Follow TV Tropes


Film / Urban Legend

Go To

"Someone's taking all of these stories, and making them reality."

Urban Legend is a 1998 Slasher Movie directed by Jamie Blanks, starring Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson, Tara Reid, Michael Rosenbaum, Robert Englund, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif and Loretta Devine.

After the vitality boost given by the success of Scream (1996), slashers returned to mainstream media and followers were sure to follow. Urban Legend is one of those followers, along with I Know What You Did Last Summer and Valentine.

The movie and its sequels, Urban Legends: Final Cut and Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, all share a similar premise: someone is killing young adults, taking cues from well-known urban legends.


These examples happened to someone who knows someone you know:

  • Adults Are Useless: And cops too. Averted by the campus police officer Reese Wilson, who represents both. She actually lampshades this trope:
    Reese Wilson: You know what really chaps my hide? The way you pledged an oath to serve and protect — and then you don't give a rat's ass when something really happens!
  • Alliterative Name: Brenda Bates. A possible reference to Norman Bates... which fits perfectly.
  • An Axe to Grind: The killer prefers an ax. And as it later turns out, she fits the other sense of the phrase as well.
  • Asshole Victim: Michelle, Tosh, Damon, Parker, and the Dean.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved:
    (Reese tells him that Damon is missing)
    Dean Adams: Missing? He's not missing! It's the weekend. He's most likely shacked up in some motel with a girl. Or a guy... farm animal... whatever! Weren't you ever eighteen?
    Reese: Not that kind of eighteen.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bilingual Bonus: Believe it or not, the movie’s twist is staring us in the face the whole time… in the form of Pendleton University’s motto; Amicum Optimum Factum, which in Latin translates to, "The Best Friend Did It".
  • Bookends: The film ends as it started after opening credits, with a group of people discussing urban legends.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: In the film's opening, a gas station attendant (Brad Dourif) tries to warn Michelle Mancini about the killer in her backseat, but is unable to do this due to his stuttering.
  • Car Cushion: Damon drops into one.
  • Chase Scene: Sasha is pursued by the axe-wielding killer through a deserted radio station.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Parker. The Pop Rocks urban legend is used on him, but the killer substitutes soda with a combination of bathroom chemicals.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Pendleton University's janitor, although it's a Red Herring to add to the whole "urban legend" feel.
  • Cute and Psycho: Brenda is an adorable girl with big Quirky Curls...and is also a deranged psychotic spree killer.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: The killer hides in the backseat of a car. Twice.
  • Death by Sex: Given the fact that she is the sluttiest girl of Pendleton University, it was inevitable for Tosh.
  • Downer Ending: Brenda, the killer, not only gets away but is implied to have successfully killed everyone in the sequel.
  • Evil All Along: The killer is revealed to be Natalie's best friend, Brenda.
  • Evil Gloating: The killer enjoys taunting Natalie after each killing and during The Reveal.
  • Expy: Most of the cast qualifies as Expies for characters from Scream-
    • Natalie is obviously very much inspired by Sidney Prescott.
    • Paul is Gale Weathers, as both are reporters who initially take advantage of the killing sprees to help their careers before having a change of heart and helping solve them.
    • Reese is Dewey, a seemingly inefficient but ultimately dedicated and surprisingly competent comic relief cop
    • In addition, these three are the survivors of the movie, much like the Scream trio. Maybe. Of the others, Parker would be Stu and Tatum would be Sasha.And Brenda would be Billy.
  • False Friend: Brenda is revealed to be this to Natalie.
  • Final Girl: In the finale, Brenda has Natalie at her mercy, but she fights back and ultimately survives.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Sasha's death is shown in a cutaway as the killer axes her to death. It's no coincidence that the only Nice Girl to be killed in tearjerking manner has a more off-camera death than the rest of the victims.
  • Goth: Tosh dresses in all black, and has a penchant for black makeup, as well as rough sex through an email for Goths.
  • In the Hood: Killer dresses in a hooded parka.
  • Karma Houdini: Brenda is presumed dead after a climatic crash, but the final scene reveals she is very much alive and, due to her being presumed dead, seems to have gotten away with everything. And as revealed in the sequel, got a job as a nurse, of all things. She also asserts in the ending that the story was told incorrectly, and Final Cut claims she killed eight students. Ultimately, she likely won.
  • Kill 'Em All: It's implied that Brenda succeeded in killing Natalie and Paul. Essentially confirmed in Final Cut, where Reese says eight college students died. It'd be 6 if Paul and Natalie lived.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Downplayed with Sasha, who is a lot more "lovable" than "Alpha Bitch". The meanest thing she does is mocks a really dumb caller on her radio show.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Brenda. It was the death of her fiancé David that caused her to snap.
  • Make-Out Point: Damon tries to score with Natalie at one. Then the killer shows up and kills him.
  • Menacing Stroll: The killer approaches all of his victims like this.
  • Microwave the Dog: The killer does this to Hootie the dog in order to draw one of the victims out to kill him.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: In the opening scene, a woman mistakes a gas station attendant for this (or a rapist; it's not entirely clear) when he was really trying to warn her about the murderer hiding in the backseat of her car.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sasha is introduced as the sex-obsessed radio host on campus. During her extended chase scene, she's wearing a low-cut dress and knee-high boots. The camera lingers on her cleavage throughout the scene, with a few close-up shots of her breasts.
  • My Car Hates Me: Damon's car pulls this when he is being attacked.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never explained exactly what the deal between the Stanley Hall Massacre was, other than that Wexler was the only suvivor.
  • Off with His Head!: Done, but not shown with Michelle's death.
  • Oh, Crap!: Natalie during the film's conclusion at Stanley Hall, upon realizing who Brenda really is.
  • Organ Theft: This is one of the murder methods the killer plans to use. Of course, the killer admits that they are not too good at anatomy and will probably just grab the first major organ they see.
  • Really Gets Around: Tosh, which is the cause of the (subverted) Sex in a Shared Room entry below.
  • Red Herring:
    • The Stanley Hall massacre of 1973.
    • Not to mention that two prominent horror film killers have roles. Professor Wexler is one early on. Not only was he the sole survivor of the aforementioned Stanley Hall incident, he frightens students in his class by describing two well-known urban legends, one of them reenacted by the killer later for a murder, and the fact that he's portrayed by Robert Englund doesn't help him avoid suspicion. However, Wexler himself is later a victim.
  • The Reveal: Natalie and Michelle had played a prank by blinking the headlights of their car to an unsuspecting driver, disorienting and accidentally killing him. The same driver turns out to be Brenda's beloved fiancé whose death had caused her to snap.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The hooded killer is revealed to be Brenda.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Reese, the security guard at the college.
  • School Newspaper News Hound: Paul repeatedly badgers everyone, especially Natalie, to get the inside scoop on the killings.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: Invoked, and subverted. Natalie thinks this is happening when she returns to her and Tosh's dorm room and finds Tosh pinned down by a dark figure. She goes to bed and puts her headphones in. It turns out that Tosh was actually being killed in the dark, which Natalie only realizes once she turns on the light.
  • Shout-Out: The initial victim, Michele Mancini, shares the surname with Child's Play creator Don Mancini. This is especially relevant since the gas station attendant who attempts to warn her is played by Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: Blonde-haired Sasha is the final victim of the ax-wielding killer in the film. Her death plays up the character's sexual nature by dressing her in a skimpy, low-cut dress for a long chase scene through a campus building.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Played with and subverted in the film's opening as it seemed the gas station attendant was going to attack Michelle, but was actually trying to tell her that someone was in the backseat of her car. Needless to say, she learned the hard way.
  • Tagline: "It happened to someone who knows someone you know. You're next."
  • Tragic Keepsake: During The Reveal, we find out that Brenda’s necklace is this. It was given to her by her fiancé David (because he couldn’t afford an engagement ring at the time) the very same night that he was killed in the car accident Natalie and Michelle caused.
    Brenda: (sadly) David and I were gonna get married that summer. Right after graduation. He didn’t have enough money to buy me a ring yet, so... (grips her necklace) he got me this instead. (angrily rips necklace off and glares at Natalie) The night YOU TOOK HIM AWAY FROM ME!!!
  • Unreliable Narrator: The ending reveals that the events of the film have become an urban legend at the school, and it's implied that the person telling the story is this. See Fridge Brilliance for more.
  • Warning Mistaken for Threat: The stuttering gas station attendant chases the opening victim Michelle Mancini, hammering on her windows and scaring the hell out of her. She thinks he's attacking her and runs away fast, only to realize that he was trying to warn her about the killer hiding in the back of her car.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Brenda turns out the be the killer, but it's all because Natalie and her friend caused her fiance to die due to a stupid prank. While this doesn't justify mass murder, she's completely justified in being furious at Natalie.