Horror Movie Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

“Jason, Freddy, Myers, we all need someone to look up to”

What would happen if Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers and more all existed in the same universe? What if they were just regular people, regular serial killers? Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon answers those questions. It’s a film of two halves, one is mockumentary following a journalist and her film crew that is documenting an aspiring serial killer who models himself according to slasher film conventions. The other is a regular slasher movie that pays homage to the genre with cameos from several horror veteran actors, including Robert Englund, Zelda Rubinstein & Kane Hodder.

As I mentioned above, the film is shot primarily in the form of a documentary. In this world, the killers depicted in famous slasher films are real. Their exploits inspire others but none more so than Leslie Vernon. A female journalist named Taylor Gentry and her two cameramen, Doug and Todd, document the preparations of Leslie Vernon as he prepares to join the ranks of other slasher villains. Leslie takes his identity from an urban legend about a boy who killed his family and was cast into a river by angry townsfolk.

He initially claims to be the vengeful spirit of the slain boy. However, he soon admits that he is an ordinary man named Leslie Mancuso who must rely on conventional tactics rather than supernatural powers. Taylor and her crew film Leslie’s meticulous preparations to slaughter a number of teenagers in an abandoned house. He plans to then be confronted by a virginal “survivor girl”, Kelly. Taylor and her crew come to share Leslie’s enthusiasm for his project. Later,  their consciences catch up with them on the night of the murders.

They beg Leslie to call off his killing spree, but Leslie is adamant, believing that his survivor girl will define herself by facing him. Taylor and her crew abandon their documentary and at this point the film shifts from a documentary style to a traditional horror film presentation.

Will Leslie achieve his dream of becoming an iconic killer like those that came before? Watch Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon to find out.

It’s important to note that the film takes an extremely comedic outlook when it breaks down the many clichés that we have all come to expect from the slasher genre. You witness Leslie meticulously organize his killing spree and it’s hilarious. Nathan Baesel delivers dialogue with such conviction that it is hard not to laugh. Overall, the film has a wonderful dry sense of humour that had me in stiches on more than one occasion. One scene sees Leslie working hard on his cardio which leads to him going on a major rant about how fit you have to be, it’s brilliant.

Also, I found it completely fascinating to imagine horror icons such as Freddy, Myers or Jason going through similar routines. Being a serial killer is casually discussed as if it is just a regular boring job. During the documentary, Leslie introduces the crew to a retired serial killer who demonstrates his ability to slow his heart rate and appear dead. He clearly has a desire to continue but he’s trying to settle down with his young wife. She’s later revealed to have been one of his victims.

Leslie celebrates when he realises that he’s being followed by an investigator played by Robert Englund. In his world, the fact that someone is interested in catching him means that he has finally made it. Later, his entire plan leads to an abandoned building that a group of teens will be heading to. You witness Leslie fully explain how he intends to succeed and the many ways that he has rigged weapons and set traps etc. It’s really fun but at the same time interesting and well explained.

The other half is basically a complete parody of a slasher film. It’s cheesy and cliché in all of the ways that you would expect. However, there are a couple of neat twists that lead to a compelling conclusion. On the whole, I felt both halves of the film played off of each other really well. You understand that what Leslie does is evil. However, you’ve gotten to know him and he’s really likeable, it’s creates a funny conflict for the viewer.

If I were to criticize Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon it would be due to how shy it is when it comes to blood and gore. I imagine this was due to budget limitations but there really isn’t much of anything which is a huge shame. The film would have benefited greatly from some serious violence. I feel it would have added to the comedic nature of it all. Also, while Nathan Baesel is great some of the other cast members deliver unconvincing performances.

Leslie may never reach the heights of Mike, Fred or J. Still, he’s going to give it his all to be the very best serial killer that he can be.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
  • The Final Score - 8.5/10
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