Thursday, June 14, 2012
Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) Gotta Be Prepared
How is it that horror monster icons like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and the like always seem to be in the right place at the right time? How is it they always seem to come back for more, no matter what the frightened protagonists hurl at them? Is it luck, or could it be magic?
According to the literally-insanely-creative Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, it's all in the preparation.
Written by David J. Stieve and director Scott Glosserman, Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a half-mockumentary, half-actual horror film revealing the lengths the charismatic Vernon (played masterfully by Nathan Baesel) will go in order to establish himself as one of those icons alongside his idols, Voorhees, Krueger, and Myers. There's nothing inherently supernatural about Vernon, but the ways he goes about creating his own legend are like viral marketing gone mad. He's smart, determined, funny, often friendly, and just a little bit psychotic. OK, maybe a lot psychotic.
Taylor, Doug, and Todd (Angela Goethals, Ben Pace, and Britain Spellings respectively) are a reporter and cameramen filming a documentary about an aspiring serial killer in the vein of the aforementioned horror legends, one Leslie Vernon (Baesel). It's an "alternate universe" of sorts, where the horror icons are a real and reluctantly-accepted aspect of the world. Vernon is excited; he's been planning his debut for years. Everything is timed and mapped down to the tiniest detail. He's in top physical shape with incredible mental discipline. He's got a backstory, he's got his virgin "final girl," and he's even got a mentor (Scott Wilson, The Walking Dead's Herschel) and an "Ahab," Dr. Halloran (Robert Englund). Everything's in place as Vernon stalks his prey, basically herding her and her friends into a late-night outing to his "legendary" house. Taylor and her crew follow along, playing neutral parties to what will essentially be night of murder. When the night comes, things begin well enough, but Taylor has misgivings. And from there, events spin out of control...or do they? A mockumentary turns into a straight-up horror film - a metatextual transition - as Vernon pursues his dream and his final girl in the climax of this entirely creative little flick. I won't give the bloody details, but let's just say everything happens for a reason.
Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is sparkling fun, a nod to horror fans everywhere and a different viewpoint "behind the mask," as it were. It's like a magician revealing the trade secrets, but still managing to pull off one hell of a trick. Baesal and Goethals are magnificent as the leads, who display a tension and respect for each other, all while creating an air of believability. Englund is especially fun as the Donald Pleasance/Dr. Loomis pastiche and Vernon's "Ahab," the force of good that relentlessly chases the force of evil. The film also marks the final appearance of Zelda Rubenstein, she of Poltergeist fame, as she plays the doomed librarian who relates the tale of Leslie Vernon to the intended "final girl."
The film is funny, energetic, and somewhat disturbing - I mean, you'll really start to like Vernon until you realize, "wait a damn minute, he's aspiring to kill a buttload of people." But that's the fun of the film: it takes itself seriously just enough to allow some guilty fun to creep in before turning the whole thing on its ear. But most of all, it's a creative idea enhanced by great writing, directing, and definitely the acting.
So sit back and witness the rise of a new horror icon who may or may not have everything perfectly planned out...and remember to break out the windows on the ground floor. You'll see.
Now, enjoy the trailer, won't you? (WARNING: Slightly not-safe-for-work, but not too bad.)