October 2, 2000



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Some intense moments, plenty of references to other films, clever gibes at the whole movie industry culture, and much more content than the nay-sayer critics recognize.

As the pic opens, we see a group of college students flying back from vacationing in Hawaii. Amidst the frolicking in the aisles, we come to notice that a mad slasher is loose, and has already killed the crew! As frantic Sandra (Jessica Cauffiel) enters the cockpit, trying somehow to take control of the plane, with the killer pounding on the locked door, Toby (Anson Mount) yells "Cut." We have been watching a movie being filmed by students at fictional Alpine University, home of the "greatest film school that ever existed."

Many of the students will be competing for the Hitchcock Award, that virtually guarantees its winner a contract with a major film studio upon graduation. Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison), daughter of a celebrated documentary maker, and Travis Stark (Matthew Davis) are leading contenders.

Amy chooses to make a horror film, in which the perp stages urban legends to kill his victims. Sound a lot like Urban Legend (1998)?

As Amy and her cast and crew watch the dailies, they are surprised to see a scene featuring Sandra, in her most convincing performance yet, getting murdered à la Peeping Tom (1960). Assuming that the clip was just put in as a lark, nothing more is made of it. Sandra is not around for the screening, but was scheduled to be out of town, to act in a commercial.

Later on, Amy visits Travis, who tells her that his film, which everyone thought would be brilliant, has been given a very low grade. The next day, Travis' suicide is announced to the students.

Soon after, Trevor (Matthew Davis), Travis' heretofore unknown twin brother, teams up with Amy to investigate. He is positive that Trevor would not have killed himself.

Amy snoops around the film department, and discovers that the credits for Travis' film were spliced to a terrible movie, that was not his. While doing this, though, she is nearly killed by a slasher dressed in a skull mask and cape.

One by one, everybody who worked on Travis' film is being killed. That, of course, is bad enough. Amy had no connection to his project, so why is she also being targeted?

The answer may surprise you, but since the film school setting of Urban Legend: Final Cut is clearly based on the ultra-competitive and dripping with attitude USC School of Cinema-Television, anything is possible.

Ironically, the pic was shot on location at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada--an academic institution that has no film school. Moreover, the Canadian locale would signify the growing trend to so-called runaway production, and pays homage to the early second wave horror classic Black Christmas (1974), the first movie featuring college students living in a big house, getting killed one by one.

Final Cut includes a surprisingly negative reference to George Lucas, a former USC student. Perhaps it was in reaction to the over-hyped and very disappointing Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).

Taking into account the budgets available, and the directors' level of experience, I much prefer Final Cut.


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