Monday, November 23, 2020

When Legends Go Hollywood

After the incredibly pleasant surprise I had in revisiting Urban Legend, it seemed like my duty to watch the rest of the series. Part 2: Final Cut is now streaming on Shudder, and boy oh boy does it justify that $4 a month price.

Quick Plot: At an unnamed, clearly Canadian film university, a batch of students are working hard on their final projects in the hopes of winning the all-important Hitchcock Award. Auteur Travis thinks he has a shot, with his competition being horror hack Tobey, legacy jerk Graham (JoSEPH Lawrence), and hard-working but uninspired Amy. 

Amy's screenwriting block gets broken after a pleasant chat with a familiar face to Urban Legend fans: it's Reese! Loretta Divine is back in action, having been fired from Pendleton University for her refusal to comply with their coverup of 8 student deaths. 

Reese tells Amy all about her 1998 adventures, which prompts Amy to put together her own urban legend-inspired slasher. Coincidentally, just as her filming starts, Amy's pals start dying in elaborate style, though save for your basic kidney ice bath, the kills are more film-based than campfire tale.

Final Cut is based off a script by team Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson, who also delivered The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Hellraiser: Inferno. It's clearly of the Scream (or more specifically, Scream 2) ilk, focusing more on film references than the folktales of its predecessor. 

It's a switch that pays off just fine. Sure, there are winky moments of "let's talk about movies," but there are also plenty of visual references that go unchecked, letting film fams nod in appreciation without having everything explained to them as if they were in a film 101 class. Director John Ottoman is far better known for his work editing and scoring films (including, I say with a measured groan, a lot of Bryan Singer's work). This remains his only directorial gig, which is surprising because you know what? It's really fun.

We're still rounding out the '90s, a time where our lead's hip fashion involved a sweater tanktop over a long-sleeved tee and film students considered insulting George Lucas a cardinal sin. In the fine tradition of horror sequels, the film is loaded with before-they-were-famous 2000 faces, including Eva Mendes, Anthony Anderson, and Anson Mount. More importantly, the horror itself has a sense of humor.

Ottoman has a clear understanding of slasher fundamentals, staging some genuinely suspenseful sequences with a spirited wink. Films about film students can often feel obnoxiously self-aware, but Final Cut feels aware that, you know, films about film students can feel obnoxiously self-aware. I don't think Final Cut tries to act smarter than its slasher brethren. It seems to know it's far from the scariest or funniest of its ilk. It's a movie made to have fun with its concepts, and on that front, it works incredibly well. 

High Points
I'm a mark for a good horror sequence on a dark ride, and Final Cut makes outstanding use of this with an old timey miner-themed tunnel of love (with strong Pirates of Carribean overtones, no less)

Low Points
As someone who grew up on a hearty dose of late '80s/early '90s soap opera storylines, I love a good "twin that looks absolutely identical because it's just the same actor" trick, but considering how much fun Final Cut has with itself, it's weird that the Travis/Trevor character is so darn dull

Lessons Learned
Wasted in the only way to fly

I don't ever want to judge another woman's sexual details, but I feel like you're doing something wrong if your sexual fantasy dream involves you wearing unflattering granny panties

Never outright TELL the jaded 911 operator that you've awoken in a tub of ice cubes with a missing kidney. Just say, "I've lost a lot of blood" and let the paramedics take it from there

I had a blast with Urban Legends: Final Cut, from the opening rug pull to its campy coda. Onward to Bloody Mary!

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