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THE FIRST $20 MILLION GROSSING SXSW HIT?


Over at the Movie City News “Hot Blog”, David Poland reports on what he predicts could, with the right distributor, become the first big hit to get picked up out of the SXSW Festival. The film is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and here’s what Poland has to say about it:

First time director Scott Glosserman was here with his entire family for the premiere of Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. Title sucks. Poster looks like a conventionally crappy cheapo horror film. The only two acting names you’re likely to recognize are Freddy Englund and Scott Wilson.

And yet, it is just a little short of the ingredients to be the next Scream. For that, a few young and upcoming actors and a few shots that this first-timer didn’t quite get would have helped. Still, this is a terrific little movie that deconstructs and reconstructs the horror film with humor, efficiency, great intelligence, and more than a few screams.

It’s a bit of a rough pitch. A college news crew follows around guy who claims to be the next Jason Vorhees in training. He explains the process, with completely identifiable explanations of all the slasher movie conventions. But is it all for real or is he just a big mouth? And if it is for real, what will this passive news crew do when the blood starts sloshing?

The home run find of the film is Nathan Baesal as the slasher wannabe, who apparently is on some TV show now. But this is my first time seeing him and he is charming and convincing enough to be a serious young (late 20s) male lead.

But it is the career of Scott Glosserman and screenwriter David Stieve that is sure to take off with this film. The film is smart and assured and while it doesn’t have the breathtaking flourishes, it never falls over the edge in any way. This is a strong debut for a guy who is looking to have a long career, after taking film at Penn when there was no film program and who worked the halls of CAA before escaping to the creative side.

This could easily be the first real commercial success to emerge out of SXSW. Like I said… it ain’t Scream. But it is yelp. And there is no reason why it can’t do $20 million or more theatrical and become a college classic on DVD.

For more on the movie, Elaine Lamkin has an interview with Glosserman up at Bloody Disgusting.com. In her intro, Lamkin says, “With a touch of Blair Witch and Halloween combined with the offbeat comedy of Best In Show, Behind the Mask manages to breathe new life into the old, tired masked killer film. And with the likes of Robert Englund, Zelda Rubenstein and Scott Wilson aiding newcomer Nathan Baesel, horror fans should be on the lookout for this addition to the growing original indie horror that is making studio horror films look as bad as they really are.”

Here Glosserman, who, he says in the interview, grew up in my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland, and remembers the same amusement park-turned-cultural center I spent time, at, Glen Echo Park, discusses the premise behind his film:

If you converge those [Halloween and Blair Witch Project] with Best In Show, you’ve pretty much nailed it. Mask takes place in a world where guys like Jason and Michael Meyers actually exist. The next great psycho-slasher – this guy is supposedly gonna put them all to shame – he’s given a documentary crew exclusive access to his life while he plans his reign of terror over the next unfortunate town. All the while he is deconstructing for the audience and for the docu-crew the true conventions and archetypes of the horror genre.

Behind the Mask is not rooted in the real world of Ted Bundy and the D.C. Sniper. Leslie Vernon (the protagonist) isn’t a serial killer like the guy in Man Bites Dog. He’s a psycho-slasher which, in the world he lives in, may be just as respectable an endeavor as any other in his world.

What makes the film a convergence of Blair Witch and Halloween is that part of the movie was shot in a Blairwitchian docu-style perspective (when Leslie is walking/talking with the docu-crew), and part of the movie is shot in full-filmic glory (when Leslie actually does what he says he’s gonna do). So, I got to contrast two worlds in the film: one with stereo, solely diegetic sound — realism shot on DV, and the other entirely omniscient, from the Super 16mm film aesthetic, and the foreboding score, to the more stilted dialogue and melodramatic acting. It’s a fun juxtaposition.

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