Director: Scott Glosserman
Writers: Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve
Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelda Rubinstein, Bridgett Newton, Kate Lang Johnson, Ben Pace, Britain Spellings, Hart Turner, Krissy Carlson, Travis Zariwny, Kane Hodder
I had heard some pretty mixed things about Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) so I put off seeing it for quite some time. The premise of a documentary film crew following around a serial killer like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger sounds like one of those things that could turn out really bad if not executed just right. In the end Behind the Mask does more right than it does wrong and turns out to be a pretty interesting take on the horror genre.
What the movie does best is completely deconstruct the horror/slasher movie genre. It picks apart the conventions that have existed in every slasher movie since they have started. Why does the killer stalk and kill these kids? Why do the kids in these movies act the way they do? This movie follows the killer around through-out his preparations for his killing spree and we find out just why the killer always has the upper hand in these movies.
However, we also see what happens when all the careful planning on the part of the killer goes all wrong. The movie takes itself completely seriously during all of this though and I think that is one of the things that pretty much makes it work. Even though the film takes itself so seriously there is also quite a bit of humor in the movie. However, most of the humor seems to stem from just how serious everyone in the film is about everything that seems so ridiculous to someone who has been watching horror movies for years.
The character of Leslie Vernon is one of the things that makes the movie really work though. He is an interesting character and he is able to draw in the audience. He doesn't come across as just some 2-bit, 2-dimensional, copy-cat serial killer. He has a good back story (some real, some made up) and truly seems to believe in what he is doing. I think that is probably the best part of the character, he doesn't see anything wrong with what he is doing. It seems as if he thinks that he is providing a service to the world by killing off these teenagers.
Now the one thing that didn't really work for me in the movie was the documentary approach. Well the documentary approach does work for the most part but the director chose to not stick with that style through the entire film. There is a lot of inconsistency in the movie with the documentary style. Early in the film the documentary style is dropped completely when Leslie Vernon is attempting his first kill. Later in the film when Leslie makes another kill the documentary crew stays behind and this time we get everything from their point of view instead of seeing what Leslie is doing.
The jumps between documentary and dramatic styles of filming didn't really make a lot of sense and brought the movie down for me a little bit. I can understand why the film makers chose to do this but it brought me out of the film every time the point of view changed. I honestly would have liked the movie a lot better and found it a lot more clever if the film makers had used the documentary style for the whole film. I am sure they could have found a clever way to still show most of the things that they showed.
Overall I did really enjoy the film though. It did a great job of pointing out why people still love horror movies in spite of a lot of the flaws that most of them have. While this film does point out all those flaws and cliches, it also seems to revel in them just the same. It understands that we think it is completely stupid for the heroine to run up stairs instead of out of the house but that we still want to see her do it. We want to see the killer chase her around and we don't want it to end quickly, there is just no fun in that. We, as fans, need the people in horror movies to make the occasional stupid decision or else most of these movies would be over before they started. In the end the only real problem I had with it was the inconsistency with the style but that didn't completely stop me from enjoying the movie.