Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
behind the mask: the rise of leslie vernon | scott glosserman | david j. stieve | nathan baesel | angela goethals | zelda rubinstein | comedy | thriller | united states | found footage | mockumentary | slasher | robert englund | scott wilson | kate miner
Film: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Director: Scott Glosserman
Writer: Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve
Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals and Zelda Rubinstein
This film is one that I checked out as I believe it was part of Fangoria’s Top 300 Horror Movies issue. I didn’t hear of it before that and I’ve seen it a couple of times now. It is another one that I heard more about when I got into listening to horror movie review podcasts. This viewing here is due to the Podcast Under the Stairs Summer Challenge series for the 2000s. The synopsis is the next great psycho horror slasher has given a documentary crew exclusive access to his life as he plans his reign of terror over the sleepy town of Glen Echo.
We start with Kelly (Kate Miner) who works at a diner. She is taking out the trash for the end of the shift. She props the door open with a brick. There is an uneasy feeling and she thinks she sees someone in the shadows. The door closes behind her. She flees around the building.
The film then shifts a documentary film crew that we will be following. The woman doing the interview is Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals). The two guys behind the camera in her crew are Doug (Ben Pace) and Todd (Britain Spellings). It should be pointed out that this film is telling us that Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers are all real. They all have killed a lot of people and there is a new man that is going to join them, Leslie Vernon. The crew is doing a documentary on him as he stalks and kills his victim in order to join their ranks. We then meet him and he’s played by Nathan Baesel.
There is a legend in this town of Glen Echo. Leslie Vernon was killed by the citizens by throwing him over a waterfall to his death. Much like the other legends, he is back to get his revenge and claim his birthright.
They sit down to do an interview with him to get more information and he is fine with it. They ask him questions to get into the mind of a killer like this. To that he tells them he has to show them. They get into his vehicle and go to town. He explains how he chooses his victim. He looks for a virgin with a group of friends. There needs to be a good mix of tough and easy kills to help his numbers. He tells them though that he has already picked out his victim, or they’d be well behind schedule since it takes so much planning.
This takes them to the opening scene we saw with Kelly. It is interesting here is that we get to see how it is done, which feels a bit like peaking behind the camera of filmmaker as well. From here, Leslie introduces us to his mentor from the business, Eugene (Scott Wilson) who is now is now retired. Along with his wife of Jamie (Bridgett Newton), the documentary is given a look into killers like him from the 1960’s and 70’s before the big three took over.
We are then given more into the planning stages that Leslie has to go through to prepare Kelly. He has to do a lot of cardio and prepping the house for the night of the killings. Taylor seems intrigued to continue to learn more, but the deeper they get into it, they have second thoughts. It is interesting, but she is also an accomplice to the potential murders. A decision has to be made, but Leslie might be on top of it more than they realize.
I have to say that the first time I watched this I loved some of the aspects to this movie. One of the firs things is stating that the many of the horror film legends were real and that they all know each other. On top of that, I love that they all do follow a similar plan, which if you look at the films, would make sense. This movie does a really good job for me in setting the world that we are living in before peaking behind this curtain as I’ve said.
This is really two different movies that are combined into one. The first part of this is a mockumentary done in the vein of found footage. Taylor sets that stage with their opening monologue as I’ve said. In this part, it is mostly Leslie and her with Doug and Todd interjecting at different points. I also like that more information is provided by Doc Halloran (Robert Englund) who is a Dr. Loomis of sorts, Eugene, Jamie and even Mrs. Collinwood (Zelda Rubinstein), a librarian that helps Kelly. This part feels like we are watching a slasher be made from behind the scenes.
The second half of the movie is a normal movie that is a slasher. It is smart though and I think that is what makes it work. Leslie has shown us what his initial plan was, but much like Scream, this takes a meta approach where despite the characters knowing, things have been changed to incorporate the new elements. I give credit to the depth of planning and knowing from Leslie there.
That meta approach brings me to something else I wanted to delve into really quick. I’ve said I love that they state Jason, Freddy and Michael are all real and are legends. Chucky gets brought up as another killer briefly as well. There is some realism that is lost with the latter, but I do feel this movie is a bit odd with just accepting these killers. Like they know they’re real. I don’t know if Taylor truly believes Leslie is going to do what he says or not, but Doug and Todd do and seem to be on board. I feel this could be a commentary on us as an audience that we know we’re going to see these horrific things and we are complacent as it is entertainment. Regardless, the co-writer of David J. Stieve and the other co-writer/director of Scott Glosserman really know their slashers so this works there.
I’m not sure this movie would be as good though if it wasn’t for the acting. I’m not saying anyone here is going to win awards. Baesel is really good for me as Leslie. It is interesting as I believe this was his first acting role in a feature. I love how charismatic he is when things are going good and then turns on being a monster when it becomes time for that. He is a likeable guy so I can see why this crew wants to be around him as he looks into everything that he is. Goethals is solid as Taylor and I love what the movie does with her character. I love the cameos by Englund, Wilson, Rubinstein and even briefly Kane Hodder. Newton and Miner were quite attractive and I love how their characters fit into this story. Pace and Spellings are also solid as well in helping round this out for me.
That will take me to the last thing I wanted to go over which would be the effects and cinematography. Where I want to start would be the latter. As I’ve said, the first part of this is mockumentary. It does feel like we are getting a legit doc on Leslie Vernon. It all feels real including interviews and it also feels like we are seeing how a slasher film is made on top of it. When it actually becomes a slasher, I do feel that the effects are good. I’m assuming some of this would be budget, but we don’t actually get to see a lot of the kills or much in the blood/gore category. I am forgiving here though due to how things lead up and eventually play out. The cinematography I would say is well done.
So in conclusion here, this movie keeps getting better and better for me with each viewing. I really like the concept here of doing a mockumentary on a new killer that is trying to join the likes of the legends. Baesel’s take on Leslie Vernon is what really makes this work for me and I love the meta approach this movie is taking to the slasher genre. The rest of the cast helps get us to bring this life. The effects are a bit light, but the found footage stuff works for me. The soundtrack also fit for what was needed as well. I’ve come up on this last viewing with my rating, which I think this is a good movie. If you haven’t seen this and you’re a slasher fan, I would definitely recommend giving it a viewing. This is also interesting if you enjoy seeing how filmmaking is done as that is part of it as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10