Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) dir. Steve Glosserman
Starring: Nathan Baesal, Angela Goethels, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Zelda Rubenstein
Ever wonder what Jason Vorhees does when he’s not killing or stalking innocent victims? Does he eat, sleep? Does he get tired? “Behind the Mask” answers all these questions in a clever horror mockumentary that deconstructs the slasher genre like no other.
The horror film, in general, is arguably the most played out of genres in film. It’s increasingly difficult to find originality in horror since it’s far and wide the most oversaturated of all genres. But it also has the most loyal and dedicated fan base - few films other than porn can sell its product solely on its genre or, say, the DVD cover.
In the world of post-modern self-referential cinema “Behind the Mask” is one of the most self-aware and intelligent films of its kind. The set up is intriguing. A film crew follows a serial killer who aspires to be the next Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees or Freddy Krueger. We watch as he explains to camera his aspirations, goals, and plan of attack in achieving ‘superstar’ status of masked killers. The film pretends that these famous movie villains are real and that the events in “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” actually happened.
We watch as Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesal) breaks down the horror film genre into an art form of psychotic murder. The humour is derived from the absurdity of the concept. If you’ve ever thought about the ‘reality’ of slasher films and how killers move from A to B and all the logistics and preparation that must be involved in killing victims in the night, in quiet, breaking into houses, waiting silently for the right moment and bringing maximum fear to one’s victim then this is the movie for you. For example, how can a killer kill a bunch of babysitters, hide them and have his final victim find them all during their last frightful runaround? Our fictional killer Leslie Vernon has thought of it all and explains it the audience like a behind-the-scene ‘making of a mass murder’.
It’s safe to say writer/director Scott Glosserman has seen his fair share of horror films. If this concept sounds like another version of “Scream”, you’re right, but the mockumentary genre adds another dimension of reality to Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s work. In many ways the film is scarier than “Scream”, because it’s played as if it’s real - like “The Blair Witch Project”. And in the ‘mockumentary’ genre the film also owes a lot to the great satire “Man Bites Dog” – a hilarious Belgian film about a documentary crew following the actions crazed killer.
For two thirds the film establishes some interesting characters. Leslie Vernon, played by Nathan Baesal is a likeable affable guy. Like a funny fratboy or something – someone who is psychotic but also intelligent and learned. The documentary filmmakers, notably the director Taylor Gantry (Angele Goethals) are naïve and thinks she is creating art. Eventually she realizes her responsibility in being complicit to Leslie’s murderous actions. There’s the venerable Robert Englund who plays the Dr. Loomis-type character – the old man who hunts Leslie Vernon down. In fact, he’s character’s name is Doc Halloran (from “The Shining”).
The film falls into predictability toward the end – much like the final act of “Adaptation” – but not before Glosserman spins the slasher genre on its head and allows us to see what a character like Michael Myers must do on his downtime.
Buy it here: Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon