Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals Directed by: Scott Glosserman

There’s a point in every slasher-style horror film where you think to yourself, “This is just a movie.”  Not necessarily because you are scared, but because it is so outlandish.

“Why would he try and run all the way back through the house to the front door instead of just climbing out a window?”

“Don’t go in there…”

“How could he have possibly have just appeared there at the speed she was running?”

“How in the hell would she ever stumble upon all these old news clippings?!”

“He’s obviously not dead yet.”

These are just a few of the thoughts you are likely to have while watching any number of slasher films.   Friday the 13th, Halloween, Slaughter High, hell, even Child’s Play.

In a lot of slasher films, the antagonist is just a guy.  Granted, usually a guy wronged in some manner; embarrassed or picked on as a youngster, burnt or intentionally crippled for some unbeknownst reason.  Something of the like.  Apparently harboring that sort of mentally debilitating trauma can leave you with some anger issues.  The thing is, as viewers, we are never really given any insights in to these characters.  These individuals, they aren’t real talkers.  Lucky for us, Leslie Vernon is.

Behind the Mask:  The Rise of Leslie Vernon is yet another faux-documentary, but certainly not one where the filmmakers are trying to blur the line between reality and entertainment.  This is obviously fiction, through and through.

A film crew, led by the plucky Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals), has happened upon the documentary of a lifetime; following around a soon to be notorious serial killer, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), while he prepares for his pièce de résistance, the baiting and murder of a group of high school students in an abandoned house.

Leslie shares his ambition to become the next great urban legend with great aplomb.  He’s not grim and dark, however.  He doesn’t meander around with a constant scowl.  No, he’s quite personable.  Likeable, even.  He laughs and jokes.  To him this is nothing more than his calling, the job he was born to carry out.  The more Leslie spills the beans, the more all of those, “Please why would they ever do that” moments become a little more, “Hmm, when you look at it that way….”

Every detail is intricately planned.  He scopes out the house he is leading them to ahead of time.  He explains the importance of the nearby surroundings and the symbolism therein.  He nails windows shut so the most obvious route isn’t always the best route.  He makes up pseudonyms relating to old pieces of town history.  He plants microfiche stories about himself.  He does cardio workouts.  A lot.

Most of the film is carried out in this manner until the climax, when the documentary style gives way to the more commonplace third-person perspective.  This isn’t a case of struggling to figure out how to end the film, it’s the route the film must go in order to follow through to its conclusion.  Although the final act turns in to a paint-by-numbers slasher film, it does so with a sly wink of self-realization, the actualization of what the documentary has set up for the first three-quarters of the film.  You sit in rapt fascination, wondering how closely it will play out to Leslie’s plan.

This movie is more comedy than horror.  A subtle send-up of slasher fare also trying to ingratiate itself to the same audience.  It’s a difficult balancing act, but in the end it is carried out with near perfection.

Written by Ryan Venson