The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

When it was given a limited theatrical release in 2007, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon didn't make much of a splash. According to Box Office Mojo, it earned just $69,136. Over the years, word-of-mouth turned the movie into a legitimate cult favorite. Scream Factory celebrates this unique horror-comedy with a Collector's Edition Blu-ray release on March 27. Fans are sure to be delighted.

The brilliance of the premise is that several notable slasher movies – Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street – all take place in the same universe. Angela Goethals (Home Alone) plays Taylor Gentry, a young journalist. Together with a film crew, she sets out to interview Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), an up-and-coming killer cut from the same cloth as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, and Michael Myers. He hopes to be as big as they are.

The first two-thirds of the movie are shot documentary-style, with Taylor and her team following Vernon as he makes his preparations for slaughter. The satire in this initial hour is quite sharp, with the character giving away some of the “tools of the trade.” For example, you know how killers in slasher movies always lumber around, yet still manage to catch up to running victims? Vernon explains how this is accomplished. Behind the Mask is often very comical in deconstructing slasher conventions. There are even scenes in which he gets some coaching from a mentor, played by The Walking Dead's Scott Wilson. The very notion of slashing as a business is inspired.

The final half hour abandons the verite approach, morphing into a very good version of the thing it was previously poking fun at, as Vernon goes on his devious killing spree in a way Taylor doesn't expect. That turns out to be a good decision, as it avoids the need to invent some lame reason for the characters to keep their cameras on while running for their lives. The switch is also fundamentally built into the picture's DNA. It purposefully becomes what it initially satirizes.

Despite the bloodshed and mayhem in the third act, there's still room for humor. Robert Englund has an ace supporting role as a psychiatrist tracking down the killer. He is very clearly inspired by Donald Pleasence in the Halloween movies, and the character is increasingly prominent to the plot as it goes along. The more familiar you are with this horror archetype, the more laughs you'll derive from the winking manner in which Englund plays him.

Director Scott Glosserman and co-writer David J. Stieve clearly absorbed a lot of slasher movies before making their own. Behind the Mask is both funny and exciting because they thoroughly understand the nuts and bolts of the genre. Their film mocks worn-out cliches, then cleverly uses those same cliches to assemble something that's genuinely suspenseful. Watching the filmmakers pull off that balancing act is impressive.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon deserves its cult status. The movie is a lot of fun, as well as a prime example of how to pump new life into an old formula.

Blu-ray Features:

As usual, Scream Factory has loaded the Blu-ray with a ton of first-class supplementary features. The disc contains a new HD master from the original 2K intermediate, in addition to audio commentary from Glosserman that is moderated by filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch. A second commentary featuring several cast members is here, as well.

“Joys and Curses” is a brand new retrospective documentary that features interviews with actors Angela Goethals and Ben Pace, and co-writer David Stieve. All of them offer enlightening insights into the making of the movie and its eventual audience reception. “Before the Mask: The Comic Book” is an interview with Nathan Thomas Millner, who discusses transferring an unused prequel script into comic book form.

Featurettes on the making of the movie and the casting process are present, along with half an hour of deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary, plus the original theatrical trailer.

As always, Scream Factory's extras are admiring, designed to show appreciation for the main feature. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a perfect movie for the company to salute.

For more information on this and other great titles, please visit the Scream Factory website.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is rated R for horror violence, language, some sexual content and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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