John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #5 Of 31!! BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON!!
John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today a serial killer on the rise gives a film crew an inside look at how to create a horror legend.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon has one of the best premises for a modern horror movie ever. It imagines that Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers all inhabit the same world and suggests that their legendary stories may have been perpetrated by ordinary people. A documentary film crew follows an up and coming serial killer taking them through the process of creating a horror legend that rivals his infamous predecessors.
What I love about the film is its reverence for the horror movies that came before it. It systematically breaks down the terminology and the constructs of movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween. It lovingly talks about the evolution of the heroine, the process of victim selection and the luck it takes to make a perfect kill. We meet Leslie’s mentor and learn about how the slasher has changed over the years. It tries to boil down all of the aspects of the genre during conversations between the film crew and our serial killer on the rise. When Leslie takes us through the preparations and psychology of the “group kill”, it is enthralling to watch. Also, the film features a few horror legends with Robert Englund playing a Doctor Loomis-type character, Zelda Rubinstein in her last on screen performance, and former Jason Vorhees actor Kane Hodder in a cameo on the steps of 1428 Elm Street. Plus, it’s fun to pick up on the little nods to previous films, whether it’s a vehicle from Evil Dead parked in a driveway or a music cue from The Shining.
Unfortunately the movie suffers from two common horror film problems... low production values and terrible acting. This is writer, producer and director Scott Glosserman’s first feature. While the story is genius, its setup and character work is a bit confusing. We meet the documentary crew while they are taping an introduction for their video, but who do they work for? Apparently they are shooting this for a university newscast, but they seem too old and well-equipped to be college students. And they don’t seem to care that they have become accessories to murder. They help plan, document and cover-up a serial killer’s vile actions with little regard. Towards the end of the picture though they develop a conscience out of nowhere and try to help the victims. What the hell?! Also, the lead actress is awful. Sometimes actors can elevate their material and make us look past its flaws. Unfortunately she does the exact opposite, reminding us constantly that this is an overachieving low-budget slasher movie. There are times you wish Leslie would eliminate the reporter in some gruesome fashion and just show the camera guys more of his technique.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a far from perfect slasher movie. While the performances and some of the storytelling come off as amateur, the premise is strong enough to carry it through. I would love to see this get the Evil Dead 2 treatment with a retelling that amps up the blood and the budget while replacing the female lead.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is currently streaming on Amazon. It’s also available on Blu-ray here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as the world is attacked by aliens that inhabit the bodies of our dead.
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Oct. 5, 2012, 10:37 a.m. CST
Oct. 5, 2012, 10:37 a.m. CST
by Baron Karza
Oct. 5, 2012, 10:43 a.m. CST
The first two acts are funny, interesting and entertaining. When it shifts from documentary to slasher film is where it suffers.
Oct. 5, 2012, 10:46 a.m. CST
And the gore is minimal.
Oct. 5, 2012, 10:56 a.m. CST
Such a great horror film. I'm always shocked when someone says they are a horror fan but hasn't seen it.
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:06 a.m. CST
by Bill C.
I admit I do like the concept (and, damn, Zelda Rubinstein?!?), but: how badly does it go off the rails in the third act?
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:20 a.m. CST
...I went into it REALLY wanting to like it, but it was pretty bad. Totally forgettable.
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:23 a.m. CST
...He was quite surprised to find that we were both big fans of the film. Nice guy, and he mentioned they were doing a sequel. This was 2010, so at least we know they aren't rushing the development. Perhaps a long struggle to find funding will end up yielding a better supporting cast. Fingers crossed. The first was nearly a classic,IMHO.
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:30 a.m. CST
@redshirt- Yes, it is that. But, I don't think it ever goes "off the rails", more like it has some slightly nagging, consistent inconsistencies.
Oct. 5, 2012, 11:48 a.m. CST
This film is great. I love when horror films acknowledge the rules of the genre and even try to explain them.
Oct. 5, 2012, 12:27 p.m. CST
it doen't know what it wants, teh premise is dorky, the execution laughable. It's neither funny nor scary. Pure trash in a bad way.
Oct. 5, 2012, 12:37 p.m. CST
by Red Ned Lynch
Is it a complete film? No, in a lot of ways it isn't. The Leslie Vernon mythology is a little limp, the documentary crew agreeing to be a part of Leslie's transformation needs a way more convincing backstory, Robert Englund's doctor is criminally underused and yes... ...the lead actress is fingernails on a chalkboard bad. But this is horror, folks. And the things that are right about this movie far outweigh the things that are wrong. Baesel's performance is pitch perfect. Damn he's good as Leslie, a little fruity, a little OCD and when the time comes absolutely psycho. He is really, really good. The mentoring stuff is great and there are just tons of good set pieces throughout. Behind the Mask is a low budget gem and we don't get so many of those anymore. And are there some superficial similarities between Mask and Dog? Yeah, but the purposes of the two films are so dissimilar that to tar Mask with those just seems unfair.
Oct. 5, 2012, 12:47 p.m. CST
The idea that they rig everything up beforehand explains why they always seem to be one step ahead of the stupid teenagers. On the other hand the movie does nothing to explain why these killers always become total klutzes when it's time to go after the final girl.
Oct. 5, 2012, 1:06 p.m. CST
by John Ary
It's all about the cardio...
Oct. 5, 2012, 1:21 p.m. CST
The lead performer (Leslie Vernon) was a lightning bolt of wonderful psychotic energy in a movie that does him endless disservice. The film relies on references. Look at this review which even goes so far as to say the best thing about the movie is the previous films it discusses. Ugh. Plus, its fundamental premise undercuts literally EVERY OTHER SLASHER FILM IN EXISTENCE. When a movie story line can only exist by deflating EVERY film in its genre, that stops being satire unless we are talking a pure comedy. I felt like the film was trying to elevate Vernon not by lifting him up to greatness but by saying every other legendary Hollywood Slasher monster was nothing more than a fit con artist. Ugh again. Likewise I felt only hate for the film crew in the story because they are adult and intelligent enough to know what Leslie is planning and doing and are fine with, even excites about, his murdering people. Ugh x 3.
Oct. 5, 2012, 1:33 p.m. CST
And I'm being charitable to "Son of Frankenstein"
Oct. 5, 2012, 1:38 p.m. CST
by John Ary
I thought "Black Sabbath" was pretty good.
Oct. 5, 2012, 2:18 p.m. CST
by Monnie Knapp
But I would agree that both Son of Frankenstein and Black Sabbath are both very good films. Maniac is one I enjoy, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of the aforementioned films. I'll give this one a try eventually, from the sound if it, I'll at least enjoy the campiness. I've really enjoyed these old school/obscure film reviews, keep 'em comin' Ary.
Oct. 5, 2012, 5:22 p.m. CST
Oct. 5, 2012, 5:23 p.m. CST
Oct. 5, 2012, 6:30 p.m. CST
by dr geek
1. They do not have expensive equipment - and while they are a bit old to play college students, this is *easily* overlooked by anyone who watched Buffy or saw Superbad. 2. The move from voyeurs to trying to stop Leslie is *not* inexplicable. It is when he starts actually killing that they get cold feet, and it is really well established on-screen. Plus, a huge thematic element is the voyeurism of documentaries - the phenomenon of people filming atrocities instead of trying to help. 3. The low budget feel is a set-up for the transition to the higher-budget finals scenes when it ditches the documentary pretense and we enter the world directly, rather than through the filmmakers' lenses. 4. Come on - she's not *that* bad. 5. More gore to make it better? Really? Oy.
Oct. 5, 2012, 8:02 p.m. CST
by Chris Reynolds
As others have said, the whole premise is very similar to "Man Bites Dog". Except removed from realism quite a lot further by being about a slasher movie villain rather than a serial killer. The movie itself is about average in quality. It has a bit of fun with pointing out slasher movie tropes, and in that respect it's very much a post-Scream self-referential slasher film. The lead actress isn't very good, but the guy who plays Leslie Vernon isn't too bad. The film got a few chuckles out of me, and it has some points of interest. As somebody pointed out above, it does suggest that all slasher movie villains are everyday guys carrying out a hobby, so if that offends you, give it a miss, because that's pretty much the whole joke that the movie revolves around. Worth a watch if you enjoy slasher movies or you're really into horror, otherwise you can skip it without missing much. And if you haven't seen "Man Bites Dog", then definitely go and watch that instead. Also, I love that pastiche eighties poster that Ary put up underneath the review, even though it does rip off the tagline of "The Mutilator". I really miss those painted posters that always had so much more character than the photoshopped stuff that gets churned out today.
Oct. 6, 2012, 3:32 a.m. CST
by albert comin
I don't think the acting is bad. Thead acting as Ary puts it is in the documentary segments, where the actors play naturalistic. That type f awkward behavor seen in those segments i have seen from real people in the real world. The thing about the ending is that the movie turns into what it is since the begining: a serial killer movie of the Jason kind. Because the movie spends so much time with the mechanics of how this type of movie only overachiever serial killers go their business, people tend to forget they are watching one of those. By the end the movie reminds you of that and that you really shouldn't be sympathising with him. I guess some resent that. Robert Edlund makes for a great Dr Loomis type character. Who knew that old Freddy could e so convincing as a serial killer antagonist? If they ever felt the need to remake Hallowen again, Edlund has to be Dr Loomis. The reporter girl reminds me of the female lead actress from "Dredd".
Oct. 6, 2012, 3:32 a.m. CST
by albert comin
Oct. 8, 2012, 12:31 p.m. CST
How many times did you mention the budget? If low production values is a sticking point for you, may I suggest you stop watching horror and try something else? Perhaps a nice rom-com? Because, seriously, low budget is integral to the genre. In most cases, it's actually one of the genre's strengths and creates a better film than any over-produced, glossy affair could give you. Ask yourself why Carpenter's Halloween is better than Zombie's. Now ask yourself which has the bigger budget.
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