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Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon

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Release Date: 
Anchor Bay
Advance Screener
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Directed by: 
Scott Glosserman
Nathan Baesel
Angela Goethals
Scott Wilson
Robert Englund
Zelda Rubenstein
Bottom Line: 

In a society where E! True Hollywood Stories and VH1’s Behind the Music dig for a view behind-the-scenes of celebrity lives, Behind The Mask offers that insight into a man on track to be the next great slasher.  Leslie Vernon (Baesel) invites documentary filmmaker Taylor Gentry (Goethals) an exclusive look at how he plans on taking the crown from his idols, names like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger.

At first, Leslie comes off as a jovial prankster, with pet turtles, books on magic and an upbeat demeanor.  With an endless grin, he describes his plans; to kill a group of unaware teens staying at his house on a dare.  Leslie, as the legend goes, killed his parents when he was just a boy.  Angry townspeople then took him out and thrown over a waterfall.  His body, naturally, was never found.  Now, on the 20th anniversary of his murder, he will return from the “dead” and start his legacy.

Leslie proceeds to describe the location in detail, how he picks out his “target group” (don’t call them victims), and then his first drive-by with the potential “survival girl”.  What he doesn’t tell Taylor and her two-man crew is whether or not they’re included in his plot.

The filmmakers also get to meet Eugene (Wilson), a retired pro from the business (of killing that is), who talks about how slashing used to be in the old days.  His description of the business, the talented ones and the ‘hacks’, is priceless.  They also get to meet Leslie’s would-be hunter, Doc Halloran (Englund), who obsesses over catching the killer before his elaborate plan is put to practice.

Things soon go from describing the night to the events actually unfolding with every aspect of the elaborate plan rolling right along.  Even fans who predict the somewhat twisted ending will enjoy the way the story is executed in the final act.

Behind the Mask takes the films of the slasher genre in the past 25 years, analyzes them, breaks them down into a formula, adds itself into the mix and then pokes fun at the entire equation.

The film is incredibly quotable (“never hang out with a virgin”, “run like a motherfucker and don’t stop till the sun comes up”, “she empowers herself with cock”, etc etc).  The characters are deeply vulnerable while maintaining a position outside of morality.  Baesel’s Leslie is a twisted beast, a man obsessed with one perfect plan, showing the traits of a world-class psychopath and the rabid drive of a Wall Street businessman.  Goethals is delightfully troubled, puzzled and curious as Taylor.  She wants to get the story, to be bold and to do the right thing all at once.

The supporting cast of veteran horror actors really pushes Behind The Mask up a notch.  Englund is the perfect Ahab, overly focused on catching and killing his one true enemy.  Wilson is exceptional as Leslie’s proud father figure.  Rubinstein summons the powerful delivery of her most recognizable former character (Tangina Barrons from the Poltergeist films) in her cameo.

The musical direction is a perfect fit, with an original score by Gordy Haab.  The end credits (watch the whole thing) are punctuated with the comical hit, “Psycho Killer”, by The Talking Heads.

In all, Behind The Mask is a very funny, self-aware and deeply researched film.  Director Scott Glosserman uses a fine blend of original shots and those re-created from the referenced films together effectively.  The genre is well represented in a tongue-in-cheek fashion (who’d expect less from a guy who wrote a deconstruction on Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” as part of his University of Pennsylvania degree?).  The writing fits everything in nicely, with the synergy of a fine tuned sportscar, and Baesel fits perfectly in the driver’s seat.

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