Monday, July 23, 2007

FGFC: Uh...girl parts

Hey! Welcome to this month's entry into the Final Girl Film Club. This month it's Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon. This time around, I'm posting from The French Quarter in New Orleans. Like I said yesterday, this is the last post from me until I get back from vacation.

So lets get this ball rolling! First off, who is Leslie Vernon? I'm glad you asked. Leslie Vernon, as the legend goes, killed his parents and was thrown over a waterfall to his death, but now he's back, and he's found a documentary crew to film his side of the grisly tale.

The whole story takes place in a world where the actions of all of the 'greats' are real. Jason, Freddy, Micheal Myers...heroes of the trade. The trade being...well, being evil. To paraphrase Eugene, in the battle between good and evil, you have to have evil, right? And that's what guys like Leslie and Eugene represent. Pure evil. Not that diluted stuff. Not the evil from concentrate. Not even the similar, but not quite the same, imitation evil flavoring. Nope, these guys are the real deal.

And Leslie wants the world to see what he's about to do. Hence Taylor and the crew. They're going to create a documentary about Leslie. That's sort of the gist of the movie. It's a fairly standard slasher story (and intentionally so) told from the other side. How does he train, how does he pick a victim. How much planning goes into the seemingly random process. They say every story has two sides, well, this is the bastard's side.

Horror movies have a way of holding a mirror up to society in a way that few other movies can. And, I think Behind the Mask does just this. The internet has, rather than an age of shared information and intelligence, ushered in an age on banality. We're a society that has opened our lives rather than our minds. We document the minutiae of our lives in our livejournals and on our MySpaces. We video then mundaneness of our days to make YouTube videos. Here we are, with the world's knowledge at our fingertips, and we're putting silly captions on pictures of cats.

Not only this, but look at reality tv. Instant stardom, just let us tape your life. Is there any doubt that a real life Leslie Vernon could appear? Is it so far outside the realm of possibility that in the near future, a serial killer could enlist a news crew to document his preparations and executions? How far outside the realm of possibility that there'd be an audience for it?

This is where Behind the Mask succeeds. While Leslie himself is a very...over the top character, there's a tinge of believability to this scenario. Here is a guy who is so convinced that he will be the new heir to the throne, that he wants someone to follow him along the way to preserve the event for posterity. Is this really that different than a show about Posh Spice moving to America?

Now, don't get me wrong, things in the movie aren't necessarily what they seem. And Leslie may certainly have his own motives for his actions beyond what I'm attributing to him. And the movie on it's own is a great critique/satire of the genre. It's really interesting to listen to Leslie talk about the symbolism behind slasher movies. As a deconstruction of the slasher movie, it again, works.

And, if there's one thing I've noticed in slasher movies, it's the predisposition towards a twist ending. There's always a red herring. There's always something to throw you off the trail of what's really going on. And, in this, Behind the Mask delivers. And, while you may see it coming, it's the execution that really stands out.

Certainly, the movie had flaws as well. Most notably in character development. Sure, Taylor and Leslie are pretty well fleshed out, but Eugene and his wife were fairly useless. Not to mention Robert Englund as Leslie's 'Ahab', Doc Holloran could have stood to have a bit more depth. But, these are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

Over all, I couldn't help but like this movie. Nathan Baesel was certainly perfect for the role of Leslie, creating a villain that is a bit...well, odd, but strangely likable at the same time. He seems like a fun guy to hang out with, never mind that he kills people. It's about empowerment, not sadistic glee.

Angela Goethals plays journalism student (and interviewer), Taylor Gentry. Taylor is the one who gets to sort of play the straight man to Leslie's antics. Well, that may not be the best way to put it. Basically, she's the outsider looking in. She's the objective viewpoint. She's also tasked with, perhaps, the heaviest question in the film...'how much is too much?' At what point do we stop watching and intervene? At what point do we remove the mask to reveal the bullshit for what it is? At what point do we stop being objective and let our feelings intercede? At what point do we step in to prevent something that doesn't affect us? And finally, once we do stand up, what is the cost and is it worth it?

So, in addition to being damned entertaining, it's the kind of movie that will make you think a little bit too. With that in mind, I can't help but recommend this movie to anyone that will listen. Stacie, you picked another good one! 9 bodies in the house, and all the exits I showed you earlier are now booby-trapped out of 10