Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to be a Slasher: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
rating: ****
starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund                         

Not since Wes Craven's Scream had brought the slasher genre to the realm of self-awareness with countless imitations raiding the 90s, the cult classic sophisticatedly known as Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon gave this self-deconstruction a whole new twist: we actually get to see our bad guy's point of view on it!

With the film being one part mockumentary and one part straight slasher, the first half of Behind The Mask tells the story of a three-person documentary group interviewing a charming yet eccentric man known as Leslie, whose dreams of becoming the next serial slasher he willingly and openly shares with them, from simple tricks that creates the onscreen clichés we got used to, (as in doors closing by themselves as false scares or creepy newspaper clipping that acts as a red herring) to the familiarized character stereotyping and how it usually plans out. (as in how they usually go into the dark and creepy basement with a date just to get scored, or how the final girl is always a virgin)

Things started off real simple and harmless, with Leslie being an overall great guy them despite being weird, but the more they near to the night of his supposed killing spree, the more they realize that cannot just ignore his willingness to murder innocent people. As soon as the big night falls and Leslie finally brandishes his sickle and dons the mask, our crew has a choice to turn tail or die saving these kids.

Full of wit and humor, Behind the Mask is a clever look into what could be regarded as the behind-the-scenes of murder sprees that takes place in a world where villains like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and even Chucky existed and terrorized more than once. It seems that hacking up teenagers in a systematized fashion is an underground fad that people like Leslie can choose to secretly take part of and become one of the best in the "business", which is quite a funny thing seeing many of our aspiring killer's tool of the trade were simple everyday things an individual can grab hold to or something we can actually do; the closing door jump scare I mentioned earlier? A simple brick tied to a rope! How does a slow-moving killer keep up with his victims? Simple Exercise and a healthy living! Killer survives a fatal blow of an axe? Probably because he loosened the axe head before the night even began! Yes, in this movie, the slasher world is full of cheats, but one cannot argue with the execution of the process if it gives workable results!

Perhaps the only thing Behind the Mask never really addressed was why our crew decided to film this project in the first place; we simply start of in media res of their project and following altogether our hapless group as they document the rather charming presence of Nathan Baesel's everyday-looking character with a penchant and pride for serial killing.

Due to this, our titular rising killer, Leslie Vernon, is just an interesting take on a villain; his aspiration to be one of the top is engaging, motivating and somehow a little bit human in a sense that we actually get to see his reasoning and his longing for company, hence his warm and lively approach to his documenters despite the fact, as a slasher, he is bound by the unforseen rule murdering these people, thus we cannot really trust him all in all. On the other side of coin, Angela Goethals plays Taylor Gentry, the aspiring interviewee who first found Leslie's dream of murder to be intriguing but soon sees it as something she must intervene on. We actually followed her as much as we did with Leslie, and Goethals played this character with much growth and concern that in the near end, we can't help but root for her.

The last third of the movie is where it took an amazing turn; rules are changed, twists are made, and we all get to see it on a third person's perspective; people are finally picked off  one by one and Leslie's doing it with style and blood to keep a true fan happy.

And speaking of the fandoms, Behind the Mask has also littered its little world with more horror movie tributes than you can shake a stick at. Cameos including The Poltergeist's late Zelda Rubinstein as a librarian who knows a thing or two about the Leslie legend, and Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, as a Dr. Loomis-esque hunter of evil who seems see past Leslie's delusions and is somehow aware of what's going on between our hapless filmmakers. Apart from simple mentions, we also have little winks and nods to films like Halloween (Rabbit in Red Lounge), The Shining (some of the character's name), Pet Sematary (Leslie's pet turtles) and even Hellraiser. (The Lament Configuration)

Some may find it talky, others would disapprove of its self-referencing as a tiring and overused cliché to post-modern slasher films, but in a matter of taste, Behind the Mask is something worth trying. If you're looking for that one smart, fresh and funny slasher film to enjoy for that one rainy night, then look no further, Leslie's coming for you! Anybody else, here's a bottle of Stay Awake...

1 male gets a pitchfork through chest (drafted)
1 male has neck cut through broken car window (drafted)
1 male seen murdered under a pile of saw dust (drafted)
1 male strangled (draft)
1 male hacked with sickle (drafted)
1 male and 1 female hacked to death with sickle
1 male gets a pitchfork through the chest
1 male gets a sickle to the neck
1 male has his heart plucked out with postpole digger
1 female falls to her death
1 male had his neck broken
1 female hacked to death with sickle
1 male hanged, neck broken
total: 9 (14 including drafted kills)

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