elaborate prank. Natalie is stunned that they don't believe her as she realizes the two murders are connected with urban legends. Natalie goes to the library to read up on urban legends. She runs into Sasha and they read about several legends, including the method in which Damon was killed, and another where Gang members kill anyone who warns them about their headlights. While she is away, her goth roommate Tosh (Danielle Harris), is strangled by the killer. Thinking her roommate is merely engaging in sexual activity, the returning Natalie doesn't turn on the lights and goes to bed. In the morning, a shocked Natalie discovers Tosh's corpse and the words, "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?" scrawled on the wall in her blood.
While talking with Dean Adams and Reese, Natalie realizes that neither of them, nor the police, are treating Tosh's death as a murder, but rather a suicide. Natalie is in disbelief and teams up with Paul to solve the building mystery. Natalie theorizes that the murders have something to do with the anniversary of the Stanley Hall massacre, but once again, Paul discredits the events. They snoop around Professor Wexler's (Robert Englund) office after the school's janitor (Julien Richings) hints that he may know something about the massacre. They are caught by Wexler in his office, who takes them to Dean Adams. Paul is fired from his journalist job and the Dean brings up Natalie's hidden past, a misdemeanor for vehicular manslaughter.
After increasingly accumulating paranoia causes Natalie to damage school property, Natalie reveals her mysterious past to Brenda. One night Natalie and Michelle re-enacted an urban legend; they were driving with their headlights turned off and pursued the first driver who flashed them, causing him to run off the road and die in the crash. Brenda is horrified by the story and suggest that they both attend Parker's party that night to take their minds off the recent events. Natalie reluctantly agrees to go.
That evening, Dean Adams is attacked in the parking garage. His Achilles tendon is slashed and while crawling away his car runs him over, forcing a row of tire spikes to impale his body. Later, Reese finds Professor Wexler's office trashed and slips in a pool of blood. Meanwhile, Paul has discovered the Stanley Hall massacre actually occurred and Wexler was the sole survivor.
At the party, Paul and Natalie theorize that Wexler has snapped due to the anniversary of the traumatic event and is now killing people. Paul consoles Natalie with a kiss, causing a smitten Brenda to leave the party in tears after interrupting them. Paul relays their theory to a drunk Parker, but Parker insinuates that if there is a killer, it's probably Paul. A humiliated Paul leaves the party, telling Natalie to stay at the party as he's going to go look for help elsewhere. Meanwhile, Sasha is embarrassed by Parker's behavior and also leaves the party.
Parker gets a phone call from the killer telling him he's going to die that night. An amused Parker insults the caller, but then the caller says that his dog has just been microwaved. After opening the microwave and seeing his dead dog he runs to the bathroom to vomit. The killer arrives and ties him to the toilet and forces him to chug pop rocks and bathroom chemicals (instead of soda), killing him.
At the radio station Sasha is on air, hosting her radio show. In the background, without Sasha realizing, her employee is stabbed to death. Sasha is attacked next and she screams and runs out of the room. While being pursued by the killer she is still on air and everyone can hear her cries for help. Believing Sasha's screams are all an act, the party-goers are hesitant to help. Natalie, knowing about the killer, rushes to her aid as Sasha is chased throughout the deserted radio station. Sasha's attempts to escape are constantly thwarted by the killer and she injures her leg in a fall and eventually hides in a room on the third floor. Natalie arrives only to see Sasha trapped and crying for help from a window high above. Sasha sinks to the floor as the killer enters the room and sobbingly begs for her life, but the killer ignores her pleas and hacks her apart with the axe. The killer waves at Natalie once Sasha is dead, confirming Natalie's fears that she is the killer's final target.
Fleeing from the station, Natalie finds Brenda and Paul, notifies them of Sasha's death, and they drive off to find help. Meanwhile, Reese, after hearing Sasha's dying moments on the radio, arrives at the station and discovers her mutilated body. Reese then decides to take matters into her own hands and retrieves her gun from her office.
When Paul stops at a gas station, Natalie and Brenda discover Wexler's dead body in the car and bolt, thinking Paul to be the killer. Natalie loses Brenda but makes her way to a road, where the school's janitor picks her up. When the janitor flashes a car with its headlights off, it swerves around and pursues them. The killer then forces the janitor's car off the road. He's knocked unconscious and bloody but Natalie is unhurt and she makes her way back to campus. While calling for help she hears Brenda screaming from inside Stanley Hall. Natalie breaks into the hall and on the second floor she discovers the dead bodies of Parker, Dean Adams, and Damon. In the final room she discovers Brenda lying on a bed, presumably dead. As Natalie starts crying, Brenda sits up and knocks her unconscious.
Waking up, Natalie finds herself tied to a bed and gagged. The killer comes in and unmasks herself as Brenda, who plays mind games with Natalie and taunts her about Natalie's valiant attempt to save her. Brenda reveals that the young man Natalie and Michelle killed was her fiancee and she is now exacting her revenge by turning all Natalie's friends into urban legends. She begins to cut Natalie's stomach in the fashion of the "Kidney Heist" legend, but Reese rushes in and forces Brenda to get away from Natalie. Reese frees Natalie, however, Brenda successfully disarms Reese by slicing her with a hidden knife. Brenda and Reese struggle for the gun, but Reese is shot and Brenda turns the gun on Natalie. Paul then appears and tries to trick Brenda into giving him the gun. Brenda sees through the lie and then asks which of them she should shoot first. Just as she's about to fire, a wounded Reese reaches up and shoots Brenda in the arm with her backup gun, causing Brenda to drop the one she was holding. Natalie grabs the gun and shoots Brenda, who falls through a window.
Natalie and Paul check on a seriously wounded Reese and drive off to get help. Suddenly, Brenda appears in the backseat and attacks them with the axe. Paul is whacked in the head and crashes into the railing on a bridge, sending Brenda flying through the windshield into the river below. Natalie and Paul watch Brenda's body float away and hug, safe from danger.
Some time later, the story is revealed to be a legend being told to another group of students. They all disbelieve the tale, debunking it as a legend. One young woman believes the storyteller, but says he told it wrong. The woman is revealed to be Brenda, who then begins to tell the story as it actually happened.
List of deaths[edit | edit source]
|Name||Cause of Death||Killer||On Screen||Notes|
|David Evans||Car Crash||n/a||Yes||only shown in Flashback|
|Michelle Mancini||decapitated with battle axe while driving/smashes window||Brenda Bates||Yes||
Just like the "Killer in the Back Seat" legend
|Damon Brooks||Hung from tree/strangled by rope tied to car/dropped on car windshield||Brenda Bates||Yes||Just like the "boyfriend being hung from a tree" legend|
|Tosh Guaneri||Strangled in bedroom / Wrists Cut||Brenda Bates||Yes||Similar to the "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the lights" legend|
|Dean Adams||Heel slit with knife, run over by car on tire spikes||Brenda Bates||Yes||Similar to the "slasher under the car" legend|
|Paul's Dog||Fried in microwave||Brenda Bates||Yes||Similar to the "old lady dries wet dog in the microwave" legend.|
|Parker Riley||Head shoved in toilet, funnel shoved down throat/forced pop rocks/drain cleaner down mouth||Brenda Bates||Yes||Similar to the "pop rocks and soda" legend|
|Radio Man||Strangled||Brenda Bates||Yes||Not a legend|
|Sasha Thomas||Hacked twice/beheaded with battle axe||Brenda Bates||Yes||Similar to the "Rollercoaster of love scream" legend as you can hear her screams of terror over the radio|
|Professor Wexler||Knifed||Brenda Bates||No||Mention/ Finds body similarly to the "body under the bed" legend as they can smell him then when investigating the smell find the body.|
|Ran off the road/ car crash||Brenda Bates||Yes||Just like the "gang high beam initiation" legend. Also how Natilie and Michelle killed Brenda's boyfriend which started off the whole revenge plot.|
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Jared Leto as Paul Gardner
- Alicia Witt as Natalie Simon
- Rebecca Gayheart as Brenda Bates
- Tara Reid as Sasha Thomas
- Michael Rosenbaum as Parker Riley
- Loretta Devine as Reese Wilson
- Joshua Jackson as Damon Brooks
- John Neville as Dean Adams
- Julian Richings as Weird Janitor
- Robert Englund as Professor Wexler
- Danielle Harris as Tosh Guaneri
- Natasha Gregson Wagner as Michelle Mancini
- Brad Dourif as Michael McDonnell
Character Types[edit | edit source]
Natalie as The Final Girl
Natalie is the main protagonist and the heroine of Urban Legend. Her actions are the catalyst for the killer's motive, and every story point revolves around her and how it will affect her. She is isolated by her disbelieving friends and authority figures until it is too late to save them. She survives the movie after a harrowing showdown with the killer at the film's climax.
Paul as The Mysterious Guy
Paul is a protagonist of Urban Legend and the male lead. He spends much of the movie off investigating the mysterious events on campus. His morally ambiguous character proves him a prime suspect for the audience and the heroine for much of the movie.
Damon as The Funny Guy
Damon is a practical joker and the comedic relief. His role is brief, but he provides the early laughs while still being someone who may or may not be suspicious.
Brenda as The Bubbly Girl
Brenda is the final girl's best friend. She's bubbly and carefree, but loyal as well. She means more to the final girl than anyone else, and if anything were to happen to her it would devastate our heroine.
Sasha as The Slutty Girl
Sasha is the sexy, but dumb, eye candy. She makes vacuous comments and talks about sex in every scene. Although she doesn't act overtly slutty, she's murdered after a lengthy chase scene where she's dressed in a very revealing low-cut nightgown.
Parker as The Loudmouth Guy
Parker is the bigmouth. He has opinions on everything and is usually antagonistic toward the final girl and male lead without being a villain. He gets his comeuppance from the killer when his harshly skeptical ways lead to his violent demise.
Urban Legends Recreated or Referenced[edit | edit source]
The following urban legends are mentioned or depicted in the film:
- A caller to Sasha's radio show states that she replaced her room mate's birth control pills with baby aspirin.
- A caller to Sasha's radio show thinks about having her stomach pumped after performing oral sex on the school team.
- A couple suffering from penis captivus call in to Sasha's radio show.
- Michelle is killed by the killer in the backseat. This legend is also referenced by various people looking at the back seat or talking about it.
- Brenda and Natalie try to conjure up Bloody Mary.
- Professor Wexler mentioned the legend of the babysitter getting phone calls from an upstairs room. This legend is later referred to by Parker moments before his death.
- Professor Wexler suggests eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda at the same time. The death of Little Mikey from this is mentioned by Brenda. The killer later re-enacts this legend on Parker, substituting soda with bathroom chemicals.
- Damon is hung from a tree while Natalie is waiting in the car below.
- Parker suggests placing spider eggs in Bubble Yum and gerbilling as the killer's next move.
- Gangs driving with their headlights turned off, pursuing the first driver to flash them and running him off the road, is mentioned by Sasha in the library. It is later revealed that Natalie and Michelle did this, killing a young man, subsequently re-enacted by the killer on Natalie and the Janitor and finally revealed as central to the killer's motive.
- Natalie finds her roommate strangled to death next to her with the note "Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?"
- The urban legend slasher under the car is re-enacted on Dean Adams.
- A guest at the party reveals to Sasha that the song "Love Rollercoaster" contains a real murder scream; this mirrors Sasha's death where her dying screams for help are broadcast over the radio.
- Parker finds the remains of his dog in the microwave, resembling the "Old Lady dries wet dog in microwave" legend.
- Brenda tries to re-enact the Kidney Heist on Natalie.
Reception[edit | edit source]
The film was not well received by critics, with a rating of 21% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews with 10 fresh and 38 rotten. The website's consensus is: "Elements of Scream reappear in a vastly inferior vehicle".
Since 1998 it has developed a small fanbase, but many critics still argue it has too many flaws and illogical moments to warrant classic status.