Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Directed by Scott Glosserman
Starring Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson
Review by Jordan
Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is the next big thing; a hopeful serial killing mythological figure following in the footsteps of his real life heroes Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. His attempts at living out his dream are documented by a student film crew lead by the journalistic Taylor, a strong-willed woman just as keen as Leslie in succeeding in her passion and profession; as their documentary progresses however the line between observer and participant becomes hazy, and the crew discover that there may be more to Leslie letting them follow him than originally thought.
If when reading the above synopsis your mind instinctively goes to Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel and Benoit Poelvoorde’s darkly humorous Man Bites Dog (1992), in which a film crew likewise shadows a serial killer and get in well over their heads, you are 100% right; Scott Glosserman’s Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is Man Bites Dog for the American horror audience. Unfortunately as it was released well after that above title, as well as Wes Craven’s fantastically self-aware New Nightmare (1994), Scream (1996) and to a lesser extent John Gulager’s entertaining (and more than mildly disgusting) Feast (2005), despite a warm festival and critical reception it has never found the wide audience it is so deserving of. It is not the ‘meta’ aspects of the film that are the main drawing card here, they exist as a plot device mainly (including the casting of Englund as Dr. Sam Loomis like Doc Halloran and the appearance of Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubenstein), it is the surprising nastiness and the genuine scares that linger through the credits and after they’re over.
Behind the Mask wants to be funny, and in some scenes it is, but I believe Glosserman also wanted to take this material seriously in a time where few directors do; this is mainly evident in the scenes involving Leslie and his retired mass-murdering mentor Eugene (Scott Wilson, The Walking Dead’s Hershel) where he seeks recognition and advice in how to carry out his plot of terror whilst the filmmakers look on. Violence breeds violence this film tells us, and I’m sure this is the case the world over.
If you’re a horror nut such as myself, you’ll find a lot to like here. In many ways it’s the modest, slasher version of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (2012), only with a more satisfying villain and a greater sense of menace. Admittedly though, it does fall short of being great, as predictability rears its ugly head at the commencement of the third act and surprises from that point on are disappointingly scarce. The entire cast (led by mainly unknowns) do their part to ensure the proceedings remain as realistic as possible in a world where Freddy Krueger is real, and from the first frame to the last we always feel invited and not ostracized to partake in this intimate journey.
4 broken axes out of 5