Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Starring Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, and Robert Englund. Directed by Scott Glosserman.


So, I finally got around to seeing this film after wanting to for a long, long time... and I'm so glad I did. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is beyond a doubt one of the most intelligent and entertaining horror films in recent years. The film submerses itself in the genre, it is bathed in a knowledge of horror and easily the most brilliantly tongue-in-cheek horror movie since Wes Craven's Scream.

The first 2/3 of the film are shot documentary style, as we follow along with a camera crew who wish to make a film about apparent serial killer Leslie Vernon as he prepares to make his debut as a slasher and rank besides his idols (he lists Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers). We follow along as they meet the instantly likeable Leslie (Nathan Baesel) who explains to Taylor (Angela Goethal) and her crew the tricks of the trade of being a horror movie slasher. He goes through all the cliches, poking great fun at slasher films, subtly setting one up at the same time. Leslie explains how hard he has to work out to look like he's walking after people and still somehow catch up. He explains the concept of the "final girl", that would be the one girl he chooses to survive his ordeal, and what that entails (shy, homely, virgin). And he especially explains the concept of the "Ahab" that would be the one character who sees Leslie for what he really is and vows to stop him, in this case Doc Halloran (Robert Englund).

Almost instantly, the crew comes to share his enthusiasm for the project as he meticulously sets up his own horror film which he obviously plans to act out. They continue on like this until Leslie's big night, the night of his planned massacre, when their consciences catch up with them. Leslie himself is one of the most brilliantly self aware horror villains ever, and soon tells them to leave because they have that "we can't stand here and let this happen" look in their eye.

This is when the film shifts from first to third person, as the film crew snaps back to reality and realize that there is a killer about to take out an entire house full of teens, and they are the only ones with any idea how to stop him. The humor subsides as the tension mounts, reaching a brilliant and suspenseful conclusion.

The budget on this one may be low, but this is one film that isn't set back by that in the least. The acting is great (the teens in the house essentially play stereotypes, but they're supposed to), the scares and humor walk dangerously close at hand. This is one modern horror that, like its star, could easily become a classic.

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