Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon review by The Grim Ringler

Behind the Mask – The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Behind the Mask – The Rise of Leslie Vernon


Don’t let anyone fool you, when people speak of the good old days they are white-washing the past and making it sound far better than it was. Take the horror movies of the ‘80s – yes, there was some fantastic stuff that came out in that era, some classic stuff, but, well, there was more crap than good that came out. Which is just like the 1970’s, the 60’s, before and after those eras. Each era has its good and its bad. What is funny is when films like Friday the 13th become legendary and when their main monsters, as well as old Jason’s pals in the other films, become cultural icons. As fondly remembered as these films are, it’s their legacy that has lived on longer than their stories, and it is this legacy which Behind conjures here, giving both a loving homage and a well deserved noogie to some of the corner stones of the modern genre age.


A group of college filmmakers take up their cameras and sound equipment in the hopes of capturing someone who claims to want to be the next legendary serial murderer. In a world where Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger are (or were) real killers, this newbie, Leslie Vernon, wants to be just like them, creating his own legacy of bloodshed. In order to do that though, he has to start at the bottom, and this is where the documentarians come in. The thought is that they can capture the rise of someone who not only chooses to become a monster, but who is also aiming to become one of mythic proportions. What the filmmakers capture are the mundane moments that will lead up to Leslie’s first killing spree. He claims to be the forgotten son of a small town which had cast him over the local falls when he had murdered his mother one night. He has returned, years later and now lives on the outskirts of town and awaits the night of his vengeance. All of this is swell, sure, but in order to become a mad killer, you have to train and prepare. As Leslie points out on camera, you have to make it look easy when you are chase-walking after your victims as they run from you in fear. Things get more interesting when Leslie reveals his target, a beautiful young high school girl who has the right mix of cool and burn-out friends and she is the made even more perfect by the fact that she’s a virgin. The crew follows Leslie as he plants the seeds of paranoia in her so that, when the time is right, Leslie can spring his plan into action. And what is his plan exactly? Leslie intends to create the perfect victim out of this girl. If all goes perfectly, she and her friends will end up at his childhood home, where he has an elaborate system of traps set up to capture the girl’s friends. Leslie’s hope is that, by surviving the deaths of her friends, and the horrors he will put her in, he will create his prefect heroine and nemesis, who will be able to rise against him at the end of the night. Everything runs very smoothly and according to plan, running so well as to present Leslie with his ‘Ahab’, a vigilante who will do everything it takes to stop Leslie, but is he part of the plan or the first weak link in the plan. As things come together, and Leslie begins his murder spree the film crew finally realize how real everything is and that they are now becoming accomplices, and chroniclers, of murder. When the filmmakers decide it’s time to stop this madness though and to clue the girl and her friends in on what Leslie has planned for them, they face the true horror of what they have watched create itself and must use what they know about Leslie to defeat him or become yet more victims on his way to fame.


The horror comedy is a rare breed in the horror genre and it’s rare because fewer of those films are actually good. Behind is not only good, it’s damned good. Not having seen another slasher film, a moviegoer will still get the joke here and will still laugh at Leslie’s weird quirks. The seasoned vet though will get not only the joke of the film, but also the jokes within that joke – the character names, the background props, and the treatment of other film villains as if they are/were real people. The film is interesting in that it creates a series of staggered realities – there is the documentary world, which shows Leslie practicing his craft – there is the ‘real’ world of the students Leslie intends on killing – and then there is the finally reality of the last twenty minutes, where the veil is pulled off of Leslie’s real plot and intentions and his plan is fully revealed, which changes everything. Everyone here seems to relish their role and no one appears to be sleep-walking, the biggest kudos going to the actors playing the two killers in it – Leslie and his mentor Eugene. Both men really chew the scenery and fill the movie with villains that are hard to hate, despite what crimes they may have done. What struck me as interesting here was that for a horror film that loves slasher films so much, there was no really overt gore. The film is very much about atmosphere and sound and doesn’t really push the physical aspect so much. It was great to see that, when the chips were down, things definitely got going at the end and lead to a twist I had seen but didn’t fully understand until the end. Good stuff.


Behind really works for me because, above all else, it has energy and ambition that show how much the people making this film love the films they poke fun at. The thing here is that, yeah, they call out the silly stuff that happens in slasher films – and how can you not? – but then it does exactly what those movie do, showing that if it works, then don’t change it. Almost as good as the movie was though was the fact that Anchor Bay, a company known for its DVD releases has stepped up and picked up the rights to Behind and released it to theaters, promising to do the same with more underground films if there’s a market for them. Too often small genre films are relegated to the back rows of video stores so it’s nice to see them get a chance to connect with people in a theater. Three cheers for Anchor Bay.

If you’re a fan of genre films, and especially the old school slasher films of the eighties, then you will love this movie. It’s funny, creepy, and gives us one more villain to root for, I mean, er, boo. Fun, fun movie.



8 out of 10 Jackasses
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