Tara Reid is on minds recently with the 20th anniversary of Josie and The Pussycats. The once poorly received movie has now been cemented a cult classic. But when I think of Tara, I will always first think of Sasha in Urban Legend. A role that foreshadowed a later unexpected resurgence as a horror action star. Thanks to the Sharknado franchise. Sasha Thomas perhaps seems like a minor character. But it might just be the actress at her best.
Sasha Thomas endures the standard slasher fate. But she’s always felt like a character that should’ve survived her horror movie.
The 1998 Urban Legend, like Josie, also didn’t find its fanbase until after it’s release. Fans now consider it a top slasher. It even got two sequels. Also the directorial debut of Jamie Blanks who went on to do one of my favorite slasher horrors, Valentine, four years later.
This last year at home brought mass streaming of older movies. Lots of 90’s and aughts horror being revisited or newly discovered. With the recent release of the Urban Legend trilogy blu-ray box set, the nostalgia is greater than ever. The definitive limited collector’s edition by 88 Films includes commentary, deleted scenes, and classic artwork. Plus – an eight part documentary on the making of the movie!
In honor of the collectors edition set, here’s why Sasha in Urban Legend deserved better:
20 years later, though littered with 90’s pop culture references, the film still holds up. A pre pretentious Jared Leto plays clean cut good guy Paul (though briefly a red herring). It also boasts a handful of famous names from the biggest horror franchises of all time. Robert Englund, Brad Dourif and Danielle Harris all have small, pivotal roles.
The plot’s pretty simple: Protagonist Natalie, (Alicia Witt) is a student at Pendelton University. Along with friends Brenda (who Gen xers know as Noxema girl and the movie even references), Sasha (Reid), her boyfriend Parker (Michael Rosenblum) and Damon, the frat boy. Joshua Jackson in his Dawson’s prime. Complete with bleached blonde dyed hair. After Natalie’s high school BFF Michelle is murdered, she figures out a serial killer is acting out classic urban legends.
Reid isn’t the star of Urban Legend, nor is she the final girl. But she is (perhaps except for Brenda) the most interesting character.
Slashers always contain tropes, especially for women. One often used is the dimwitted best friend or ditz who will likely make poor choices that result in her murder. In Halloween, good girl Lori’s extroverted, oversexed friends are easy, unchallenging victims. In Scream, Sidney’s BFF famously attempted to escape through the small opening in the garage door. We know how that worked out. Mega fans have long wanted justice for Tatum Riley, (played by a blonde Rose McGowan). But in truth, she fits the bill for a great victim.
Cue Sasha, who doesn’t quite fit the stereotype.
Despite being blonde and beautiful. She’s a college radio host for her own sex show. Independent and ahead of her time. Charming, yet unafraid to express her sexuality. Long before women were hosting sex talk podcasts. Unlike many similar horror characters there’s more to her than looks and partying.
She’s only seen congregating with friends once. At the college costume party everyone’s drinking, but Sasha’s bored and uninterested. Even leaving to go do her radio show. (Apparently she can broadcast whenever she feels like it, but that’s ok.)
In fact, when we first meet Sasha its only aurally. On Michelle (Natasha Wagner) ‘s radio while she’s driving on a dark road. Moments from being murdered. Listening to a raspy, confident, sexy voice, we hear that it’s ‘Under the Covers with Sasha on WZAB. The voice of Pendleton University.’
When everyone’s gathered, and talking about the murder, Sasha says “she was listening to me when it happened. My voice was the last thing she heard”. From anyone else, this would be self absorbed. But from her, it feels slightly charming. Almost like a concerned, but excited response to having a role in the girl’s story.
Later, Natalie’s in the college library. Doing the classic, search for a book to research what’s happening to you horror trope. She runs into Sasha who, in pigtails, excitedly tells her she found a special, old version of the Kama Sutra. Something not just anyone can pull off.
Reid’s part is much smaller than some of the other characters. Although pictures on IMDB of her and boyfriend Parker imply she had more scenes that didn’t make the cut. Sasha in Urban Legend came after a small but noticeable part in the classic The Big Lebowski. But a year before her star turning role as Vicky in the American Pie movies.
Sasha’s downfall comes when she’s at her most vulnerable, but powerful. Alone, at night, doing her show. Though obviously convenient, it seems odd she would run off to do her radio show in the middle of a party. Although she does seem to be in a better mood once she gets there. Maybe she’s just happier doing what she loves. So it’s symbolic that she would be killed during it. Her screams are even broadcast for the audience. Natalie is the only one concerned. A party goer says she sounds great and is doing stellar performance art.
She also lasts longer than anyone else. Her co worker gets it instantly. But Sasha puts up a good fight against the puffy jacket killer. She falls off a staircase without any broken bones, (Reid did her own stunts too). Then finds her way back upstairs. Before her inevitable death by axe -wielding killer while Natalie watches in despair. And rocking a white lace bustier.
When watching horror, fans are in it for the kills. It’s fun seeing how stereotypical young adults will get slaughtered. A concept that horror movie Cabin in the Woods (celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this year) brilliantly satirizes. Slashers mostly exist for this concept.
But because Sasha is cooler than the typical, rando friend, it makes her death tougher to accept. I understand it of course. But she still feels worthy of making it to the end with Natalie, Paul, and campus security cop, Reese (Loretta Devine).
It’s not unheard of to spare the friend. Or end a horror with more than just the final girl. Cabin in the Woods does it. Nightmare on Elm Street’s Dream Warriors ends with three survivors. (Though they’re all killed within the first 20 minutes of the next film.) And part five, The Dream Child has heroine Alice’s best friend Yvonne survive with her. 2018’s Hell Fest also let’s the best friend live.
So I’ll hold onto the fantasy that somewhere out there (perhaps in a deleted scene) exists an Urban Legend where Sasha survives. Technically, we never see her again, so whose to say she didn’t?
Tara Reid recently told Refinery 29 she’s looking forward to the next chapter and a more leading lady role. But for me, I’ll always go back to Sasha in Urban Legend. She’s one of my favorite supporting characters in horror. Even if she doesn’t make it out alive.Views – 1960