BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006)
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Amusing and clever mockumentary has a film crew (Angela Goethals as Taylor, Ben Pace as Doug and Britain Spellings as Todd) documenting the efforts of a man who calls himself Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) and who plans to join Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers as one of the all time great killer icons. Leslie is said to have been killed by an angry mob of townsfolk, after he murdered his own parents, when he was a child. He has now returned to the small town of Glen Echo as an adult, like his iconic heroes, and plans his revenge. He has invited the film crew to follow him as he trains, gets advice from a retired serial killer (Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson), picks his virginal final girl, Kelly Curtis (Kate Lang Johnson), and plans to murder her friends and take her on at the old farmhouse where he was born. At first the crew is as enthusiastic as Leslie, till it becomes more and more apparent that he is very serious and they are practically on their way to being accessories to murder. When the big night arrives to slaughter the teens at the abandoned farmhouse, the film crew has a change of heart that, unfortunately, put’s them directly in the plot for this horror film come frighteningly to life.
This movie is a lot of fun, especially if you are a horror/slasher movie fan and know all the horror tropes that Leslie giddily lays out to the eager journalists. It’s very entertaining to see how methodically he plans this to mirror the type of horror films we all watch and love, down to the littlest detail. The movie let’s you in on the joke from the start and as Vernon explains the whole process from selecting his victims to planning their demise, the film slowly starts to become a slasher movie in itself, much to the dismay of the documentary crew members. At first they are in a state of denial, but soon they realize this guy is serious, people are going to die and they are in the middle of it. Directed by Scott Glosserman from his script with David J. Stieve, this is a very inventive and loving homage to the late 70s-80s slasher genre that not only has a real blast sending-up that genre, by presenting such a film from the killer’s point of view, but also gives us some very cool nods and homages to those films as well. We are treated to appearances by horror vets Kane Hodder, Zelda Rubenstein and Robert Englund, who plays the “Dr. Loomis” role of Doc Halloran…or the “Ahab” as Leslie calls it, in reference to Moby Dick’s obsessed pursuer. The rest of the cast all do a good job at playing their roles both in documentary form and then as participants in an actual horror movie. The best thing of all is that Glosserman and company slowly take this from ingenious send-up to an actual slasher and it works perfectly. What starts as an fun faux-documentary detailing Leslie’s meticulous preparation, becomes a very serious slasher in it’s last act and gives us some very clever twists worthy of one of the films it’s paying homage to. It’s a really fun ride and it’s sad this film never really got the attention it was due and Glosserman hasn’t been given a chance to show us more of his stuff. Adding to the effectiveness is a worthy horror score by Gordy Haab (Once it becomes an actually horror film) and some nice cinematography by Jaron Presant.
As a huge fan of the horror films of the era this film pays tribute, I had a blast of a good time with this. It’s a fun comedy/horror that shares it’s love of the slasher genre with it’s audience and is really smart about it. It gives us an affectionate send-up of how Michael, Freddy or Jason might have prepared for one of their bloodbaths and then gives us one such bloodbath in itself…although the actually bloodletting was a bit tamer than I would have expected. The way it goes from mockumentary to actual slasher is ingenious and clever and most of all, works perfectly and thus, so does the film as a whole. Add an engaging cast and this is a really good time and when all is said and done, a pretty good horror movie too…though one with a very twisted smile.
3 and 1/2 wannabe horror icons!