Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Posted: August 31, 2016 in Movies
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After the slasher boom of the 1990’s the 00’s saw a dry spell. To put it mildly. Truth be told I can probably count on one hand the slasher movies of note from 2000 to 2010. That was due to DTV (direct to video) for the most part. A lot of films were made on the cheap and produced with tiny budgets meaning it was easy for studios (smaller ones) to distribute all sorts of rubbish. None of this relates to Behind The Mask but I felt it was important to illustrate just how much of a breath of fresh air this genre gem was upon it’s release in 2006.

The film presents itself as a documentary. The young doc makers have focused on one Leslie Vernon as their subject. The tag is that Leslie is Glen Echo’s (the town the film is set in) version of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers and he is all too happy to lift the lid on the work that goes into being a slasher killer. It’s a unique take on the slasher movie and it is very funny but not in a way that laughs at the genre. For example Leslie eagerly points out the amount of prep work that goes into deciding on which target group to go after. The stake outs, the cardio prep, the killer’s lair preparation, legend building (every slasher icon needs a great backstory) and the build up (appearing in front of the final girl to make her aware of his presence or taking out someone she knows to establish a certain threat level!). None of which is funny for Leslie as all of this is like his Christmas, as he points out, but as a genre lover you can’t help but see the humour in it all and how outlandish all of this would be if this was in fact how Jason, Michael and Freddy all operated.

The most vital part of Behind The Mask is the strong script. The characters are not only believable but likeable. Leslie, played with such talent by Nathan Baesel, is beyond likeable. You kind of root for him and you want his big night to go well. That’s nuts. His big night basically equates to slaughtering a group of teens at his old family farmhouse! Yet it’s a struggle we see mirrored by the doc crew who are documenting Leslie’s journey, the stand out of which is Angela Goethal’s Taylor Gentry. Taylor is a great character and Goethal nails Taylor’s balance between being captivated by Leslie and yet feeling a sense of moral confliction once the reality of what it is he’s doing is about to be unleashed on the youth of Glen Echo. Despite the film’s often humours moments there is a brutality and horror to it when you stop to think for a second about what you’re watching or in the case of Taylor and her crew what they’re apart of.

Scott Glosserman, who wrote and directed the movie, makes some cool technical choices throughout the film. Shifting from the doc feel to a more traditional movie look during key scenes. I loved that and the role those choices play in the films last act help to distance not only the viewer but the characters from Leslie who has now become what he’s always dreamed of. One drawback I do have is I wish there had been a bit more time spent developing the teens in peril but because of the nature of the narrative this would be hard to do. Also the kills could have been staged better. As it is the film is almost perfect but man, had Glosserman gone all out on those kills the film would have been an out and out classic for me.

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a brilliant slasher movie and stands out in a class of it’s own. For years fans have been crying out for a sequel but I would argue any form of sequel could easily fall flat. Sometimes one great movie is all you need to serve a story and I reckon this does just that. Fright fans look out for a great turn from Robert Englund, who plays a character type all slasher fans will recognize right away!

 

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