Monday, July 16, 2007

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)

Sharp and knowledgable meta-slasher film about an aspiring monster who hires a camera crew to document his preparations for his upcoming killing spree. Comparisons to Man Bites Dog are inevitable, but this is cheery where that film was bleak. Much of the credit for that goes to Nathan Baesel, who plays the title character as an intelligent and enthusiastic Type-A personality -- you get the feeling that, had he harnessed that energy differently, he coulda been a hell of a salesman. (Which makes sense, since Vernon is, in essence, selling himself and his own created mythology.) Writers Scott Glosserman & David J. Stieve are relentlessly clever in hitting every possible slasher film cliche as part of Vernon's grand design, whether explaining the usefulness of cardiovascular health for would-be slashers or delving into the sexual symbology of the weaponry and surroundings he'll be utilizing (the influence of Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws grows wider every year); Glosserman also directs with confidence, switching between the verite reality-show style and the more polished modern-slasher style as necessary. It's a consistently amusing lark for slasher fans with a twist in the tail that's really quite neat. There's a feint at subtext about why we need monsters in an age of cynicism that unfortunately goes unexplored (if it had been followed out, we might be talking about the film of the year); nevertheless, Behind the Mask remains an exemplary pisstake on the slasher film while ultimately turning itself into an exemplary slasher film.

Grade: B+


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