Quint says BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON is the best of the fest... so far!!!
Published at: March 13, 2006, 5:24 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of my favorite film from SXSW so far. I know I'm just out of the first weekend of the festival, not even halfway through, but as of now this film takes the cake.
I loved the hell out THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, but that movie has been on my radar for months. I had no expectations for newcomer Scott Glosserman's film, BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON going into the movie. In fact, the only thing I knew about it was that Robert Englund had a small role and that Matt Dentler, South By's M.C., highly recommended it.
Essentially what you have is a combination of MAN BITES DOG and SCREAM. I know on the surface that sounds a little lame, but Glosserman pulled it off with a great cast, smart script and truly inventive filmmaking.
The film starts off telling you that you're not in the real world, but the movie world. In this world the events of Camp Crystal Lake, the murders in Haddonfield and the rash of teen deaths on Elm Street are all real. They've happened. It's part of the history, like Charles Manson, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer are part of our recent history.
An upstart psychopath invites a college journalism team to document his preparation for his first foray into becoming an iconic serial killer.
The film rests comfortably on the shoulders of Nathan Baesel, most known for a role on INVASION. He's energetic, charismatic and pulls off the character's humor. He's just a likable guy, which is what makes following his Leslie Vernon character so fun. He takes these two cameramen and the female interviewer around as he picks the right group of victims. They have to have just the right amount of stoners, jocks and loose girls to surround the main target, the virgin.
We find his "Ahab," the educated personification of good, played by Robert Englund channeling Donald Pleasance's Dr. Loomis, we meet his mentor, a killer from the late '60s and early '70s played by the wonderful Scott Wilson and we watch as he sets up his legend and his legacy.
Of course he does this all in a matter of fact way that is not at all creepy, like any other young professional excited about joining in with the masters of their fields. He's just an excited young man, without a hint of crazy. He's just trying to make a name for himself in the field he loves.
Glosserman shoots the film very well, introducing a kind of God camera very early on... You start with only the footage that is being shot by the college journalists, but Glosserman starts switching back and forth between the documentary-esque footage and the regular camera filming the action like a real movie would. He craftily switches back and forth at the right points, all building to a great ending.
The acting throughout is solid, including Angela Goethals (most known for 24) who plays the female lead, the journalism major chick. It also has a great cameo. The immortal Zelda Rubinstein of POLTERGEIST and ANGUISH (props to anybody familiar with that one) fame has a small part and a great speech that is almost worth finding this movie just by itself.
Speaking of cameos, there's also tons of nods to classic horror films, including that great piece of music from THE SHINING that plays over that final push in on the New Year's Eve photo and the real life NIGHTMARE house and Haddonfield HALLOWEEN neighborhood.
I'm pretty hard on horror film spoofs, but I have to tell you... This one gets it right, but the reason why it's so great is that it isn't a spoof. That's the crazy thing. It's certainly funny and takes shots at the horror film structure, but even though I hate to seriously compare it to SCREAM, it really does have that feel. There's a horror movie in there, but it's grounded in some sort of reality, not a slapstick Zucker comedy. Remember when the first SCREAM hit, it was fresh, new... exciting... Then there were 487 copy cats and it became the cliche.
This film really won me over. It currently has no distribution, but then again it just had its world premiere at the Alamo a few hours ago. I hope to see this one get picked up, but I guarantee this one will make it. It may be a first film, but Glosserman comes off like a pro and his script with David J. Stieve is smart and entertaining enough to avoid the pitfalls of this type of film.
Now that I've built it up, it'll probably disappoint, but hey... It's my honest opinion. I'm really excited to find a movie like this at South By. Movies like BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON is the reason I go to film festivals.
Oh, and great end credits sequence with the perfect choice of music, Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads. Great capper.
Well, that's it from me today. I have a full day of flicks tomorrow and then Tuesday I have just enough time to appear on the AICN panel before jumping on a plane to Las Vegas for ShoWest. Keep your eye out, squirts. Tons of goodies on the way.