Shibatabread has translated an episode of Downtown’s Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende (ダウンタウンのガキの使いやあらへんで!!) in which the four other comedians try giving Matsumoto different items to see whether or not he likes them. The manner in which Matsumoto receives these gifts is… different.
I laughed much more than usual at this episode. There is a casualness to their filming with complete acknowledgement that the setups are silly, odd, and sometimes don’t make sense. Knowing everyone’s reactions are more real than scripted make the especially funny moments in this even more especially funny.
The film I’m about to talk about is…well, it’s one of my favorites. Not just one of my favorite horror films, but one of my favorite films, period. It’s one I know I can show to non-horror fans and have them enjoy. And if this is your first time hearing about or seeing it, then I envy you. Please, permit me to introduce you to…
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Glen Echo is a quiet town with a secret. Twenty years ago, a young boy was captured by a mob and killed in what can only be called vigilante justice. Tossed over a waterfall for his crimes, the boy was left for dead. Now, as the anniversary of his death approaches, the boy has returned home. He is no town legend. He is all-too-real. He has invited a documentary film crew to see what he will do, why he will do it, and bear witness to the birth of a new monster. Crystal Lake has Voorhees. Springwood, Krueger. Haddonfield remembers the name, Myers. Now, Glen Echo was come face-to-face with the sins of its past and remember the name…Vernon.
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is more than a mockumentary, more than a slasher flick. It is a seamless combination and more than the sum of its parts. We are brought into a world where all of those “supernatural murderers” (Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, et al) are real beings. And yet, when we meet Leslie, we find he is no different from us. He is intelligent and charming. He loves his pet turtles and is loyal to his friends. He charms us, and because we cannot help but like him, we become – like grad students/filmmakers Taylor, Todd, and Doug – complicit in the crimes he intends to commit.
In lesser hands, the film wouldn’t work. But the script, written by David J. Stieve and Scott Glosserman (who also directed), provides a great balance of humor, tension, and flat out horror. We genuinely like Leslie and the college students who follow him, as well has the husband and wife who act as Leslie’s mentors and have a history of their own. As a result, we find ourselves rooting against Robert Englund in the role of the Loomis-like Doc Halloran. And, as the body count rises, we eagerly wait for Vernon’s chosen “final girl” to step up and accept her destiny. The film breaks down the cliches of the slasher film while simultaneously confirming and building on them. There is gore, but it is restrained. The end result is a horror flick that entertains both new horror fans and those who’ve “seen it all.”
There are cameos. Kane Hodder (of the Hatchet films, Friday the 13th sequels, and too many horror flicks to list) briefly shows up as a citizen of Glen Cove. Zelda (Poltergeist) Rubenstein plays a librarian in what would be her final role. There is the aforementioned Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund. And the great Scott Wilson plays Vernon’s mentor, Eugene. The main characters – Angela Goethal as Taylor Gentry, Ben Pace as Doug, and Britain Spellings as Todd – are charming and likeable. But no one steals the show from Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon. In fact, it is a crime that he hasn’t appeared in more films.
I’m begging you, see Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. You will love it. It’s on Netflix Streaming right now, and it’s well worth your time. If you do decide to take my word – and Cthulhu bless you for that – it wouldn’t hurt to try and get a copy of the DVD, as the deleted scenes are brilliant in their own right (especially the scene that explains how a walking killer can catch a victim that’s running for its life). I leave you with two final thoughts:
1) The sequel is in pre-production. Because Starz/Anchor Bay – the distributors of the first film – stupidly doesn’t want to be involved with it, the creators are following a more grass roots approach to raising funds. If you find yourself loving this films as much as I do, please visit their Facebook page
here and consider helping out.
2) LONG LIVE LESLIE VERNON!!!
And so it begins!
The beauty of being a horror fan these days is that one has a wealth of places one can look when one is hunting for the next fix. Back in the 80s, one needed to rely on the local Mom ‘n’ Pop video store, Fangoria magazine, and basic word of mouth to find the good stuff. But today? If you can’t find a copy of magazines like Rue Morgue or Fangoria near you, there are enough web sites and message boards to help guide you. On Demand, Netflix, Red Box, and Blockbuster also help to feed the need. It is a good time to be a horror fan!
FILM #1: THE BURROWERS (2008)
To start the month off, I decided to finally watch a film that I’d heard about through various channels, from various people. Word of mouth was good enough, and I’m a sucker for cross-genre flicks, so this Western/Horror movie was right up my alley. The Burrowers, set back in the Dakota Territories of the 1870s, starts out with an attack on a homestead. The men are killed and the women and children are kidnapped. A posse is formed to track down the Native Americans responsible, but what they find is something far, far worse.
The beauty of The Burrowers is that director JT Petty (and you wondered why his name is in the title!) balances what makes a solid horror flick with the beats of a good Western. Relations with the local native tribes can charitably be called “hostile,” as can the (beautifully shot!) land itself. In other words, these characters that we root for face plenty of danger before the secret of what they’re hunting is revealed. It is a credit to the director and the script that our heroes do not do anything illogical or stupid – mistakes are made, but within the confines of what little the characters know or believe.
The Burrowers is a meticulously paced film. Petty succeeds in crafting a suspenseful little flick that relies more on a building of dread than on cheap jump scares. Characters are developed in such a way that the viewer’s sympathies are earned and never betrayed, and when death comes, it has impact. And it’s not much a spoiler to call the climax and ending bleakly realistic. Which makes The Burrowers a good film for me to start my month of viewing and one that is well worth your viewing time. Which brings me to…
FILM #2: SOFT FOR DIGGING (2001)
When a hermit goes looking for his escaped cat, he is witness to a horrible crime. He reports it to the police, but when a search turns up nothing, the case is quickly closed. Did he imagine the whole thing, or did someone get away with murder?
It’s a quick synopsis for a quick (74 minute running time) film. But the plot of JT Petty’s film debut moves like its elderly main character. The first line of dialogue (“Murder…”) occurs at about the 14 minute mark, and not another word is spoken until about the 62nd. One hopes that the soundtrack and acting will help move the film along, but one is disappointed. In fact, there are “chapter” cards that actually slow the pacing down further. The revelation of killer and motivation borders on nonsensical, which adversely affects the fate of the killer (about which I will only say “two minutes of sheer audio annoyance”) as well as the end of the film. Which is a shame, because those opening 14 minutes, while glacial in pacing, set up what should have been a tense, brisk film. But chalk up Soft For Digging as a learning experience for a director who would later make something as solidly creepy and entertaining as The Burrowers.