Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

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Ranked #2,753
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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. --TMDb
Review by Chad
Added: July 01, 2007
Imagine a world in which Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and all of the other infamous horror icons weren't just characters in movies, but were instead actual people racking up real body counts while using various supernatural "fronts" to make their crime spree more appealing to the media. This is the world where Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon takes place, and before I finally got a chance to check it out, I thought that it had unlimited potential to be a damned fine film. Now that I've seen it, I can say without question that it lived up to said potential... and quite possibly landed itself a spot in my year-end "best of" list.

Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is the star of the show for this outing, as we quickly learn that he's a man who wants to be remembered as fondly as his heroes - his heroes being, of course, Freddy, Jason, and Michael. He goes through all of the necessary preparations to set up his spree of slaughter by tracking down a teenage girl of upstanding moral values (a virgin, of course), finds out who her friends are, drops subtle hints to her about her upcoming fate, and then sets the stage for the grand finale that will put his name on the map. Oh, and he also allows documentary filmmaker Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) to tag along and record the entire thing so that no detail will be lost to time. What follows is what one would expect from an eighties slasher as the victims all get together in a remote location, smoke a little dope, have a little premarital sex... and proceed to get mowed down by horror's newest icon. But there are a few twists along the way, not the least of which is the character known as Doc Halloran (Robert Englund - yes, that Robert Englund). Oh, and Kane Hodder also pops in to say hi as well, for what it's worth.

Behind the Mask is a horror comedy for the die hard horror fans in the audience. Now, when I call it a horror comedy, I'm not saying that it's something along the lines of Scary Movie; no, this is a true combination of horror and subtle comedy that works together as flawlessly as it did in Shaun of the Dead. The only real difference between Shaun and Behind the Mask is that the guys behind Shaun chose to respectfully parody the classic zombie films while the boys responsible for Behind the Mask chose to target the eighties slasher genre instead. Remember how Shaun was funny enough on its own if you had never seen a zombie movie in your life, but there was a whole other level waiting to be found for those of you who had seen all of the classics and could catch the numerous references? The same thing holds true in this film, and personally, I enjoyed every last second of it.

In much the same way as viewers could tell that Shaun's creators were big fans of the material that they chose to parody, one can also tell that director Scott Glosserman was a fan of the better films to air on USA's "Up All Night!" back in the glory days of cable. All of the obvious slasher clichés that one would expect from a film such as this are present, but there's also a large amount of details that only the die hard fans will notice. However, with all of this talk about parodies and jokes, it would be easy for viewers who haven't yet seen this to get the idea that this is nothing more than a comedy with some aspects of horror thrown in to move things along - that couldn't be further from the truth. Behind the Mask starts out a little silly while introducing us to the characters and setting up the world, but once the slasher part of the film gets going, we find ourselves diving headfirst into an old-fashioned horror flick with plenty of scares, violence, and all-around mayhem.

Nathan Baesel may have only had a couple of television credits on his resumé prior to starring in this, but I was blown away by the man's performance here. When we first meet up with the character, he comes across as a fun-loving guy who just so happens to murder people for kicks. He's quick to crack a joke, smart, witty, and above all else, extremely well-spoken. Then, when he dons the mask, his personality switches just like the proverbial light switch in that he does a complete one-eighty and we're treated to watching a man who could easily go on to become the next horror icon... not in the world in which the film is set, but here in the real world. Both aspects of the character are handled perfectly, and I have nothing but praise for Baesel for his outstanding performance here.

As if it wasn't completely obvious, I enjoyed the hell out of Behind the Mask and couldn't recommend it enough to you fine readers. It has everything that a better offering from the horror comedy genre should have: true horror, hilarious comedy, plenty of nods to the classics (and some of the not-so-classics), and a handful of cameos to raise the geek-out factor up just a little more. 10/10.
Tristan #1: Tristan - added 07/01/2007, 10:00 PM
I had this in my "to review" pile. Thanks for saving me the trouble.
bluemeanie #2: bluemeanie - added 07/06/2007, 10:37 AM
Interesting film. I really wanted to see this in theatres, but just never got around to it. So, I picked it up on DVD the day it came out. I like the whole idea behind it, but I had some problems with a couple of the casting choices. Robert Englund and Zelda Rubenstein are fantastic in their supporting roles, and the film taps into a lot of humor that I didn't expect. I think they could have gone with a different (better) actor for the lead, but that's just being picky. 8.5/10.
Ginose #3: Ginose - added 07/07/2007, 07:51 PM
The performances (above all else) were perfect. Representing the parts of a documentary off-screen and a horror film on-screen really worked well together. Above all, this movie is hillarious. Though alot of the jokes are exclusive to people who are more varied in the slasher genre. It works in a great way. 10/10
grain of sand #4: grain of sand - added 07/08/2007, 02:49 PM
this was a good one, you should see Man Bites Dog..
Tristan #5: Tristan - added 07/08/2007, 07:59 PM
Man Bites Dog. Now that's a movie.
Ginose #6: Ginose - added 07/29/2007, 04:39 AM
Yeah, why hasn't anyone done a review for "Man Bites Dog" yet?
Tristan #7: Tristan - added 07/29/2007, 08:36 AM
Gimme a couple of days.
Cryptorchild #8: Cryptorchild - added 08/03/2007, 05:56 PM
Just got finished watching this. I've heard all the good things about it and you know what? It actually lived up to all the good reviews. I really enjoyed this movie. It's a smart film with everything that a typical horror fan loves. The humor was good, as well as the acting. And the story...very cool. 10/10.
Tristan #9: Tristan - added 10/03/2007, 08:11 PM
Excellent, excellent movie. The transition between horror/comedy/documentary to just straight horror was perfect. This definitely makes my top 10 of the year list. It was a perfect mix of everything, and what do you know, Kane Hodder was in it. 10/10
Tristan #10: Tristan - added 10/03/2007, 08:14 PM
Oh, and before I forget, the Talking Heads at at the end of the film was a nice touch.
Greg Follender #11: Greg Follender - added 09/23/2008, 12:21 AM
I haven't seen this one yet... but I wholeheartedly agree with your praise of "Man Bites Dog"!


George Snow #12: George Snow - added 09/23/2008, 05:05 PM
This was a excellent flick. Enjoyed the hell out of it.
Lucid Dreams #13: Lucid Dreams - added 07/19/2009, 11:26 AM
The wife and myself thought this was pretty good, I thought it was going to suck at first, but I was wrong. 9/10
missbexxie #14: missbexxie - added 09/05/2009, 02:09 PM
Sorry, but I thought that the acting in this was atrocious! I thought the concept was good though.
waxtadpole3657 #15: waxtadpole3657 - added 10/26/2009, 11:58 PM
I forgot how much I loved this movie. I just watched it for the second time (thank you Netflix instant viewing), and it's still one of my favorite slasher films. The mixture of styles is done incredibly well, and Nathan Baesel is absolutely fantastic. And as Tristan said, the Talking Heads playing in the credits was awesome. 10/10
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