Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
by Evan ODell 3/30/09
(2006) Directed by Scott Glosserman. Written by Glosserman and David J. Stieve.
Nominated for four awards, it won all four; Best European/North - South American Film and L'Écan Fantastique Award at the Fant-Asia Film Festival, as well as the Audience Award at the Genart Film Festival and the Canet Jove at Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival.
Nathan Baesel plays Leslie Vernon. He was previously known as the dip-shit Deputy Sheriff who had a crush on the Sheriff's 15 year old daughter and spontaneously regenerated an arm on the short lived Invasion series on tv a couple years ago.
There are quite the number of film nods to other horror films and franchises. Jay, Mike, and Fred are mentioned and so are their locations. Taylor shoots some B-roll in front of the Red Rabbit Pub, a reference to the Red Rabbit Lounge in Halloween. When Taylor asks a resident about his Elm Street neighbor, the house is the house Nancy lived at in Nightmare on Elm Street. The resident is Kane Hodder, who played Jason Voorhees in four Friday the 13th sequels. There is a Hellraiser lament configuration on the table during one of the interviews. When Leslie is applying his make up, the music playing is from The Shining. Robert Englund's character name, Doc Halloran, is a combination of two names from The Shining. His character's dress, beard, and motivation is very reminiscent of Sam Loomis, Donald Pleasance's character in Halloween. When Leslie is speaking about choosing a survivor girl, three young girls are playing jump rope like in Nightmare on Elm Street. A bottle of Sta-Awake can be seen on his dresser. The librarian's name is Collinwood, which references Last House on the Left. The actor that plays the librarian played Tangina in all three Poltergeist movies. Eugene's wife's name is Jamie, a nod to Jamie Lee Curtis, the survivor girl from Halloween. Leslie's turtles are named Church and Zowie, after the pet names from Pet Sematary. Leslie's real name is Mancuso, like the producer of many of the Friday the 13th movies.
I really enjoyed Behind the Mask. It was a logical extension of films like Man Bites Dog and Scream. It does for slasher films, what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie films. The concept was refreshing and interesting. And that is something that the slasher genre often sorely needs. Unlike most modern horror movies, the first hour was all set-up. The body count didn't begin until the final thirty minutes. That allowed for plenty of character development many modern horrors sorely lack.
Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) is a graduate student with an electronic field production team consisting of a cinematographer and a sound guy. She is interviewing Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), a would be legendary supernatural serial killer of teens. Like an insider, Leslie reveals the spoils about the "industry". Telling her what it means to do what he does; revealing industry tricks, terminology, motivation, and strategy. He introduces her to Eugene and his wife Jamie. Eugene, a domesticated husband was in the industry himself in the Sixties and Seventies. During an encounter with Leslie's "survivor girl", he is excited when Doc Halloran (Robert Englund) shows up. Halloran was his childhood psychologist who represents his "Ahab", the force of good willing to stop him.
At first, the naiive young team of electronic news gatherers are excited, identifying with and even having fun with their assignment. When the first slaying occurs, they begin to realize the desperation of the situation they find themselves in. That raises the question, at what point do you cease being an impartial observer and put the camera down to act. Taylor isn't willing to sit on the sidelines while people get killed. So she determines to do something about it.