Friday, July 24, 2009

Just Awesome Cinema: Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

10:00 p.m. - Stare at Survivor Girl while she works at shop
11:30 p.m. - Pick up Milk and Bread at Supermarket
12:00 a.m. - Stalk Survivor Girl while she studies upon legend

I'm sure Leslie Vernon, the epynomous antagonist of the film, had a list similar to this while he stalked his survivor girl(aka Final girl) and set up his detailed plans to lay the foundation of his legend among the top slashers of his day. Welcome to the world of Behind The Mask...a world where Micheal Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Kruger all co-exist and are legends in the "industry" of serial killers(aka slasher villains) that our boy Leslie wants to aspire to. Instead of wanting to become an author, a baseball player, or an astronaut, ol Leslie wants to become a legendary nigh-invincible boogeyman that terrorizes his small town.

Much like Scream, Behind The Mask focuses on telling a slasher film by exploring its various tropes, some most famously introduced in Carol J. Clover's 1992 book, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film, such as the final girl, the virginal heroine that usually survives the fatal chaos the slasher villain springs on her friends, and faces him in a fight to the death. But unlike Scream's mean-spirited pokes at the slasher genre(imho), Behind The Mask generally embraces slasher convictions, telling the story originally in documentry style before taking on the dress of a slasher film in and of itself, as Leslie Vernon begins his massacre.

The film begins with an documentry crew, lead by reporter Taylor Gentry(Angela Goethals), coming to Leslie's house to begin the interview process. After being spooked by him, played in a slightly comedic, though belivable way by Nathan Baesel, they are taken through the routine as Leslie prepares for his "life's work", a night of murder and mayhem to cement his legend. Watching the process as the cameras document it, we learn what books Leslie had to study(Anatomy and Escape/Sleight-of-hand tricks), how he picks out his victims and survivor girl, and how he goes about setting various wheels in motion to get his "show" up and running.

Honestly, Nathan Baesel has an unearthly charisma as he plays Leslie, who is down-to-earth as a regular joe, opposing the larger-than-life personas of his famous slasher "brethern". He walks the beautiful Taylor through the different methods of haunting his survivor girl(the library scene IS FUNNY AS HELL), even going through the extensive details of how he is going to slaughter the survivor girl's group of friends at a old house(the property is in his name, watched by an old cop, as he(as the legendary Leslie Vernon) is supposed to be dead).

Besides Leslie, Taylor, and her camera crew, we also are treated to Leslie's only friends, a couple, Eugene and Jamie(Scott Wilson and Brittget Newton). Eugene is introduced when Leslie digs him up in a soundproof chamber, having been buried for three days in order to control his bodily functions. Eugene reveals himself to be a former slasher killer...and the various conversations about comparisons between the "old days" of sporatic killing and the acute preparation of "Mike, Fred, and J" of now are hilarious. We are also introduced to a Dr. Loomis-inspired character, Doc Halloran, played by Robert England to perfection.

The problem with this film is that it is a slasher film for slasher fans, and the casual purveyor of horror films would probably be disappointed. The film does not focus on the survivor girl's group of friends or on the killings, but on the character Leslie Vernon's setting of the stage. BUT...if you ARE a devout slasher fan, this film is definately for you, as every painstalked wink, homage, and allusion will be captured.

One complaint I've heard about this film is that it takes away the "scare power" of Jason, Freddy, and Micheal, making them "average joes" who treat killing as "a job". I truly disagree. The mystique of Jason, Freddy, and Micheal Myers is perserved once you look at Leslie Vernon in the context of Batman. Just like Batman, he has no super-powers, and just like Batman, he trains his body and mind to perfection. Just like Batman, he uses plans, and uses gadgets in the place of superpowers.

And just like Batman, mind, body, gadgets, and plans create a legendary illusion of something that is more than human.

Link to Trailer:

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