Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask. Code Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not a very big fan of horror, but I do enjoy a mockumentary, especially a comedic one, and horror is a genre that’s always ripe to be mocked.

I hadn’t heard of this movie before the part of the internet that works in mysterious ways (okay, the mysterious ways governed by data and math) brought it to the surface. It’s a pretty simple premise, as a serial killer to be invites a documentary team to follow him as he plans his blaze of glory, and instead of calling the police or anything, they go get their killer story.

After watching the movie:

Journalist Taylor Gentry and her cameramen Doug and Todd were contacted by a man who says that he is Leslie Vernon, the local boy who killed his abusive family and then was murdered by the town, and he’s preparing his triumphant return as the next legendary slasher in the tradition of Kruger, Myers, and Voorhees. He leads them through his preparations for his big night, lets them watch him stalk his chosen Final Girl, hoping she’ll pick up on the cues he’s laying down to ultimately start investigating. He shows them how he’s going to stage manage the family house and grounds where it will all happen. Taylor and her crew get to meet Leslie’s serial killer mentor. The crew is with Leslie all the way up to when the blood starts flowing.

Where Scream takes the more obvious approach to metacommentary on horror by having the heroes and the villains study existing horror movies to determine their moves, this movie goes the extra step and proposes that for the purposes of this story, the franchise-driving slashers of the genre are real, and notorious. Further, the viewpoint stays with the killer rather than his victims. So the script has to go deeper into Leslie’s motivations than the classics ever need to. Leslie’s house party massacre is on the surface a revenge against the town that wronged him, but it’s more just the medium in which he creates his art. Leslie and his mentor Eugene have some things to say about balancing the good in the world and/or drawing out the good in others.

The crew on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be as well thought out. They don’t seem all that mercenary, they don’t seem very committed to depicting the story however it goes, and they seem to believe Leslie’s murderous intentions even though they’re blasé about it until the moment strikes. They’re just going with it because they’re going with it, until reality sets in. Ironically, reality setting in is also when the documentary ends and traditional cinematic unreality sets in.

For all the philosophical analysis of a slasher’s motives, the only statement that seems to be made by the text itself here is satire of the slasher genre. It’s a 90-minute “what must these guys be like?” joke. That’s a lot of fun, but its ultimate problem is that in order to reach a satisfying conclusion, it needs to step outside its starting premise and become Scream instead. Which is also fun, but not what we came for.

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