Vanessa Valdeon, ‘Urban Legends: The Final Cut’, And Queer Characters In The Early Aughts [The Lone Queer]

Urban Legends The Final Cut Eva Mendes

The string of slashers that followed in Scream’s footsteps boasts a predictable array of characters, barely any of which could be classified as queer. There are some that are queer-coded, but the amount of actual queer individuals can be counted on one hand. If you think about it, there should have been a plethora of queer characters during that era. A lot of the slashers were written or directed by queer people. Kevin Williamson would follow up Scream with Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and The Faculty (1998). Jeffrey Reddick wrote Final Destination (2000). The first Urban Legend (1998) was written by Silvio Horta. So on and so forth. 

One of the fingers on that aforementioned hand belongs to Vanessa Valdeon, a lesbian in 2000’s Urban Legends: The Final Cut. Vanessa, portrayed by Eva Mendes in one of her earlier credits, is part of a group of film school students working on a thesis film about an urban legend serial killer. Vanessa is tough and hardworking but is one of the least-developed characters in the film. 

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Granted, this is a by-the-numbers slasher of the aughts. We can’t really expect much out of the side characters. The final girl gets all of the accolades, and there’s no faulting that. That’s the regimen for a slasher of any era. In the year 2000, when we have a queer woman amidst the victim fodder—because you just know she’s going to end up being buried—we want more than a few interactions. Again, this is during the early aughts slasher phase so we should know that we wouldn’t get much more than that. Initially, I wondered if dedicating an entire Lone Queer to Vanessa was worth it. It is worth it. Out of this era of slashers that I’m speaking of, she is one of two lone queers that I can recall (the other is being saved for a future iteration of this column). 

Vanessa makes her appearance within the film’s first moments as a boom mic operator on the set of a student film. We get the stereotypical, but also appreciative, hardened sort of personality which is revealed via a few expletives when she gets annoyed. The reveal of her sexuality comes a little bit later in the film when a camera operator hits on her. Her response? “If you were a girl, I would definitely fuck you.” She’s then picked up by her girlfriend (we aren’t privy enough to Vanessa’s life to know if she is), and they drive off leaving said camera operator in a state of icky satisfaction. 

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Vanessa’s next shining moment is when she realizes that our film’s final girl, Amy (Jennifer Morrison), is perturbed by the possibility of a killer on campus. Vanessa checks in with Amy, asking if she’s okay, but follows it up with one of those obvious up and down, “I will ravage,” you sort of looks. After the run-in with the camera operator, and then this, are we to assume that Vanessa is solely here to exude sex? 

From that scene to Vanessa’s final moments, which I will get to shortly, there is no Vanessa. The film chooses to focus solely on Amy as she journeys through filming her thesis on an urban legend serial killer. I enjoy that journey for Amy. She gets a few chase scenes, she gets it on with the twin brother of a film school dude who supposedly committed suicide, and she sort of ignores but kind of questions the disappearance of one of her friends, Sandra. 

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This isn’t about Sandra, though. This is about Vanessa. Moreso, it’s about the status of queer characters throughout the post-Scream era. It’s exciting to know that queers who grew up or experienced that era are able to find solace in those films. There’s so much there that catered to our little queer souls. That’s why they are continuously championed within the queer spectrum. Whether it be the coded queerness of Stu (Matthew Lillard) and Billy (Skeet Ulrich) in Scream (1996), the resilience of Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar, mother) during her iconic chase scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), or the bisexuality of Jennifer (Megan Fox) in Jennifer’s Body (2009). These horror films catered to queers. 

But does Vanessa, an actual queer character, resonate as much as those characters during this era? Probably not, but I believe she deserves a space at that lunch table. Given the fact that she doesn’t get much screen time or character development beyond having an attraction to the main final girl, it shouldn’t seem so. She didn’t take any shit from anyone so why should she take it from us?

In her final moments of Urban Legends: The Final Cut, she’s presented as a possible suspect. Her inclusion in the final act is brought upon by a letter that she thought was sent by Amy to reveal sexy feelings for her, only to go on a slightly shortened chase scene with Amy to meet her demise. But Vanessa deserves her just rewards. Perhaps she wasn’t given the best representation as she is a rather stereotypical and blasé sort of character, but within an era of slasher films that could have had more queer characters, she is there. 

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Take this as you will, but according to the trivia over at IMDb, director, John Ottman, liked the character so much that he expanded her role. She was also supposed to survive in an original script. The expansion of her character included her being in that final act, and falling victim to the bury your queers trope. That expansion is greatly appreciated, but it doesn’t mean that she got more character growth.

Vanessa may not be high on the pantheon of queer characters within horror cinema, but her placement in the mostly queerless films of that time gives her a little oomph. Eva Mendes portrayed her with just the right amount of attitude and sincerity that’s always stuck out for me. Justice for Vanessa? It ain’t that serious, but she deserves at least a rainbow scepter, or maybe a rainbow robe, of some sort. 



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