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what hath kevin williamson wrought ?
while the horror movie revival spurred on by his _scream_ has yielded a few decent entries in the genre--_i_know_what_you_did_last_summer_ , _halloween : _h20_ , and _scream_2_ --it must be noted that williamson himself had a hand in the writing of those films .
those williamson-less post-_scream_ efforts , among them _wishmaster_ and the recent _disturbing_behavior_ , have been frightening all right--frighteningly , insultingly _bad_ .
add to that list _urban_legend_ , which takes a promising premise and runs it through a predictable meat grinder of idiocy .
the influence of williamson on screenwriter silvio horta is clear in two key areas .
first , the opening sequence , like that of _scream_ , is an extended set piece detailing the singular murder that gets the proverbial ball rolling .
this sequence , in which pendleton college coed michelle mancini ( natasha gregson wagner ) is decapitated while driving , also reveals the other obviously williamson-esque touch : the killer's look .
dressed in a large hooded parka , wielding an axe , the killer bears more than a passing resemblance to the _i_know . . . _fisherman ,
sans the hook .
one thing horta does not borrow from williamson , however , is the intriguing premise .
students at pendleton are being killed by way of urban legends--those contemporary bits of " mythology " passed from person to person , group to group , year to year that become so embedded in the social consciousness .
it hardly matters if they are true or not , such as the tall tale that mikey from the life cereal commercials died from a fatal combination of pop rocks and pepsi ( he didn't ) .
michelle , slain by the " killer lurking in the backseat " of lore , is but the first to fall prey to an urban legend come true ; as the body count rises , fellow pendleton student natalie ( alicia witt ) suspects not only a link between the murders , but a personal link to her past as well .
the setup shows promise , but the story never takes off , due in large part to horta and the director , the aptly named jamie blanks , who fires round afer round of his namesake in terms of suspense and scares .
too many of the would-be shocks are fakeouts reliant on bombastic music cues , and the film's chase scenes are riddled with the cliches that _scream_ tried to subvert , like screaming damsels knowingly running themselves into dead ends when they should--and could--run out the front door .
but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cliches ; there's also the climactic villain confession , in which a contrived and way-too-convenient motive is revealed , not to mention the credit card opening up the locked door trick , which is a cliche in any film genre .
banks and horta's ( intentional ) attempts at humor are also lame ; the fact that the best gags are lazy , in-jokey references to the other credits of co-stars joshua jackson and rebecca gayheart says a lot about the imagination of their humor .
some laughs are also had when the rather predictable identity of the killer is revealed , but i'm not so sure if some of the more hilarious things about it were meant to be so .
the filmmakers don't get much help from their onscreen talent .
i was far from a fan of bland _i_know . . . _
starlet jennifer love hewitt , but i'd talke her any day ove the dreadfully stiff and uncharismatic witt , whose inept attempts at emoting were often met with laughter ; witt has a pefect foil in her equally pesence-challenged leading man , jared leto .
_dawson's_creek_ star jackson mugs his way thorugh a glorified cameo ; gayheart displays all the depth and range of , well , a noxzema spokeswoman ; and robert englund lends the film little more than his freddy krueger pedigree as a folklore professor .
granted , the cast is hampered by their material .
loretta devine , who has done some fine work in films such as _waiting_to_exhale_ , is saddled with the ridiculous role of a pam grier-worshiping campus security guard .
the recently resuscitated horror genre cannot rely on the efforts one man--namely , kevin williamson--to stay alive .
if other filmmakers continue to make such shoddy product as _urban_legend_ , the genre looks to once again go the way of screen slashers' many victims .