22nd Oct2020

Rewind: ‘Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Zelda Rubinstein, Scott Wilson, Robert Englund, Bridgett Newton | Written by Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve | Directed by Scott Glosserman

I don’t always have a reason to go back to older movies for review, but having just recently revisited this movie, I had to talk about it. Why? Well, because it’s phenomenal, but also because… well… not many people actually talk about it, and that’s a shame.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a 2006 film from director Scott Glosserman, and takes a different approach to the tried and tested and well trodden slasher genre. I recall seeing this flick back when it came out, and I loved it. Some 14 years later I was curious if it held up, and was over the moon that it did. It really did. The story follows a young documentary crew who follow Leslie Vernon, the next legend of the slashers, as he plans his killing spree on an unsuspecting town, and a “final girl” he’s picked out. It takes those well-known tropes from horror history and uses them as a narrative. The film acknowledges Freddy Krueger, Jason and Michael Myers as if they are real killers from the past, and it works very well. The nods to horror past, to slasher film history, is very fun, yet the film itself doesn’t become a gimmick. It manages to inject a ton of humour into things whilst still being a horror film, and the unraveling of Leslie as he tells this film crew his story is really well done.

Nathan Baesel (Invasion) is fantastic as Leslie Vernon, his charming, jokey and laid-back persona turning into something much darker. I expected this to be a launching point for Baesel as a name in the horror scene, but he hasn’t done all that much since. It’s a shame. He’s ridiculously good here. The remainder of the cast are all good, especially Angela Goethals (Home Alone) as Taylor, the interviewer from the documentary crew who has a warm relationship with Vernon as the film goes on. It’s also awesome to see horror icons like Robert Englund, who has a fun and decently-sized part as psychiatrist Doc Halloran and Kane Hodder, who pops up for a few seconds.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an homage to the slasher genre, yet it’s its own thing too. It doesn’t feel contrived or unoriginal in the way it tells its story, and the meta concept works very well. The top notch performances, unforgettable tone and excellent story all go into creating one of the very best horror movies of the 2000s, as far as I’m concerned. A low budget and low-level release definitely caused this film to fall under the radar for many people, but you shouldn’t sleep on it. Laugh out loud funny, at times, and genuinely creepy at others, it takes a whole bunch of elements and genres to construct a tapestry of horror love. It charmed me all over again, all these years later, and has certainly become one of my favourites.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is available on Blu-ray in the US, through Scream Factory, and is available to watch on Amazon Prime and Shudder.


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