Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) BLU-RAY REVIEW – A Definitive Edition

Scream Factory have outdone themselves again.

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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a fun movie with a fun concept. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of, if not the best meta horror film I’ve ever seen. Directed in 2006 by Scott Glosserman from a script he co-wrote with David J. Stieve, the film examines somewhat tired slasher tropes in an enjoyable, comedic fashion while also serving as a love letter to the genre.

The actors really carry the film, and they’re just wonderful to watch. Nathan Baesel is perfect as Leslie Vernon, the titular slasher. He’s both charming and menacing in equal measure. And Angela Goethals is completely convincing as Taylor, the graduate student making a documentary about the killer who models himself on the great cinematic slashers (who are real people in the universe of this movie). Goethals also had a tough job in balancing the woman who fawns over Leslie’s very real charms and the woman who is disgusted by what he’s planning on doing to a houseful of horny teenagers.

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The cameos are a big part of the fun. Robert Englund plays what amounts to a bit part as a Dr. Loomis type psychiatrist with a gun. But his is the biggest part as far as cameos are concerned. Blink and you’ll miss Kane Hodder. Poltergeist’s Zelda Rubinstein, who played the tiny exorcist, also appears as a slightly spooky librarian. And, of course, there are plenty of prop easter eggs that sometimes are barely visible in the frame which reference a myriad of horror films from the 70s to the early 2000s. (The Lament Configuration, anyone?) It’s fun to keep a lookout in subsequent viewings to see what you might have missed the first time.

As a comedy, well, I didn’t find this a laugh out loud experience, though your results will certainly vary. If you’re a fan of slashers, there will at least be grins galore. The thing is, you couldn’t play this concept straight, since part of the fun is deconstructing tropes and pointing out their absurdity. But, really, you couldn’t make the whole thing too goofy either. Not if you wanted to maintain a sense of verisimilitude. So it makes sense if viewers only get a chuckle or two out of the thing.

The humor mostly comes from the elaborate rules that these slasher killers have to follow as a sort of ethical code. One of the funnier parts comes near the beginning as Leslie works out and complains about the ungodly amounts of cardio that are needed for his job. He explains that because killers appear to stalk their victims by walking slowly, a la Jason and Michael Myers, they have to run impossibly quick in order to get to their next kill location before the other kids realize what’s going on and are able to escape.

Behind the Mask features a neat mix of shooting styles. Two thirds of the film is a straight mockumentary with two cameras, but when every now and then we step out of the documentary, and that’s when Glosserman switches to 35mm film to give us a god’s eye point of view. It’s cool to see that he didn’t chain himself to the limitations of the mockumentary format. I’ve actually never seen a film shot like this, so that’s pretty cool.

The new Scream Factory Blu-ray release comes with a host of extras, and none of them feel like filler. There’s two commentary tracks: one with the director, and another with the cast. There’s a handful of behind the scenes featurettes, and an interest look at the Behind the Mask sequel comic currently in production.

Like so many Scream Factory releases, it’s likely that this will be the definitive version of the movie for quite some time.

The writer was provided a review copy of the film for the purposes of this article.


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