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Ottman, John (b. 1964)  
 
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However, Ottman did find a way to develop a personal twist to the standard slasher formula by inserting numerous obvious references to earlier horror movies. In this way, he ironically deconstructed the genre of violent films and revealed the artificiality of his own movie. The plot and setting of Urban Legends: Final Cut were conducive to this sort of ironic revision. Set at a prestigious film school, the story concerns the successive deaths of students developing thesis projects in competition for an award named after Alfred Hitchcock.

Given the constant evocations of Hitchcock's name during the course of the movie, it is appropriate that the leading character, Amy (Jennifer Morrison), is a beautiful, morally conflicted blonde. The movie is organized very much like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (directed by George Pollock, 1965), although no convincing explanation for the deaths is provided at the conclusion.

Sponsor Message.

Recalling Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), eerily flashing lights in dark corridors prepare the audience to expect acts of violence. One of the most compelling moments in the film is a scene--obviously modeled upon Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960)--of students viewing a film of the murder of one of their colleagues. With the exception of Amy, all the students regard this as a really cool event; in another context, Ottman undoubtedly would have developed the interesting moral issues raised by this general response. Inserted between deaths, scenes of professors discussing fine points of film construction remind the audience of the director's tongue-in-cheek approach.

Although Ottman was not able to develop the characters in the way that he wanted, he did devote a great deal of attention to devising effective settings for the action. Determined to avoid the neo-Gothic architecture that might have been expected in this sort of movie, he filmed Urban Legends: Final Cut on the modernistic campus of Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario; located along a river, this university provided a setting that was at once sophisticated and dramatic. At an amusement park near Toronto, Ottman also cheaply but innovatively reconfigured several rides to suit the needs of the film. Occasionally evoking themes that Bernard Herrmann composed for Psycho (1960) and other films by Alfred Hitchcock, Ottman created a dynamic, but melodic, score that underlined the violence.

Confused by the combination of violence and ironic references to cinema history, mainstream critics generally dismissed Ottman's debut as a director. However, the film was favorably reviewed in the gay media. Although not a commercial success, Urban Legends: Final Cut developed a cult following among gay audiences, who seem to have been attuned to the camp humor evident in Ottman's deconstruction of horror films and who undoubtedly enjoyed the subplot involving a sexy, flirtatious lesbian (played by Eve Mendes).

Ottman in the Twenty-first Century

Building upon his achievements in the later 1990s, Ottman has been remarkably prolific in the opening years of the twenty-first century. Since 2000, he has composed music for over twenty movies, and he also has edited (with co-editor John Graham) two films directed by his friend Bryan Singer--X2 and Superman Returns.

Although he is still sometimes stereotyped as a specialist in horror and thriller music, Ottman has produced notably diverse scores for recent films. For Blair Hayes's Bubble Boy (2001), he created an appropriately zany and irreverent comic score.

Recognizing the camp potential of the story of giant spiders that try to take over a western town, Ottman also incorporated many lighthearted, humorous cues in Ellory Elkayem's Eight Legged Freaks (2002), although he balanced these with dramatic music that accented the occasional tragic turns in the action.

In his themes for Luis Mandoki's Trapped (2003), a story about a botched kidnapping, he evoked a sense of impending doom beneath placid normalcy. For John Polson's Hide and Seek (2005), he devised a notably complex score that conveyed a variety of moods, ranging from tender innocence to melancholy and fear.

Conflicting schedules prevented Ottman from working with Singer on his initial X-Men movie (2000), but he was able to participate in the sequel, X2 (2003). To insure continuity in the series, Ottman occasionally utilized passages from the main theme that Michael Kamen had created for X-Men. However, overall, he created a highly original, richly textured score that differed significantly from the straightforward action music produced by Kamen.

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