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“This is my Christmas” – Leslie Vernon
There has been lots of hype surrounding the Festival darling
BEHIND THE MASK. Well I finally got to dig my finger knives into this little piggy and am blissful to report that it
matched my expectations. Here we go!
Not since SCREAM as a film deconstructed the slasher subgenre in such a clever, witty and entertaining fashion. For the most part BEHIND THE MASK played its cards like a documentary (DV format) engagingly following around rookie killer Leslie Vernon as he trains, plans and set ups his impending killing spree. The lad had all of his bases covered: targets were picked out (with virgin in tow), cardio work-outs kicked in (walking fast after running victims takes training), the setting was sabotaged in his favor (so that’s how they do it) and he even had a local back-story tagged to his killer persona. I personally was totally enchanted by the events at hand and the sly way they were executed. To witness beloved slasher conventions being addressed as if “they were real” totally wooed me. The sharply written screenplay and the energetic execution that backed all that up, also made sure to keep me charmed and grinning all the way through. It helped matters even more that the flick was obviously helmed by a hardcore horror fan. Genre loving deliciously oozed out the screen! Can’t go wrong with that!
Now, the whole wouldn’t have worked so well if the right casting wasn’t in place and man did this one boot the crack-ho out of the park in that respect. Angela Goethals was mucho likeable and credible as the morally torn journalist while Nathan Baesel was a revelation as the charismatic, soft spoken and fairly fruity Leslie Vernon. Echoing a young Jim Carrey in looks and demeanor, the dude was the film and with a lesser performer at the wheel it all could’ve fell flat on its hockey mask. So by the time the tomfoolery switched perspective, going from a DV shot documentary to a moody 16 millimeter shot “horror film”, I was hooked, lined and knuckle sandwiched, having a gay (no, not that kind of gay) whole time in my seat. Add to all that sweetness, references galore (loved that they actually shot at the Elm Street etc. locations), some slick cameos (Bobby Englund, Zelda Rubinstein, Kane Hodder and more!), some organically hilarious left field situations (loved the virgin slinging her bra bit) and some side splitting side characters that lent a helping stab in making the film a memorable one (Scott Wilson was a freaking delight!) and you get one for the grave stone.
On the dirty side of the red & green sweater; one gaping plot hole kept stabbing me in the ear throughout. Wouldn’t the documentary filmmakers be considered as accessories to murder by going along with this? How the heck did they agree to do the gig without thinking of the consequences? That kind of hurt the “real life:” aura of the flick specially since it was never addressed one way or another. Bad move! Then there was the lack of gore at play. For a film that wanted to deconstruct the slasher subgenre, it forgot to cover its most important spice; AMPLE RED GRUB! Shame! And why was Robert Englund so under-used? I craved more “Ahab” man! Finally, the film’s sole “surprise twist” was far from that for me (see through) while the last block of the affair dragged a tad. Yup, for me, the documentary approach was much more absorbing than the “standard-slasher” final act that came with the usual slasher guffaws (although the end was really well shot).
On the whole, BEHIND THE MASK was akin to a groovy date with a sweet gal. She looked great, was smarter than the norm, had a swell sense of humor, said all the right things and when she stumbled over her words or burped out of the blue, it was okay, since she was such a doll in the first place. Take this Mask out!