Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

The weirdest thing in the world to me is breaking down a film. I mean don’t get me wrong, I do it all the time, but for the most part I take what I see for what I get. I never took any sort of film studies course I just kinda watch things and “notice stuff”.

When you watch enough of anything you find all kinds of trends, whether it’s in a television series, or a certain author’s work. It’s especially noticeable when you start looking at entire genres of film.

I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to horror, people have parodied it, mocked it, paid homage, and downright insulted it. A lot of times people feel they are being clever but dumb it down a lot(Like Wes Craven’s scream series) Other times it’s just a quick buck piggy banking on stuff that’s already popular (Scary movie series). I really never had much time for those types of films. I always thought that Scream was just lame. Although, with four movies behind it, maybe I’m the one with the problem.

This brings me to our latest and greatest Splatterpictures; Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. The flick dropped in 2006 and was directed by Scott Glosserman. It was written by him aswell and distributed through Anchor Bay (I swear they should put me on their pay role with how often I seem to be talking about them).

The movie is shot like a documentary in a world (I did the epic movie guy voice thing in my head) where the slashers of film are real. They set this up pretty well, referencing Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.

The film crew is apparently following around a new slasher wanting to make a name for himself; Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel). How they got the idea to do this isn’t really clear and neither is what they think this will all lead to. They go through Leslie’s set up to his “big night” the start of his Legacy. He tells them his story of how he is supposedly the returned spirit of a boy killed by the townspeople. He takes them to his “house” where this will all go down and proceeds to walk them through his “plan”. Honestly what follows is probably the most dead on and hilarious break down of a horror movie I’ve ever seen. It pays homage to horror in a way that is really fun to watch. They talk about everything. The selection of their victims and why, sure Scream did that but think of Scream like cole’s notes compared to Behind the Mask.

A lot of things they mentioned had great moments of “oh yeah I noticed that” Like why they always let some couple have sex before killing them. Why they hide the bodies until the last moment. How about why the phones never work, or the lights go out? Or maybe why weapons always seem to break or killers never seem to stay dead? One moment in particular had me laughing is when Leslie is discussing how much cardio he has to do to give the illusion that he is walking, while everyone else is running away.

There is also a beauty to his plan, and it also shows a more subtle side of the killer that nobody really gets to see. There are moments where Leslie’s true nature peeks through in bursts of anger or when he goes on long obsessive rants about the legacy he is trying to create with his “survivor girl” and how everything he does is for her I really felt like I was sitting through a film class when they start getting into the phallic imagery of a killers weapon and what it means for said survivor girl to use it against the killer.

This movie is first and foremost a comedy and it’s a pretty damn good one. The nice thing is that while I always felt movies like scream were poking fun at horror for the general audience; Behind the Mask seems to have been made for true fans. In the same sort of way that the Comic Series Hack/Slash is for horror fans in that it doesn’t take you through all the obvious references. Sure they talk about the big killers that we are all familiar with but it also goes deeper making direct references or illusions to lesser known horror films or obscure uses of minor things from major films.

During the early parts of the movie, the film crew join Leslie as he visits an old friend and mentor who was a masked killer aswell (now retired). He talks about how “In the old days” it was all about getting in, killing everybody and getting out without anybody ever knowing. That is pretty much the entire plot of Black Christmas (arguably the first slasher film). There are a lot of subtle sight gags, like the “Stay awake” pills from Nightmare, or the Red Rabbit Inn from Halloween.

They also have some great Cameos by Kane Hodder as a guy living in the Elm Street House (he played Jason in Friday the 13th). Of course, the big Cameo is Robert Englund as Doctor Halloran who Leslie refers to as his “Ahab” basically a person who has made it his personal goal to track down and stop his evil. In other words a character type made famous in Halloween with Doctor Lumis.

By far the most amazing Cameo is by Zelda Rubenstein (she played the famous role of the medium in Poltergeist) she delivers her usual creepy speech to perfection.

You’d think that after people start dying the film crew would grow a conscious and try to Stop Leslie’s plan and want to save the teenagers and they do, but it becomes obvious that this was all accounted for. It has a great ending with all the clichés and overall I highly recommend checking this out.

My one complaint is kind of a big one though. I don’t know if it was the DVD that I had and another version exist but there was nothing in the way of gore. The deaths aren’t all that great, some are pretty good but they all cut away before anything is shown, or even worse they happen off camera with just audio. Now, why would they go to all the trouble of carefully crafting references, getting horror icons for cameos and making this movie if they weren’t going to put some gore in it? I have no idea. Like I said maybe it was just the version I had and there is a directors cut out there somewhere.

It’s made even worse by the fact that a lot of casual viewers probably wouldn’t be half as entertained as I was with all the references and jokes. So that leaves more serious fans with a great slasher movie but without a lot of good or memorable kills.

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