Some of you out there may be a aware of a little, independent, barely-seen horror flick called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. In addition to being a legitimate straight horror film in its own right, it was also an extremely smart and genuinely funny mockumentary (in case you're unfamiliar with the term, it basically means a fake documentary... think This Is Spinal Tap). I saw it last year, but only when it made its way onto DVD after a rave reception at the festivals where it played.
It's a fantastically original and unique little movie, one that the criminal theatrical release snub should rightfully be made up for on DVD (it thankfully is really on its way). The basic storyline of it was that all of those famous horror icons - that's Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers - were actually real murderers and the movie follows (for the most part) Leslie Vernon in documentary style as he trains to become a serial killer, giving us inside tips and clues to what really goes on along the way.
Want to know how the doors in the massive, secluded house always seem to be locked? Or how the killer seems to be able to catch up with the victim even when they're running and he appears to be just walking? Then watch Behind the Mask.
Not to give too much away, but it ends in such a way that a sequel is very much possible and it appears that the creators are looking at making one. After finding it's home on DVD (like so many of the little gems of past years: Office Space and Donnie Darko to name but a couple), that success has sparked writer David J. Stieve and director Scott Glosserman to discuss the killer character of Leslie Vernon and what story a sequel could center on. Check out all of what Stieve had to say...
[Warning: The following quotes contain spoilers about the first Behind the Mask movie]:
"Scotty [Glosserman] and I are getting into specifics, and as you can imagine things have changed. Just as Scotty and I, even Nathan [Baesel - who played Leslie Vernon] perhaps, have changed in our professional lives. One thing we can certainly touch on is the idea that the parallels to real life continue."
"Leslie's journey as a 'craftsman' has had to be adjusted to the reality of what happened to his fledgling mythology after the events of the Harvest Moon Killings. So, too, have our expectations as filmmakers in the wake of how things unfolded after the release of the film in real life."
"I can tell you that there IS a way we're blending the documentary and cinematic lenses again. And there is also a manner in which Taylor (Angela Goethals) and Leslie are forced to cooperate with one another, although not necessarily on the best of terms. There's definitely a perverse love story that must be honored, but then again they did try pretty hard to kill each other. Not exactly a 'kiss and make up' situation. There's a sort of bigger, badder influence that's threatening everything Leslie's worked to accomplish, and Taylor may have her own agenda for 'helping' him. Or does she?"
"Scott and I are painfully aware of the sequel trap, of treading the same ground again with nothing more than a bigger budget. That's not what's going to happen. Things didn't go the way Leslie wanted them to, particularly in the reaction of the residents of Glen Echo. I can't give any more details than that, but suffice to say, we find Leslie a little perplexed that he ‘did everything right, everything went exactly according to plan!' and yet the aftermath of his rampage is a right-turn derailment of what he was expecting. So he, being Leslie, regroups and plays the hand he's been dealt. How Taylor and the boys get involved is part of the unfolding of his efforts in that regard."
"I'm VERY pleased that we've found what we feel is a progressive, organic,and rational way to make that happen. Again, the real world parallel is that our efforts as filmmakers also needed to be re-calibrated and adjusted to the reality of the industry. I feel we've found that signature blending of the two worlds at the story level. Albeit this time, the industry is going to take a few harder shots... [Leslie will be] channeling Freddy [Krueger] a bit more this time, finding some frightening ways to express his sense of humor."
"When you think about it, Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy Krueger all had to pay their dues. It's not an instantaneous process, even in their world! So each of us, individually and collectively, have come to realize how much more work we need to do. We all accept it and are up to the task. We've learned our lessons, taken our lumps, and we're going to craft a better story for Leslie as a result. Leslie is redoubling his efforts to become the greatest slasher killer ever. He knows it's gonna be a longer race than he thought, and he's gearing up to win it. Woe to the ones who doubt him or get in his way!"
It really sounds like Stieve, along with Glosserman, love the character and the idea they came up with back in 2006. It doesn't sound like they are just making another one for the sake of it - clearly making tons of money at the box-office isn't the incentive since the first one barely saw the darkness of any theaters - but because they want to continue the story of a character they've created from scratch and believe to have a lot of potential.
Even as someone who's not particularly into horror movies (there are those which I absolutely adore, namely The Shining and The Descent, but as a genre I tend not to be "into it"), I still very much appreciate the idea at the center of Behind the Mask. I'm actually surprised no one came up with the idea of it long before now... I guess these were the first guys to actually question some of those cliches we just seem to blindly accept in horror movies these days enough to address them in an actual movie (dumb-assed Scary Movie franchise notwithstanding).
The mixing of the documentary with the straight horror was a stroke of genius, and what sets it apart from other horror movies. I doubt it will have the same sort of impact as stuff like The Shining or The Exorcist in the long run, but put me fully in the camp that it fully deserves to.
So were you one of the lucky few who happened to catch Behind the Mask? What did you think of it, and do you reckon a sequel is worth making?
For my full review of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon you can head here.