Wednesday, October 14, 2009
October Horror Fest #14: BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON
Self-referential horror films have been in vogue since Scream, and I can't really say that I'm a fan. There's enough tongue-in-cheek, ironic humor in our culture as it is; there's no need to include my beloved horror movies in the fray. Slash and let slash, you could say.
Once in a while, though, something comes along that's good enough to be an exception. Behind The Mask does that for me. Part mockumentary, part straight-up slasher, this film is more ambitious than most - and it succeeds. An investigative news crew has been invited by the titular character to follow him around as he prepares for his next big kill, the one that will put him on the map. Along the way, he demonstrates how horror cliches are set up, introduces the crew to a retired killer that inspired his work, and ends up going after the crew themselves.
Granted, there are quite a few self-referential moments and humorous scenes. Nathan Baesel does a superb job as Vernon, playing both the average all-American nice guy and a homicidal maniac with ease. His descriptions of cardio workouts and the escape points from the old farmhouse are hilarious. But its in the second half of the film, when the crew is past the point of Man Bites Dog and realize that they're a part of the madness, that things kick into high gear and the real mayhem starts.
Writer/director Scott Glosserman balances both the humor and the bloodshed very well. The film never loses its focus, and the actors involved play their roles straight. Cameos from Robert Englund and Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist) are a nice touch, and the transition from documentary footage to actual movie is virtually seamless and comes at the right time. You don't need to be a huge horror nerd to get all the references thrown in, but a good knowledge of all things Freddy, Jason and Michael won't hurt.