Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Review)

“Behind the Mask” is an often hilarious dark comedy/mockumentary that examines a few days in the life of a hard-working serial killer, the elusive Leslie Vernon.  Nathan Baesel steals nearly every scene as the film’s central character, an extremely talkative and intelligent psychopath who spends all his time planning for an eventual showdown with a specific group of teens, all the while explaining his thoughts, plans and motivations to a documentary camera crew and it’s lead reporter, played by Angela Goethals. The film has an incredibly unique feel, blending elements of a traditional horror film with that of a dark comedy or satire, and presenting it all with a distinct reality TV tone.

Vernon walks viewers through his extensive collection of classic literature. It pays for a killer to be well-read.

Baesel is surprisingly hilarious for a first-time feature film actor, sharing his delusional world views and occasionally spewing out some fantastic one-liners that cut into the clichees of the slasher genre and put an interesting spin on age-old concepts.  For example, one scene has him describing how important cardio workouts are for a killer, because of the need to keep up with running teens while appearing to walk at a normal pace. He also constantly refers to his work within “the industry”, treating serial killing as a career option instead of a compulsion or addiction, which is quite funny.

Leslie Vernon in full psycho costume

Vernon’s extremely outgoing personality when speaking to the camera is contrasted by his creepy dark underside, of which more and more is gradually revealed as the film nears its final act. It is at this point that the documentary ends and the film takes a turn into standard slasher territory (accompanied by a complete change in the visual style to a more cinematic look), with a mild twist thrown in there for good measure.  And to top it all off, there’s a minor role played by Freddy Krueger himself: horror legend Robert Englund!  While certain elements of “Behind the Mask” fall short of their intentions (the kills are somewhat weak and lacking in blood), I must give the filmmakers a hand for doing something fresh with a seemingly dead genre, and making a film that is damn funny at times, and mildly creepy at others.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006, USA, R: 92 mins)  Directed by: Scott Glosserman.  Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Scott Wilson, Zelda Rubinstein, and Robert Englund.

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~ by Mark D'Amico on August 10, 2011.

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