If you’ve ever wondered why the sexually promiscuous leads in a horror film don’t hear the painfully obvious sound cues warning of an impending jump scare, then look no further than Legend Has It. A meta monster tale designed to bulldoze through the fourth wall, this 2008 indie comedy makes the self-aware cinebuffs of Scream look like Jamie Lee Curtis caught in the headlights.
The story beings typically enough. After a bloody prologue that calls to mind a minor scene in any Friday the 13th sequel (though to be particular, Part VI), we meet our likable geek of a star: Rich McNinch as Al Cunningham, a film student procrastinating his way through a final project with the help of his girlfriend, Crispin Glover-esque (circa Friday the 13th Part IV) brother, crass roommate, and token twentysomething gal pals looking for fun in a not-at-all suspicious cabin in the woods.
Naturally, there’s a man-eating mutant on the loose, but Legend Has It isn’t about to surprise us with fear. Instead, it plays with the very concept of bad cliche-ridden horror by letting Al discover that he is indeed the star of…a very bad horror movie riddled with cliches.
Characters have sex only to die immediately thereafter. Grizzly townspeople leap into frame from nowhere to send ominous warnings. Day turns to night at the convenience of a reel change and a three-hour car ride is reduced to just enough running time for a character-establishing conversation. Through it all, only Al and eventually, a tough female space captain escaped from a low budget sci-fi movie have any real idea that they’re being watched…by us.
Legend Has It is the rare little movie that knows exactly what it wants to do and who it wants to do it for. Characters are randomly named for past icons of horror (references abound to Craven, O’Bannon, and Hooper) and official scream queen Linnea Quigley cameos for no reason other than the fact that she’s Linnea Quigley. With a premise built on the very idea of a low budget, it easily excuses itself from typical indie gaffs (cameramen in shot) by both intentionally and unintentionally acknowledging that such mistakes should be there.
Co-directors Insane Mike Saunders and Jason Bolinger haven’t made a masterpiece, but to the current horror audience continuously jaded by repeating mediocrity, their effort is much appreciated. Led by the very game McNinch, the entire cast displays cheerful enthusiasm at playing self-acknowledged caricatures forced to do the kind of things future stars try to forget: take their clothes off, get torn apart by a plant monster, and awkwardly dance out of sync.
Not every joke hits where it should, but once you get to the hook of Legend Has It, the film reveals itself to be far smarter than the often uninspired films it targets. Any self-respecting horror fan will find a kindred spirit in Al Cunningham and, I imagine, screenwriter Insane Mike Saunders.
Legend Has It is now available on DVD and can be ordered through Prescribed Films’ official website, www.prescribedfilms.com. The special edition release includes a commentary, making-of featurettes, a blooper reel and an interview with the woman formerly known as Trash, Ms. Linnea Quigley herself.