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Friday September 29, 2000

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New slasher flick

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By Ian Caruth

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Clunky sequel full of gore, little else

Evil genius Kevin Williamson's 1996 "Scream" script was justifiably praised for its ironic deconstruction of the horror genre, but it has also given rise to a spate of unholy offspring. That movie's hip self-reference has proved to be an irresistible temptation for hack filmmakers to undertake a stylistic dead-end. For every lame, uninspired slasher flick that gave rise to "Scream," there is a lame, derivative slasher flick exploiting its success.

The first "Urban Legend" movie fell firmly into the latter category, a WB soap opera of a horror movie that wasted its cool premise - shadowy killer liquidates teens in the style of well-known urban legends - on terrible acting and an underwritten script. There was some fun, mostly courtesy of a little well-timed humor, but not enough to redeem it from the ranks of middling horror tripe. Unfortunately, the franchise returns - well, sort of - with the inexplicable sequel "Urban Legend 2: Final Cut."

Linked to the previous film only through the presence of lots of hot, dead chicks and sassily annoying security guard Reese, "UL2" features a whole new collection of cute post-teens learning to live, love and club each other to death at a prestigious private college. This time, the setting for sinister scholasticism is an eastern film school where students are taught how to make really crappy horror movies, if the student film clips that are shown are any indication.

Competition for the "Hitchcock" award - which guarantees a shot at a successful Hollywood career, sort of like fellating a producer - brings out the more Machiavellian instincts among students. The audience learns this through distracting, non-subtle expository dialogue, like when one student says to another, "I've got to win the Hitchcock. It guarantees a shot at a successful Hollywood career."

Like most students eager for the approval of faculty members, one of the emergent auteurs of "UL2" soon begins killing other ones, for no apparent reason, doing so in a manner imitating several supposed urban legends. Unfortunately, the first movie apparently exhausted the supply of interesting urban legends, leading this film to recycle one from its predecessor and seemingly invent the rest. This disconnects the audience from the subject matter, so that instead of playing off well-known - and therefore more accessible and engrossing - myths, this movie just seems like a standard-issue slasher flick.

The characters are no help. Featuring a roster full of insufferable film brats, creepy production assistants and a token black guy, the leads are pretty, rich, well-connected and charmless - not exactly a sympathetic bunch of slasher-bait. Their personalities and pretensions become so grating that by the third act, at the latest, the audience roots for the gruesome deaths of these worthless people.

The script - by a pair of first-time scribes - loses itself in a maze of dead-ends and contradictions. In their desperate attempt to sustain audience interest, the screenwriters throw in a long-lost twin, a deceptive dream sequence, some unnecessarily threatening bit parts and other cheesy, facile tricks. These smoke-and-mirrors elements are meant to confuse the border between fiction and reality, underscoring the filmic metaphors running throughout the film. Unfortunately, they come across as simplistic attempts to save a sinking ship.

Annoying and misleading plot twists, a clumsy and misplaced homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock, and gory violence without the usual accompanying gratuitous nudity mark this film as nearly unwatchable. Made by hacks, about hacks, it is unclear what sort of audience would enjoy this crapfest - whoever they are, they should be ashamed.