Night #24: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Besides being one of those films with a colon in it, hence making the naming above look a bit funny, Behind The Mask is a pretty great parody of slasher movies that’s played completely straight. After all the slasherin’ we’ve been through I thought it would be good to see it all deconstructed.

A documentary crew heads to the Town of Glen Echo where they’ve received a invitation to witness the next in the line of great slashers. The film posits the idea that Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers et al are real and that Leslie is soon to join their ranks.

What happens next is a pulling apart of pretty much every slasher cliche there is. A trip to his home reveals that Leslie studies a lot of manuals about anatomy and the ilk, he also studies the work of Copperfield and Houdini as well as becoming great at sleight of hand. Oh and cardio is incredibly important. “Do you know how hard it is to look like you’re walking when everyone else is running away from you?” Leslie whines at one point. Everything he does is meticulously planned down to the final detail. He has to plant evidence about his ‘backstory’ that the Final Girl will find, he has to get her and her friends in one place and then plan how he’s going to dispatch them (Wait and kill the couple that inevitably have sex, then pose them so they look like they’re sleeping) and he’s happy that he has his ‘Ahab’, in this case played by former Freddy Kruger actor Robert Englund, riffing on Donald Pleasance from Halloween.

I could easily just list all the jokes and references that the movie gets spot-on but I wouldn’t want to spoil it, and special mention must be given to actor Nathan Baesel who plays Leslie. He’s in turn affable, goofy, likeable and chilling. He plays a lot of the early scenes with such charm that you almost wish he wasn’t a vicious killer. But sadly the film falters in a major way in the final third by becoming the thing it’s just spent the previous hour mocking. Well mocking isn’t the right word, like Scream it has the hard task of trying to be the thing it’s trying to deconstruct – it’s just that Behind The Mask is way more overt about that deconstruction, whereas it was built into the DNA of that film (Which works on the level of we’re going to tell you how we’re scaring you but still scare you anyway), Behind The Mask has to change focus in a way that works in theory, but doesn’t come across in practice.

 

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