Written by El Articulo Definido
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon comes to DVD on June 26, thanks to the fine folks at Anchor Bay. However, it is also thanks to the fine folks at Anchor Bay that most have never heard of this film. What is without a doubt the best horror film to be released in years, Behind the Mask was only given limited release in theaters, and was, ultimately, marketed wrong. In many cases this film was being billed as a documentary of a serial killer, which we’ve seen enough, and is interesting enough, but totally off the mark in this case, and not going to get the attention of horror fans who should have seen this film.
The Rise of Leslie Vernon is not a documentary about a serial killer, nor is it merely a mockumentary about a serial killer. It is a perfect post-modern deconstruction of the supernatural horror film. Leslie Vernon (an inspired performance by Nathan Baesel) is a man who was presumably killed as a young boy by the townspeople of Echo Falls where the legend of that fateful night lives on, and he is now ready to begin a killing spree worthy of his myth.
With journalist Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and a film crew in tow, Leslie describes how it is that he plans to live up to the masters Jason, Freddy, Mike and Chuck, and even delves slightly into how they do it. The idea of the supernatural is never made to be silly or ridiculous, but instead is serious work, and takes much in the way of preparation. Baesel’s Vernon is very funny, witty and charismatic, which makes Behind the Mask seem like a comedy, but it is his charming attitude that makes him seem much more haunting. Not all killers are outwardly psychotic; it is because they are charming and charismatic that guys like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy were so successful at luring unsuspecting victims.
It is, however, Vernon’s dry explanations that make this film a bit comedic as he deconstructs the genre, and even introduces us to his mentor, Eugene, played by Scott Wilson. Wilson seems to represent more of the Slasher/Grindhouse films of the ’60s and ’70s, prior to the obligatory sequel. He is a man who has respect for the game of fear, and knows that if he didn’t play his part, then there would be no evil to go head to head with good.
It is in this understanding of good and evil that Vernon explains that the true battle for someone in his line of work is against the Survivor Girl, the virgin who has the only true chance at surviving his killing spree. The plot thickens, of course, when Robert England as Doc Holloran shows up to fulfill the role of Vernon’s “Ahab,” the man from his past hell bent on stopping his murder spree.
The DVD has some nice behind-the-scenes stuff as well as some deleted and extended scenes. All have commentary with director Scott Glosserman, which does much to explain and expand on some of the concepts within the film. The actor commentary is fun, but not particularly informative. It amounts to little more than storytelling, not so much a mini-film school as some director commentaries can be. Ultimately, though, it is not the extras that make this DVD worth owning, although there’s some good stuff in there, all worth watching, it is the brilliance of this film that you are going to want to watch again and again.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is everything Scream should have been. Instead of playing to laughs exclusively, BtM is exactly what it strives to be. It is not a parody and, in fact, plays more to its intended audience, but does enough explaining that a mainstream audience could have a lot of fun here. At its heart, though, this is a celebration of horror films that is itself the beginning of a new killer to add to the pantheon of greats.