There have been a number of notorious serial killings committed over the past few years, with places such as Camp Crystal Lake, Haddonfield, and Elm Street going down in infamy as crime scenes where persistent murderers evade capture and in many cases apparent death to return again and again to slaughter more innocents. But there is one man who wishing to join the ranks of those terrible criminals, and he is Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), who a camera crew has arrived in the town of Glen Echo to interview. Our reporter Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her cameramen deliver the introduction and knock on Vernon's door, but has he got cold feet?
Nothing of the sort, he's just messing with them for his own amusement, as he is serious about freaking people out and getting a little practice in doesn't go amiss before his big night. Behind the Mask was the contribution of director Scott Glosserman and his co-writer David J. Stieve to the seemingly never-ending slasher movie genre, and to make matters more complicated it was a contribution to the seemingly never-ending mockumentary genre to boot, which should have indicated we were dealing with some very tired material. However, on watching it you would find an interesting commentary on the horror movies it spoofed, especially as it wasn't really spoofing them at all, it was simply very self-aware.
If this is sounding familiar, it could be down to the fact you had seen (or heard of) the Belgian satirical chiller Man Bites Dog, which also charted a documentary crew following an unrepentant serial killer around his days, yet while that was a commentary on how the news media sets up the worst of humanity as entertainment every night on the television and every morning in the newspapers, Behind the Mask was more inward-looking, navel gazing towards the metier of horrors that had proliferated since the nineteen-seventies, and not accusing anyone very much. This was more content to observe precisely how clichés had well and truly taken over and were allowing the style to stagnate, yet it was cheeky with it.
You didn't have to look very closely to see that as well as subverting the rules of the genre, it was happy to use them when it suited, eating its cake and having it too, especially in its final act when it was as if the conventions were so strong that they were impossible to resist, even as it paid lip service to the way Vernon's plans were not playing out as he had explained. There were selected sequences where Glosserman dropped the pretence of documentaries and presented them exactly as scenes from a by the numbers slasher movie would have played out, and it was a measure of the film's impudence that if they had belonged to one of those, the viewer would likely have dismissed it as something they had seen before, many times over.
The production managed to recruit three star names to bolster their reasoning. Squeaky-voiced Zelda Rubinstein from the Poltergeist series played a librarian delivering the all-important backstory to the final girl, Scott Wilson, not a familiar slasher veteran, played Vernon's mentor, a now-retired serial killer who laments that his ways of despatching folks in the old days were better than modern methods, and in a casting coup Robert Englund doing surprisingly decent work on the other side of the moral divide as a Doctor Loomis-esque psychiatrist determined to stop Vernon in his tracks. But really it was the dynamic between the killer the interviewer that counted, and made the film a success, for you begin to note that she is fulfilling a certain role better than the supposed target of Vernon's plans, so that by the end Behind the Mask has dropped all pretence and plunges headfirst into a perfect recreation of countless examples of what it was sending up, the previously charming Vernon well and truly carried away with his self-appointed destiny. Music by Gordy Haab.