Halloween Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – Must-See for Horror Fans

I take a look at this amazing mockumentary that doesn’t get the love I think it deserves.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Light)

The first part of the film is shot as a documentary. A journalist named Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her cameraman Doug (Ben Pace) and back-up cameraman/sound guy Todd (Britain Spellings) are invited by a man named Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) to witness his preparations to become a “slasher.” It turns out that in this world all of the famous slashers (Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, etc.) are real. However, they’re not supernatural, merely people who are experts at planning and psychology that enable them to feign superpowers. Leslie is a boy whose family was killed by a town when he was a child, but he survived and plans to take vengeance upon the local teens. 

BehindTheMask - 1Interview
He’s refreshingly honest. Way better than most politicians during interviews. 


Throughout the first half of the film, Leslie introduces the camera crew to his work, showing the planning and preparation he undertakes to create one night of mass murder. He also instructs them on the importance of the various tropes to creating the legend that fuels a slasher’s fame: Picking a survivor girl (Kate Lang Johnson), finding a nemesis (Robert “Freddy Krueger” Englund), murdering a trusted older person (Zelda Rubinstein), playing up his legend to the teens, and selecting the optimal group of victims for his slaying. He also introduces them to his mentor, Eugene (Scott Wilson). As Scott Wilson was Billy in Black Christmas, he’s arguably the original “slasher,” and his character might actually be Billy himself. The camera crew starts to be drawn into Leslie’s activities due to his passion and charisma.

BehindTheMask - 2Zelda.jpg
His mask is just the right level of detailed. 

The second half of the film is the horror movie that Leslie has been preparing, and it plays out beautifully.


Okay, so, for Halloween, I wanted to do 13 reviews: 4 requests, 4 classics, 4 indie films I picked at random, and 1 review that is kind of all 3 for Halloween itself. The problem is that my indie films mostly sucked. In The Tall Grass wasn’t blowing my skirt up, Head Count was mediocre, and the third movie was so horrible that I nearly went insane (you’ll find out what that is next week). For the fourth film, I was determined to find a really good movie. So, I watched Eli on Netflix, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer on Amazon Prime, and You Might Be The Killer (which will be a bonus review, since I ended up writing it before changing my mind). Those are in ascending order of quality, but I still felt like I owed you a really good movie. So, I cheated a little and picked an indie film I watched a few years ago, because I really wanted to be able to recommend a movie that everyone should see.

BehindTheMask - 3Ahab
Partially because of the great cameos.

This is really a masterpiece in dissecting the horror genre, specifically the Slasher subgenre. While it doesn’t have the budget of, say, Cabin in the Woods, it does just as good of a job reminding us of why we love these movies. The first half of the movie is basically taking apart all of the mysticism of the slasher figure by explaining how all of the supposed supernatural abilities that they demonstrate are, in fact, just elaborate ruses and unbelievably dedicated planning and training (he does SO MUCH cardio). It also explains why certain tropes keep emerging, like the relations between the killer and the survivor girl, the early interactions that preclude the finale, and the final girl herself. Moreover, it examines the imagery and the underlying themes behind so many of these tropes, including having Leslie explicitly state the sexual undertones between the confrontation with the final girl. 

BehindTheMask - 4Diva.jpg
Clearly he’s a theater major. 

Perhaps my favorite part of the movie is when Leslie and his mentor try to explain why someone would want to be a slasher and, through that, why society not only likes slashers, but why we need horror movies. It’s because this is what we have nowadays to face our fears and challenge ourselves. In order for good to triumph over evil, there has to be evil. In order for us to conquer our fears, we first have to be given a reason to be afraid. It’s awesome to actually have a movie go beyond just saying what is and isn’t good about the genre and directly address why it is or isn’t important to our culture. 

BehindTheMask - 5Billy
It’s a solid monologue.

A huge strength of the film is the ability to alternate between objective and subjective viewpoints, giving us both intellectual and emotional stimulation. The way it uses humor as a set-up for horror is outstanding. It essentially presents the night in two different scenes, one of Leslie explaining how everything would work through clinical terminology and fun little asides and jokes, then we get to see how it actually plays out and how horrifying the effect becomes. It’s even more interesting as Leslie starts to come into conflict with Taylor over his methodology and philosophy, because she starts to ask all of the questions that usually make horror movies seem ridiculous, only for Leslie to counter that he has already considered them, something he makes fatally obvious later. 

Honestly, this is one of the best black comedies I’ve ever seen. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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