Behind the Mask

Since recently canceling my account with Blockbuster and signing up for Netflix I have been quite pleased the service. Being able to download so many movies instantly, and for no additional charge, has allowed me to watch a lot of movies that I likely wouldn’t watch if I had to go pick them out, or if I was going to be keeping the wife from watching something she wanted to see while she waited for me to return the dreck I had rented. Netflix probably thinks I have some pretty odd -and likely demented- tastes in movies, but really I don’t. I just like a movie that I can immerse myself in and enjoy, which I really can’t seem to do with most of what is coming out of hollywood these days.

I find that for the most part I can really only enjoy comedies that are current. I watch a comedy for the express purpose of laughing at what is happening onscreen, and for that it doesn’t matter who is in the film, or what the circumstances are. That seems to be the problem I have when trying to watch a drama or thriller that is current: I usually can’t enjoy it because of who is in it. For me it is extremely difficult to watch a movie with Nicolas Cage in it and see anything other than Nicolas Cage pretending to be someone acting out events. I have seen him (and all the other actors that seem to be in every damn movie that comes out) play so many roles that I simply can’t watch the movie as a story; I can’t suspend my disbelief, and that takes all the fun out of watching. When I go to Netflix to pick out something to watch, I intentionally try to find movies with people I have never heard of, and stories that I have never heard of, and I find that it makes it much easier for me to enjoy the show.

I find a lot of duds.

Even when I do find duds, I am usually able to watch them, and I don’t think I take any more or less away from them than if I had watched the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But sometimes I do find genuinely good movies… Though not nearly as often as I would like.

Netflix has been keeping track of the movies I have been watching though, and is offering up suggestions. The movie suggestion it had for me this morning was dead on: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.

I really enjoyed this one. Thanks in part to knowing absolutely nothing about it going in, partly because I was able to believe the characters -since you haven’t heard of anyone in this film, and the roles were played well- (Robert Englund is in it, but in a role that his Elm Street work actually strengthens the character if you have seen those movies), but mostly because it was quite clever and unique. The basic premise is simple: A documentary crew follows around a young man who has aspirations to become a killer. Not a serial killer, but a killer of legend or folklore: a la Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers. A killer much bigger than life (death?), with a story and reputation that will live on long after he is gone. That seems hard to believe, and as I sit here typing this I remember that I was thinking at the start that there was no way I would be able to believe the premise. Though as the story flowed I found myself not only believing it, but not finding it odd that the documentary crew was with him, and actually rooting for the guy.

That is about as far as you should read before this is going to get spoilery. Be warned.

As the story unfolds Leslie (the would be killer) is showing the crew all of the detail, training, and preparation that goes into making a successful appearance as a legendary killer. He picks a town where there was a tragedy some time before. That tragedy has already spawned some local folklore about the young boy who was pushed off a cliff to his (probably very real) death. Leslie was planning to make his appearance as this dead boy coming back for revenge. But to make sure that everyone knows that he is the resurrected boy, he fabricates news clippings to leave lying around conspicuously. These clippings also have a bogus photo to make the story seem like it personally affects one local girl. It really is genius in its own twisted way.

If you have any experience with these types of horror films parts of this are actually pretty humorous; for instance it shows him cutting through the handles of all the farm tools that could be used against him. Now you know why that damn axe always breaks with the first damn swing! He nails windows shut, has a remote control for the breaker box in the basement, pre-cuts the limbs of the trees near windows so that they will break if used as a means of escape, later he removes the spark plugs from all the cars. All the things that normally leave you wondering “when did he have time to do that” in the horror movies, he shows you.

The first hour of the movie really is just him showing the crew what goes into it. They follow him through the entire setup of the final showdown, filming it all as he starts to terrorize one poor girl. And as expected the crew grows more and more apprehensive with every passing moment. The question that you will be asking yourself the whole time (at least the one I was asking myself) is “are they really going to tape him killing all those kids or is the movie going to end just as he goes into the house?” And the answer does not disappoint.

I’ll not go into much more detail. I liked the movie when I finished watching it, and the more I think about it, the better it gets. The only complaint I have is that the movie would have benefited from being possibly fifteen minutes longer. There are two characters that are left absolutely hanging at the end. If you watch it you will know the two I mean. There is no resolution as far as they are concerned and for the protagonist to have closure we really need to see what becomes of them; it simply is not possible for them and the protagonist to coexist.

My words don’t do this movie justice, and I am terrible at trying to review movies. But take my word for it, watch this one.

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