Geek Smithology

February 9, 2009

Review – Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Filed under: Sight by Nathan @ 9:44 pm

We’ve all felt like Randy from Scream: watching hapless horror movie victims take every wrong turn so they cross paths with the killer for the next death set-piece. But who ever thinks about that killer? What about all the planning and training that goes into the perfect spree? If post-modern horror movies took the step of becoming self-aware, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon goes even further and takes us into the life of an up-and-coming slasher as he prepares for his big night.

btm-leslie-vernon-photo

The story is told through the eyes of a documentary crew led by Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals[1]). Unlike the hardcore verite style of Man Bites Dog, another documentary that follows a killer, this movie follows a more comedic tack as Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) works through all of his moves, as if it were a chess match. He talks us through picking out his “survivor girl”, planting bizarre clues (when leaving a fake newspaper article behind tying himself to survivor girl, he marvels at his own wit in remembering to alter the microfiche), and working out the remote location to ensure maximum carnage, all in an attempt to follow in the footsteps of “Jay”[2], “Fred”[3], and “Mike”[4].

As the events unfold, we meet Leslie’s mentor, Eugene a retired slasher who talks about tricks of the trade as he and his girl Jamie help the killer with his plans. When Leslie’s old psychiatrist, Doc Haloran (Robert Englund), comes to town, Leslie now “has an Ahab!” However, the film takes a turn to the dark side as it slowly dawns on Taylor that Leslie isn’t fooling and that he fully intends to go through with his plan. How it all goes down and how he handles it is a twist I wouldn’t dream of revealing, but after a second viewing, the movie earns it.

The two main performances are really strong – Baesel plays the hopeful killer with an “aw shucks” quality that will make audiences start to like him despite his plans. Goethals does a great job playing a cynical documentarian playing for laughs who slowly realizes that this is no joke. Robert Englund, so famous for playing the child killer in the striped sweater, is put into the trench coat of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) from Halloween in an inspired bit of casting. Finally, Scott Wilson as the retired killer-cum-mentor Eugene steals most of the scenes he’s in.

Just as the characters from Clerks mused about the thousands of innocent contractors who must’ve been blown up in Return of the Jedi when the second Death Star was destroyed, Behind the Mask takes a look at some familiar cliches from a different angle and manages to be pretty darn entertaining.

four star

[1] Yes, that Angela Goethals, of famed 1993 sitcom Phenom and who uttered one of Home Alone’s most annoying lines of dialog…”Listen, Kevin, what are you so worried about? You know Mom’s gonna pack your stuff anyway. You’re what the French call “les incompetents.”
[2] for the horror impaired…Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th (Kane Hodder who portrayed Jason makes a cameo)
[3] Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street
[4] Michael Myers from the Halloween movies.

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