Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - 21/31 Days of Halloween 2020
Ah, slashers. We've visited Jason Voorhees a couple times this year. Have you ever wondered just how they pul off such perfect, formulaic killing sprees? How they manage to power walk a mud hole in even the fastest jock and stomp it dry?
Today's film answers all these question, taking us behind the scenes, showing us all the tricks of the grisly trade.
I'm thrilled I got to revisit this movie, because I hadn't seen it since its original release, and when I recently searched for it, it wasn't available for sale on Vudu, which is where I usually buy my digital movies, but as luck would have it, a friend spotted it on Amazon Prime this week.
Turn down the lights, kids, and sharpen your #2 pencils, because you're going to want to take notes as we take a deep dive into the life of a serial killer in 2006's Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.
As our film opens, we join a documentary film crew as they shoot exposition for their film, retelling the legends of such legendary slashers as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers. They meet with an aspiring slasher named Leslie Vernon, who claims to have been drowned by an angry mob as a child. Now he's returned and is ready to get his revenge on the town. Leslie takes the crew to his childhood home where his inaugural massacre is to take place, showing them tricks of the trade and even introducing them to his mentor, a retired slasher named Eugene.
The film crew goes along with it until Leslie begins to zero in on his "survivor girl," a virginal waitress named Kelly whom Leslie has chosen to be his foil. The leader of the film crew, Taylor begins to have misgivings after Leslie terrorizes Kelly in the library and is stopped by a psychiatrist named Halloran, who Leslie gleefully recognizes as his "Ahab," his nemesis representing the good without which evil cannot exist. Leslie's story begins to unravel when Halloran confronts the film crew and injects doubt into their minds. Taylor and her friends face a dilemma: Finish their movie, or stop Leslie from executing his murderous plot?
Oh, man. This movie is absolutely bonkers from start to finish, and that's okay, because Behind the Mask is darkly hilarious in the most deliciously sadistic way. I love the way the movie both glorifies and pokes fun at the slasher genre. The idea of supernatural killers like Michael, Jason, and Freddy going through the same routine as Leslie is side-splittingly funny. Comedy aside, the movie also works as a legitimately grisly and effective slasher as Leslie accomplishes exactly what he set out to do, and even with the meta knowledge he's bestowed on the film crew, they are powerless to alter the path he's set them on. To be fair, though, it helps that they're idiots like most slasher fodder.
The movie is packed with clever, not-so-subtle nods to the horror genre, with supporting roles from Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) and even Poltergeist's Zelda Rubenstein. Even though the movie pokes a lot of fun at the genre it's spoofing, it does so with only the deepest love.
If you love slasher movies, you owe it to yourself to watch Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Just be sure to stay to the end of the credits and keep your eyes peeled while the Talking Heads' very apt tune Psycho Killer plays.