When rising psycho/slasher Leslie Vernon plans a massacre, he invites a grad student journalist to film his preparation.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a masterpiece of the horror film genre. I’m not even going to beat around the bush. This film is utterly fantastic. It is a strikingly original take on the horror genre. At times uproariously funny, at other times frightening, this film is wonderful from the top down.
Filmed as a documentary in a world where Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th), Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Michael Myers (Halloween) actually exist, Vernon enlists a grad student journalist to film his preparations for his initial massacre. The film is mostly handheld in traditional documentary style focusing on Vernon doing cardio (how else to keep up with people running their asses off), sabotaging the house where the massacre is to take place (logistically speaking, he is at a severe disadvantage), and visiting a retired psycho/slasher friend (Scott Wilson of The Walking Dead).
The journalist, Taylor (Angela Goethals), and her crew take everything in stride and seem to be thinking that he is not going to go through with it. When Leslie slaughters the first people, things change for the crew. This is when the move makes a genius decision to ‘put the camera down’.
In every film from The Blair Witch Project to Cloverfield, the biggest problem with handheld films is that no one ever puts the camera down. Everything is filmed as if you were there, and most of the time you can’t help but think ‘put the camera down and run, dumbass!”. This film puts the camera down and switches to a slasher film style, which I think is completely brilliant and no one else has picked up on it. It makes this original and a trendsetter that everyone should have mimicked, yet didn’t.
Starring Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon, Baesel brings a warmth and charm to a character who you theoretically shouldn’t like. Scott Wilson plays Eugene, an ex-killer who is a mentor and friend to Vernon. The film also stars Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street) as Doc Halloran, Vernon’s ex-shrink and ‘Ahab’, an obvious reference to Moby Dick and Captain Ahab who was obsessed with the white whale to the destruction of his life and crew. There are also cameos from Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th VII to Jason X) and Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist series).
Clearly, the film (directed by Scott Glosserman) is a love letter to the horror genre. From the obvious reference to Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, there are also sight gags from Hellraiser and Pet Sematary. If you are a horror film fan, this movie is a treasure trove of awesome.
The special features include a commentary track by the cast, a making of feature, trailers and a ton of deleted scenes. While most of the special features are not that ‘special’, there is a lot to love in the deleted and extended scenes. Particularly Vernon’s explanation on how killers always seem to walk but catch up with their running victims. Priceless.
If you are a horror film fan and haven’t seen this film, quit reading now and go get this. Seriously. Go. I’ll wait.
Ok, are you back? Have you watched it yet and discovered the glory? In all seriousness, this is a brilliant film. It is very smart and funny and should have a bigger following. Hopefully I can turn a couple of you on to this film. It deserves to be seen. In my opinion, it is not just one of the best horror films of the last decade, but one of the best films in general. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Movie **** out of ****
DVD *** out of ****
Note: I would be remiss if I did not point out the fundraising efforts of the director to get a sequel made. Titled Before the Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon, they are offering pre-order DVD’s, Blu-Ray’s and more to raise the funds to get the film made. If you enjoyed the film, please consider helping out getting this made.