Saturday, August 25, 2007

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)

Fear 1/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 1/5
Nightmares 0/5
Originality 3/5

Behind The Mask is a clever and funny mockumentary exposing and exploring nearly every cliche and hook used in slasher films. It does this in the same way that This is Spinal Tap did: a film crew follows a masked serial murderer around for a few months documenting his daily actions as he prepares for his big kill. He talks with admiration about his idols Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees who, in the film, are not fictional characters but real people. We learn the tricks of his trade from booby-trapping weapons so they will fail to kill him to intense cardio workouts so he can learn to move quickly while giving the appearance of walking slowly.

The concept of a mockumentary about the daily life of a serial killer is not new. Man Bites Dog, a Belgian film from 1992, is pretty much the same movie but without the humor. That film, while occasionally disturbing, was generally dull and a little too arty for me. Additionally, it was about a serial killer that could exist while Behind The Mask is about a serial killer that could only exist on the big screen. This is where the humor comes in as the concepts that are explored are obviously silly, but don't need to be played up for laughs. The killer is well played by Nathan Baesel who manages to be both annoying in a Michael Keaton kind of way and believable in ways that fits the character well. And finally, throughout the entire running there are numerous subliminal references to classic horror films from the 70's and 80's that slip by if you're not watching for them.

About 3/4's of the way through, the film switches gears from a mockumentary into a straight forward horror film and the ending is kind of iffy. It's slightly clever, if not a little obvious, and fun and entertaining. Expect very little scares and bloodshed. While both come in the end, the first part of the film has already exposed every trick that horror screenwriters have. So when things jump out at you or things suddenly happen, you've been well "trained" to expect them. Still, it's fun.

Aside from the cameo from Robert Englund who, as always, is stiff and cardboard in his role, Behind The Mask was a pretty good movie.

-Complaint Department

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