Sabbath Reviews: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Directed by: Scott Glosserman
Written by: Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve
Comedy and horror go together like peanut butter and chocolate — fuck jelly. It’s a delicious combination when done right and it’s been around since the beginning of film, but we all know it got a big boom in the 80s. Ghostbusters, Gremlins, An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead — the list goes on. In more recent times we’ve got Bubba Ho-Tep, Shaun of The Dead, Zombieland, and so forth. In the shuffle, one film went largely unnoticed. That film? …Well, come on people, the poster’s right up there. It’s the name of the article. Ray Charles could have seen this one coming.
Behind The Mask is done for the most part in the mockumentary style that’s been popularized, specifically amongst low-budget productions. Taking a cue from Man Bites Dog (a 1992 Belgian mockumentary which I might someday review as well), the filmmakers are a curious team led by a young woman named Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and the subject is a very dangerous but strangely enigmatic man — Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel). Here’s the catch: Leslie Vernon is a killer akin to Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Kreuger complete with his own mythos that circulates the town.
Vernon doesn’t come across as dangerous or menacing, particularly initially. He’s insightful and treats his occupation like a normal job, letting the film crew into some of the tricks of the trade. The movie tackles horror movies tropes with love and adoration for the genre while not treading into parody territory. The film is paced well through-out and as time goes by we are let into the darker side of Vernon, but the whole time we still like him. He’s fun. We know what he does, but it’s much like a best friend you adore but you know does shady things — just not in front of you. You choose to see him for the good person in front of the camera, not the gleeful killer that he is on the weekends.
The laughs and chuckles aren’t fit for the Scary Movie crowd. It’s not parody humor. The writing is witty and at times outright fucking charming, unlike my choice of words. This is one of those films that revel in their characters and the story, never becoming sluggish or losing itself to cheap laughs or thrills. You follow this movie as if it really is a documentary, getting close to the people in front and behind the cameras to the point where even the camera guy has a personality.
Of course the stars are Leslie Vernon himself and Taylor, the lead girl. The movie doesn’t ignore the important trope of the lead girl in a horror film and I can’t remember if it’s outright said initially or hinted at — but Taylor’s got her V card. Kind of a biggie in a horror movie. There’s a relationship there forming between the two main leads that makes you forget how dangerous, but pivotal the virgin girl in a horror film is. You’re having too much fun with these characters to believe there’s anything but a pleasant hearty laugh-filled ending.
The last portion of the film is spent shoving a rod up your colon for forgetting the horror portion of the movie. Without spoiling a great deal, there is a somewhat big tonal shift in the film that some people do not like while others (like myself) praise it for. It doesn’t happen without build-up and the clues are all there throughout the film, but still it happens. Maybe it’s because you enjoy the characters so much you don’t want it to happen that some people have a hard time coming to grips with it — but it does. It doesn’t go into Hostel territory or become torture porn — nothing that big. It just brings everything home and plays out the tropes it just spent a great deal of the movie bringing to your attention.
Behind The Mask exploits what everybody knows about horror movies and does it with love. Does it seek to expand upon it, or offer something completely new to the horror genre? Probably not. It doesn’t pretend to be that kind of movie though. It’s a love letter to the slasher genre … hell, we’ve got Robert Englund playing a Dr. Loomis-type character, which is just all kinds of awesome.
If you’ve had enough straight-up gore this Halloween season and want something a little more fun, I highly recommend this flick. There’s been rumors with the last update cropping up in 2009 that a sequel would be in the works, possibly subtitled The Return of Leslie Vernon. Behind The Mask was a low budget, low grossing film so there’s no proof that it will except some high hopes from the writers but I would shill the shit out of that movie if it does pop up. However, if it does, I’ll be first in line to buy the ticket (or more likely straight-to-DVD copy but I’m trying to wish ’em the best).