September 25, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

There’s a doctoral thesis to be written about the way that the modern American horror film undergoes periodic revitalizations only to quickly hammer innovation into new clichés. This is not that doctoral thesis. Instead, it’s just a weary sigh over how Scream’s juicy archness has already turned into boilerplate. Rather than horror movies, the students at Urban Legend’s Pendleton College cross-reference grisly modern folktales (pooch in the microwave, check; boyfriend’s body hanging over the car, check) between merry bouts of getting butchered by a maniac. Proficiently filmed and utterly uninspired, it at least features a ghostly lead performance by Cybill’s Alicia Witt and a final twist that’s entertainingly stupid. But why do all the characters have to be such nasty little dorks? Oh, right, otherwise we’d care about them.

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