Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethas, Kate Lang Johnson, Britain Spellings, Ben Place, Scott Wilson, and Robert Englund
Director: Scott Glosserman
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars
Journalism grad students Taylor (Goethas), Todd (Spellings),and Doug (Pace) are invited to do a documentary on the secret world and culture of the artful serial killer, like Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger and to follow the preparations and first mass-murder of teens at a forbidden, drunken party as young Leslie Vernon (Baesel) makes his first big debut.
"Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" is part mockumentary, part slasher flick. It's like a Christopher Guest and Wes Craven film got fed into the apple-presser featured in one scene of the film, and out came a singular work. It is not a film for everyone... in fact, I think you need to fit the description of "having seen entirely too many slasher-films" in order to truly enjoy this film.
The first two-thirds of the film pokes fun at journalists, artists, and the slasher-film genre in equal parts. I had a constant smile on my face, as the film created a world where Michael Myers is actually a sort of performance artist who exists in a subculture that is devoted to being the monsters of the modern age. The explanations and rationalizations of the "rules" of the slasher-flick are hilarious when they are coming from a "professional" like Vernon... and they're even funnier when he discusses his workout routine and how hard it is to look like he's walking when he's really running to keep up wiht terrified victims. The final third... well, I don't really want to say what happens in the final third, because it might ruin effect of it. (I came to this film not at all knowing whatto expect, and, while the twist and what unfolds held no real surprise, it was so expertly handled that I enjoyed it immensely.)
Director Scott Glosserman (who also co-wrote the script) exhibits a keen sense for just when to cut a scene for maximum comedic or emotional impact. The interview that ends with the awkward silence when Taylor asks Vernon if he is pro-life is hilarious. The transition between the first part of the film and the second part was also so expertly and artfully handled that it made me wish that more filmmakers had the sort of talent that Glosserman shows here.)
As for the cast, they all do an okay job, but four actors in particular shined. First, there is Nathan Baesel, who is wonderful as the charming, boyish, soon-to-be mass-murderer who walks the filmmakers through the basics of what it takes to be a legendary serial butcher in the modern world... if someone more sinister, or without the sort of comic timing that he displays here, the film wouldn't have been nearly as funny. Second, there's Angela Goethas, who plays a great "straightman" to Baesel for most of the film while subtlely capturing Taylor's growing unease with what she is witnessing. Third, there is Kate Lang Johnson, who does a fine turn as Vernon's chosen "Survivor Girl"--the virginal blonde who will be transformed from victim to fierce fighter and thus square off against him in a final battle of good against evil. Johnson has some truly great moments and even better lines in the final third of the film. Lastly, but far from least, there is Robert Englund, who, in a small but crucial role, takes a nice turn as a Dr. Loomis sort-of character... the gun-toting, topcoat wearing hunter of the evil who is Leslie Vernon.
"Behind the Mask" may be a send-up of the slasher-genre, but it is one that was done with evident love, respect, and great creativity. It is a far more effective film than any recent "serious" entries in the genre have been. It is a film that I think any old-time fan of slasher-films should seek out, because I guarentee you will enjoy it.