Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon isn’t a horror movie. It’s a comedy that tries to deconstruct the slasher film with mixed results, which may be why I never heard of it. Or maybe I’m behind the times.

A nobody who wants to be somebody, Leslie Mancuso decides to co-opt the legend of deranged person Leslie Vernon. Leslie wants to be a serial-killer superstar and have his name spoken in the same whispers reserved for Freddy, Jason and Michael. Even though most real-life serial killers are borderline imbeciles incapable of forming relationships, Leslie is a charming guy. A meticulous planner who knows all the tropes, Leslie does cardio, reads books about magic tricks and escape artists and focuses his breathing to the point where he can seem dead.

He doesn’t hire a publicist but does the next best thing. Meet Taylor Gentry, who is making a documentary about Leslie Vernon. Taylor’s a wannabe also, which might explain why she tags along as Leslie stalks, terrorizes and kills people. Seeing Leslie and Taylor chat about his plans for mass-murder, it’s obvious they have a real bond. Their relationship is the most interesting element of Behind the Mask, and the way the filmmakers handle it is a real lost opportunity. I didn’t like the twist, but others may love it.

We get the behind-the-scenes stuff before Behind the Mask morphs into a quasi-slasher movie. The characters that don’t get the joke are quickly disposed of. As per usual, all IQs drop twenty points. Watching Taylor fumble for the axe in the shed, I recall Leslie telling her hours earlier how he’d sabotaged the axe in the shed. I guess it’s easy for me, sitting in my living room.

Bottom line: Behind the Mask is a good movie, but Scream did the same thing better. There are lots of in-jokes. Robert Englund makes a cameo as Donald Sutherland – er, Doc Halloran. We also meet Leslie’s serial killer mentor, Eugene. I don’t know who Eugene is based on and I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, so if someone could tell me I’d appreciate it. Leslie looks like a big chicken in his slasher outfit, but I don’t know if that was done on purpose or not.

Recommended!

Vampires

Be warned that this review contains spoilers.

A mockumentary about creatures of the night, Vampires is as good an example of this axiom as I’ve ever seen. Do not confuse this movie with What We Do In the Shadows, another pseudo-documentary about bloodsuckers. Set in Belgium and Quebec, Vampires is in French with English subtitles and is more satire than horror movie. I didn’t laugh at  the jokes, but I might not have understood some of the cultural references. If you think vampires slaughtering minorities, children and handicapped people is funny, then this is the movie for you.

The plot: a film crew documents the exploits of a vampire clan – family head George, his wife Bertha and their two children, Samson and Grace. The kids aren’t George and Bertha’s biological children. I think ‘children’ means that they’re of the same bloodline, although this is never explained and I never saw the movies or TV shows the filmmakers are referencing. Sloppy writing is a problem throughout Vampires – dumb characters, dangling plotlines, unexplained incidents and utter impossibilities.

Bad writing aside, the main problem I had with Vampires is that George and Bertha are boring. They behave like middle-aged swingers who think they’re cool and end up embarrassing their kids in front of their friends. George is a self-satisfied prick and Bertha acts like she’s high on prescription meds. I will say that the nosferatu couple that lives in their basement is even worse.

Grace and Samson are more sympathetic than their ‘parents.’ Samson goes to vampire school to watch torture porn movies and practice his bite on a CPR dummy. His best friend is an ex-member of The Doors, who died and was reborn speaking fluent French. Grace likes pink and has a pink coffin because her dad spoils her. She keeps trying to kill herself because she can’t die, although she can die: just step into the daylight. So it’s not clear if Grace  wants to die or if she wants to be human. She has a human lover, who appears in the middle of the movie and just as suddenly disappears.

Samson has sex with the head vampire’s wife, which gets the whole family banished to Quebec. George has to get a real job. Samson falls in love with a human woman and becomes a subway busker. Grace starts transforming back into a human, for reasons way too muddled to go into. That’s one of the utter impossibilities I was talking about, and I’m not going to waste another hundred words describing why. Trust me on this one.

Not recommended.