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November 10, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown - Dead Alive vs. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Prime time's back again!  Yeah, it seems like the Random Horror Throwdown and I have been fickle mistresses over the last few months.  Everything was going well, then there was a break, then there was another break, then Hammer Films Month happened...and now here we are.  So, it's entirely possible that you're relatively new to the site and don't know the Random Horror Throwdown yet.  The easy solution to that?  Click here and check out the history of said Throwdown!

Now, on to our current matchup, in which Peter Jackson's gorefest Dead Alive takes on the indie slasher hit Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon!      
The Movies:
Dead Alive (1992, Dir. by Peter Jackson.)
Starring: Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody.
IMDB Synopsis: A young man's mother is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. She gets sick and dies, at which time she comes back to life, killing and eating dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.  (Note from The Mike: This sounds kind of like Lord of the Rings, doesn't it?  I mean, just replace Sumatran rat-monkey with Gollum and....well....nope, I've got nothin'.  Just filling space, I guess.)

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006, Dir. by Scott Glosserman.)
Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund.
IMDB Synopsis: The next great psycho horror slasher has given a documentary crew exclusive access to his life as he plans his reign of terror over the sleepy town of Glen Echo, all the while deconstructing the conventions and archetypes of the horror genre for them. (Note from The Mike: This synopsis, though posted on IMDB, is actually from a press release about the film.  Boo to you IMDB, your synopsi are actually intelligent tonight.  You're losing your touch!)

The Plots:
Dead Alive's plot (or lack thereof) is pretty well explained in the synopsis above.  There's a monkey, then there are zombies, then there is carnage.  Normally I'm strongly in favor of zombies over slashers.  But you know what I do love?  Breaking down the tendencies of the slasher film.  And that's where Behind the Mask succeeds.  The idea of the slashers we've come to love being real, and a fellow training himself to become one of them is a pretty brilliant idea, and Behind the Mask makes it even better than it sounds.  That's totally a point for Behind the Mask. (1-0, Behind the Mask leads.)

The Gore:
I feel like I have to bring this up, because it is what Dead Alive is.  There's some solid gore in Behind the Mask - that apple juicing thing is pretty sweet - but nothing that comes even close to Jackson's film's wackiness.  The lawnmower bit alone is worth a point for Dead Alive. (1-1.)

The Directors: 
I don't really know anything about Scott Glosserman aside from Behind the Mask.  I know he did a fantastic job on it, but that's about it.  On the other hand, there's Peter Jackson.  Even if I'm not a big fan of the last 37 hours of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Seriously, once he killed Sean Bean I lost interest.), I have to give the man credit for making something that most people think is wicked awesome and cool and stuff.  Plus I love The Frighteners and his take on King Kong is breathtaking.  So he wins a point for Dead Alive, which is nothing if not inventive. (2-1, Dead Alive leads.)

The Casts:
I'm gonna be up front with you here.  Behind the Mask will win this point, and it's not because of any of the horror "icons" like Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, or Zelda Rubenstein that are in it.  It's not because veteran cool dude Scott Wilson pops in and is memorable, either.  It's because Nathan Baesel, as Leslie Vernon, is a freaking rock star.  He makes us want to love him, even though we know - because he tells us - that he's gonna murder a bunch of people just for tits and giggles.  How can it be?  Because he's just that suave, I guess.  One point, Behind the Mask. (2-2.)

My Experience With The Films:
I've powered through the first four points, because this where I'm gonna cause some drama.  It should be pretty obvious by now that I really dig what Behind the Mask has to offer.  I've seen it at least 5 times in the last two and a half years, and it always goes down easy.  In modern horror, there aren't many films that are a sure thing with me, but this is one of 'em.

And then there's Dead Alive.  I admire what was done in Dead Alive, I like the gore, I like the quick pace that fills most of the movie....but I don't really like it as a whole.  There, I said it.  It's gore for the sake of gore at times, and that ain't what I'm in horror for.  If I've got the choice between a horror comedy that makes me laugh with its characters and plot and a horror comedy that is based upon gross gags and gore...I'm probably gonna lead toward the former.

This Choice is Like:
(Note from The Mike: OK, I hate using football stories in these things, but it's what I know.  And I only have like three good personal football stories from my day, and this is one of them, and...well, I'm using it to explain my reasoning here.  Sorry.)

When I was in high school and played football, there was one game that I still remember clearly.  I played tackle, and we were dominating the defensive front pretty much all game.  In the third quarter, the coach sent in a play that called for our back to run off tackle behind me as I sealed a defensive tackle inside and the fullback led the way to the corner.  It gained a bunch of yards.  Next play, he called the same thing and it worked again.  Third time, same result.  On the fourth play, the back who ran in with the play call looked at us and said "Same play, and we're running it until we score."  So, we ran the same play over and over again, and went on an easy ten play scoring drive to put the game away.  (For those who don't understand football, the short version of this story is that something came easy to us, so we exploited it and repeated it until we achieved a positive result.)
Why did our coach do this, when there were more sophisticated things he could have done?  There are two reasons, but I think the primary reason was that he recognized that this was our niche.  We were comfortable running this play, so we didn't need a change up.  The play seemed like it was designed specifically for that situation, because it lined up perfectly against their defense based on the talent level of our players.

(And, if you're curious as to the second reason why our coach did this, it's pretty simple.  He was my father.)

Behind the Mask is one of those films to me.  I know Dead Alive is a beloved zombie splatterfest to most, but I'm fine running with Behind the Mask repeatedly because it fits my niche as a horror fan who loves a good laugh and a bit of psychological deconstruction.  So I'm giving it the final point and the win. (3-2, Behind the Mask wins!)

(Note from The Mike: OK, I'm a little rusty.  But next Random Horror Throwdown will be better, I swear.  And also, if you read where I said football and think of soccer....dude.  Not cool.)


Malice said...

I love zombies. I love gore. But Dead Alive, (saw it when I was 12) was my first slap in the face in terms of too much gore. I believe I elected to do my math homework about halfway through and turned away from the television. That's rare.

Behind the Mask, on the other hand, is a favorite of mine.

I was only worried for a second. ;)

Emily said...

Woohoo! I'm so glad the throwdown is back! Man, this would be a tough choice for me, as I am a big fan of both films, but while I only watch Dead Alive occasionally when I feel the need to be grossed out, Behind the Mask is a movie I return to more frequently, as it usually fits my mood much better, as I am not a gore hound either for the most part. Therefore, due to the rewatchability factor, I would most likely have chosen Behind the Mask as well. That movie freakin' rocks!!!

Anonymous said...

Dead Alive! Zombie Sex, Lawnmower mow-down, "I kick ass for the Lord!" and a Baby Zombie man, a baby zombie...
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum