Friday, June 20, 2014

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Doing a mockumentary about a serial killer is a pretty brilliant and clever concept.  I particularly love that they use the slasher movie notion of a killer.  He needs to have a mask, murder partying teens, be pursued by a worthy adversary (an “Ahab” is what they call it here) and etc.  It’s all the shit you see in a ton of horror pictures.  And to pull back that curtain to see what it takes to be a slasher icon is quite endearing.

Leslie Vernon is the guy we follow around.  He’s looking to make a name for himself and aspires to be the next Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.  But he’s just some average motherfuckin’ Joe with no presence, fucked up backstory or look.   He works hard though and takes this shit seriously which makes him very likeable.  Leslie goes on about how much he has to work out and how he picks his victims and all that.  But he also reveals tricks of the trade like he sabotages the handle on the ax so that if anyone tries to use it the thing will break after the first swing and that he coats himself with gel that not only helps with bleeding and swelling but it’s also a flame retardant.  His enthusiasm is infectious and all the prep he has to do (each point addressing some slasher movie cliché) is impressive.

However, the filmmakers didn’t want to keep the whole mockumentary thing going.  The ending turns into an actual slasher flick with all the typical stuff you would expect.  The change is fairly jarring and more importantly unwarranted.  For two thirds of the film we get a different and well executed take on the horror subgenre, but then it gets thrown out the window to become the very thing that it’s making fun of. 

Well, “making fun of” is too strong.  It’s more like a roast.  The people who made this thing clearly love slasher movies and this is their way of paying tribute.  I guess director Scot Glosserman and company just couldn’t decide if they wanted to make a traditional Halloween type picture or this other behind-the-scenes kind of deal.  So they compromised and ended up doing both.  They should’ve stuck with the mockumentary all the way through in my opinion.  I mean I love slashers but they’re a dime a dozen.  And so few are really great that the odds are stacked too high against any new entry.  I’m not saying people should stop making those types of pictures but it’s very difficult to bring something new to the table and make it work.  That’s why it’s more frustrating than usual with Behind the Mask changing gears to a serious horror movie.  They were actually doing something somewhat unique and fresh but decided to ditch it at the last moment.

If you’re a horror fan this is definitely worth seeing.  Hell, even if you’re not a horror person you’ll probably find the inner workings of a serial killer enlightening and well, funny.  It’s a fucking humorous concept.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the logistics and minutiae of the day to day operations of a slasher killer (or wannabe slasher killer).  This had classic written all over it but the filmmakers kinda fucked it up.  But hey, those first two thirds are very entertaining and even a little magical.