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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #199

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: August 26, 2006 (London FrightFest), January 5, 2007 (US)
Sub-Genre: Slasher/Black Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Scott Glosserman
Producers: Al Corley, Andrew Lewis, Eugene Musso, Bart Rosenblatt, Scott Glosserman
Screenplay: Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve
Special Effects: Eddie Freund
Cinematography: Jaron Presant
Score: Gordy Haab
Editing: Sean Presant
Studio: GlenEcho Entertainment, Code Entertainment
Distributors: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Stars: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelda Rubinstein, Bridgett Newton, Kate Lang Johnson, Ben Pace, Britain Spellings, Hart Turner, Krissy Carlson, Travis Zariwny, Teo Gomez, Matt Bolt, Anthony Forsyth, Kane Hodder

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Talking Heads Psycho Killer

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I’ve been watching slasher since my balls were smooth. Thirty years of investment, and I have to say, I have a whole lot of great memories to call upon. Whether Freddy, Michael, Jason or lesser known icons such as Cropsy and Harry Warden, the killers in question have given me endless hours of entertainment and plentiful reasons to check under my mattress every single night. Like any other slasher enthusiast I have felt dismayed more recently by the lack of a masked murderer worthy of the same status. Marcus Miller is the obvious recent highlight but, while the world awaits his imminent return with bated breath, we need someone to cheer for in the interim. Leslie Vernon may well fit the bill.

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Scott Glosserman’s Behind The Mask is unlike any other slasher out there and takes an entirely unique approach. Noted for resembling a hybrid of Scream and Man Bites Dog, I’d agree there are parallels to both movies but it is a beast with defies categorization. Part mockumentary and part outright slasher, it treads a fine line and does so remarkably well, aided by a spirited performance from Nathan Baesel as its hopeful Jason wannabee Mancuso/Vernon. We follow him around, through the eyes of a film crew who have agreed to chart his planned meteoric rise to slasher stardom.

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From the start, Glosserman turns convention on his head and we are afforded access all areas as he methodically plans his big ‘hurrah’. He explains his intention, rigs his potential playground and allows us to share his trade secrets. Vernon actually comes across as quite an affable chap, likeable in the same manner as Norman Bates on first introduction. Like Bates however, there are flashes of madness and Baesel is more than up to the task.

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He is the consummate professional and won’t let anything interfere with his projected outcome and that, in itself, creates a sense of uneasiness when faced with his nonchalance. It’s just business as usual and, in his mind, he’s doing nothing wrong. Some people are destined to be marine biologists, others college professors; Leslie just wants to kill people. It’s what he excels at most.

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He is a most hospitable host, introducing us to his mentor Eugene (Scott Wilson) and his wife as they pat him on the back for bagging himself his very own ‘Ahab’. This refers to Doc Halloran (a great turn by Robert Englund), the Loomis of the piece and thorn in his side. This, to Leslie, signifies his rise up the ranks and confirms that he has finally made it and he earns his stripes from the couple, while the film crew watch on with sick fascination. We also join him at a local library where he torments his planned ‘final girl’ and the film shifts impetus at that point.

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We move from shaky handheld footage to watching a studio slasher playing out in real-time and it begins to become clear exactly what Glosserman has tucked away up his sleeve. He is lining up the dominoes and has the full intention of knocking them over come the final act. When the twist comes it is easy enough to spot it from a mile off but, by that point, we’re so totally invested that we just enjoy the ride, old school 80s slasher style.

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If, like Keeper, slasher has been your bread and butter growing up, then there is plenty here to sway you over to Leslie’s way of thinking. It attempts something rather exclusive and pulls it off gallantly for the most part. There is a rich vein of black humor running through it and numerous references and in-jokes for the better versed amongst us and, at 92 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

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To sweeten the deal there are cameos for Englund and Wilson, as well as a succinct turn from Zelda Rubenstein and a blink and it’s over appearance from Kane Hodder. The spotlight however is always on Baesel and the youngster has just enough charisma to pull it off. Angela Goethals puts in a plucky performance as journo Taylor, especially when she realizes there’s more to Mancuso’s plan than he’s letting on.

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Is Leslie Vernon the next household name waiting to grace the annals of history? No. It was never really intended that way. Glosserman wants to engage his viewer with something totally out of left field and deserves plaudits for doing such a bang up job. Behind The Mask is as much art-house movie as out-and-out slasher and he offers nothing more than a totally fresh perspective. On its own terms, it’s something of a mini-classic. Long may his rise continue.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: We are given a playground, shown the toys but never really get much playtime where grue is concerned. There are moments of course but Keeper would have welcomed just a little more of the red sauce. In true 80s slasher style we are gifted a pair of mammalia worthy of hanging your fedora on, just to make up for it.

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