Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: B+
As if you needed more evidence that Scream is one of the most influential genre films ever, Behind the Mask is yet another example of meta-horror floating in Wes Craven’s wake. Mask takes place in a world that not only acknowledges Freddy, Jason, and Michael, but treats their stories as if they were inspired by true events carried out by real killers. However, instead of examining the horror movie tropes and rules from the victims’ perspective, a la Scream, it takes us…behind the fucking mask. Duh.
Leslie Vernon is a mass murderer in training, but he’s also an affable guy who’s letting a broadcast journalist intern named Taylor (Macauley Culkin’s sister in Home Alone) and her two camera guys trail along as he prepares to massacre semi-innocent teens at a remote cabin. The film crew looks on with a mixture of curiosity, awe, and trepidation as Leslie shows them how to select and stalk one’s “survivor girl,” do cardio to “make it look like you’re walking while everyone else is running their asses off,” and foil victims’ escape routes and defenses by blocking exits, cutting tree limbs, and sabotaging potential weapons. Such is Leslie’s charm and humor that even though he’s describing terrible things, he’s exceedingly likable.
So is his mentor, played by Herschel from The Walking Dead. The crew visits his house for a sausage cookout, but first they have to un-bury him from the backyard where he’s practicing the art of appearing to be dead. He later regales them with tales of the truly great, enduring slashers and derides “one-hit wonders.”
Most of the movie is shot documentary-style until the turning point when the film crew decide to break the fourth wall and insert themselves into Leslie’s murderous scheme. There’s a pretty sweet plot twist, a couple nice boobies, and a buttload of homages to horror flicks. Robert Englund is an “Ahab,” the Dr. Loomis archetype (the dude from Halloween, not me) who knows Leslie’s past and is trying to foil his plans. His character’s name is Doc Halloran, which almost assuredly has to be an allusion to The Shining, amiright? There’s also an appearance by the “This house is clean” lady from Poltergeist (who knew that dwarf bitch was still alive?), and an awesome end-credits sequence that features Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) over the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.”
Good stuff. But to be truly great, you’ve gotta have a sequel. So get with it, Leslie.