Scott Glosserman’s Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a horror movie slash (no pun intended) documentary that educates as it illuminates and scares. Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) is an aspiring killer that lives in a world where Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers are all real people and notorious serial killers. They are not creations of fantasy that inhabitant horror movies like in our world but legends amongst murderers and one of their biggest fans, Leslie Vernon, wants to be just like them. During his preparations for his first killing spree, he invites a newscaster Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her crew along to document him and his murderous exploits.
To look at Vernon you would never think he harbored a single murderous impulse which is the beauty of Glosserman’s casting of Baesel in the role. Vernon basically walks the news crew through the steps that went into making the classic slasher horror movie and what it will take to make his planned killing spree a reality. You might not realize this and neither did I before seeing this film but it takes a lot of hard work and surveillance to orchestrate a good spree. You have to pick a group of teenagers that hang out with each other, one of which should be a virgin. This is your heroine, your “survivor” girl. Examples of this would be Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween and Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) from Nightmare on Elm Street. Once the “survivor” girl is chosen, you then begin your campaign of spooking her out, showing yourself to her in the shadows. By telling you all of this, I am not ruining anything but if I told you anymore about the preparations before a proper spree can take place, it would spoil some of the film. Also, you know how the killer is always seen walking and the person they are chasing is running yet the killer always seem to catch them. There is a reason for that and it’s explained in this film. It’s a funny explanation as well.
Through the course of Behind the Mask, we meet a husband Eugene (Scott Wilson) and wife Jamie (Bridgett Newton) who are mentoring Vernon on his quest. Eugene is a retired serial killer and Jamie was one of his former survivor girls. During the news crews’ dinner with the Eugene and Jamie, Eugene gives Taylor a brief history of Vernon’s chosen career path, referring to Michael Myers as Mike and Freddy Kruger as Fred. As I said earlier, these killers are alum of Eugene’s former field of work and he is apparently on a first name speaking basis with them. Eugene goes on to tell them all how Mike and Jay (Jason Voorhees) revolutionized slasher killing, how before them, a killer would strike once then leave but by returning time and time again, they became legends in the field and beyond. Like I said before, this movie is very funny.
Everything culminates in the third act of Behind the Mask. All of Vernon’s planning begins coming together and the news crew finally asks themselves the big, glaring question that had been hanging over them for the whole film: if they take part in what Vernon has planned, even if they only chronicle it, they will be accomplices to murder. Legally, they are already accomplices before-the-fact but I only know that because I’m a Law and Order junkie and besides, this isn’t Law School 101. There is a surprise in this part of the film, not a twist that turns everything on its ear like in Haute Tension, but a surprise. It doesn’t make you re-think everything that you’ve seen but calls on you to pay closer attention when seeing Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon for a second time.