Behind the Mask is a very interesting and entertaining parody of a horror film shot in the 'mockumentary' style. It uses many of the traditional conventions you would find in any of the 80's films from the genre: scary, seemingly all-knowing villain plans to hunt and kill a group of attractive teenagers, until he's defeated by the virginal 'last girl'. However, it is not conventional for the film to explore the making of these plans, which is the best and most ingenious part of the film. Eric Goldman explains that "The idea of following around a Michael Myers type guy before the events of a slasher movie, and seeing all the hard work that goes into preparing the perfect night of terror is amusing...Rather than a raving lunatic or a mute psychopath, Leslie's just your normal, average, friendly guy… Who just happens to have a plan to hunt down and kill a group of teenagers, before facing his ultimate virginal adversary." (Goldman, 2007) With horror films, if the killer's plans are revealed to the audience or characters it would normally only be in the final portion of the film. However, in the very first scene that introduces you to the lead female character and Leslie himself, the audience is told his intentions straight away. As Goldman said, this is really amusing because not only are his plans very clever and intelligent, but he is a very normal and friendly guy to be around. The audience warm to him more than the lead female and her faceless crew behind the cameras.
|Fig. 2 Leslie relaxing with a friend.|
Due to Leslie being so likable it allows for a lot of unexpected comedic elements. One of the reasons this film is so entertaining is because, despite it being introduced as a horror, it is also a comedy and it succeeds in being as funny as it is unnerving. Don Sumner expressed that the film is "somehow able to present a horror/comedy in a way that does not ruin the horror or taint the comedy...They do not intermingle, that's the secret." (Sumner, 2010:115) Sumner believes that due to the film keeping the comedic and horror parts separate, it has allowed it to successfully do both without the risk of one ruining the other. This could be true, as some of the funniest moments are during the mockumentary style sections that are much more casual. During the film, when the footage is handheld in this style, it is much more relaxed and the audience gets to see Leslie being his very entertaining self. One of the best scenes is his explanation about what people normally do when they are being attacked by a slasher horror killer. His delivery of the lines are so innocent about the most horrific acts, one example is his bemusement at why people never break the lower floor windows to escape, it is always the upper floors. Though the horror elements are very clichéd, the reason they are is because he is recreating the same things that the killers, like Halloween's Mike Myers. He is using the clichés because that is what is needed to create the right horror situation. It is worrying how much the audience enjoys Leslie as a character, even when they know he is officially a murderer and he's relaxing with a murderer that's not retired his naivety and innocence when he is being himself is still charming.
List of Illustrations
Figure 1. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon poster. At: http://www.movieposterdb.com/poster/46f81585 (Accessed on: 17.01.12)
Figure 2. Leslie relaxing with a friend. At: http://www.dreadcentral.com/img/reviews/behindmaskpic1big.jpg (Accessed on: 17.01.12)
Goldman, Eric (2007) Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/753/753191p1.html (Accessed on: 17.01.12)
Sumner, Don (2010) Horror Movie Freak. USA: Krause Publications.