Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Notable Slasher Films: Behind the Mask (2006)

One of the more fascinating forms of storytelling in film is the mockumentary. Especially when it portrays things that are unexpected such as crime or even murder. Drop Dead Gorgeous effectively shocked people early in the film when what seemed to be a comedy about innocent but silly teens and turned murderous. Man Bites Dog is less effective as a film, but tried to tackle the idea of a serious camera crew documenting a criminal serial killer who killed old people to rob them.

It is especially fun when genre film is tackled, as in 2006’s “Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.” The crazy premise: the serial killers of slasher films are real. A film student and crew decide to make a documentary about a new “slasher in training” with his cooperation. As things get serious and the killing is about to start, the crew get cold feet and decide to warn the victims, but too late they realize that they have been a part of the killer’s plans all along. As Scream did a decade earlier, Behind the Mask plays with the conventions of the genre. It points out the silliness while still using those silly things to scary effect.

Where this film takes Scream one further is in the responsibility it presents the audience. The crew slowly realizes that they are more than just casual observers. They live in a world where violence and evil exist, often as entertainment. When the reality of what is going on hits them, they have to decide whether to just watch or to do something active against the evil.

Most of Behind the Mask’s audience probably missed this point, but they face the same question. We live in a world where evil ruins lives and hurts people every day. Most learn to ignore it. Some have a fascination with it, like the cars that slow down when passing an accident site. Are we content to simply carry on with our lives if we are fortunate enough to avoid harm, or will we do what we can to help people around us?

Warning: There are plenty of reasons this movie is rated R. Note the "Not a Recommendation" label.

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