BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE...
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
Mass murderer in-training plots to walk in the shadows of Michael, Jason and Freddy and invites a documentary film crew along for the ride. And when his massacre begins, the young filmmakers realize the horror has gone too far.
Is it good movie?
If you’ve ever wondered how Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees seem to luck out when it comes to not having to run, seeming to know where the victims are hiding and being able to hold out until the end without a drop of sweat, then this is for you. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is one of the smartest and most startling horror films in recent years. This cross between Scream and The Blair Witch Project gives insight into how one would prepare to go on a killing spree. Leslie Vernon is a young man who claims to admire such killers as Michael and Jason; here they are portrayed as factual people. He has studied them and learned from their work because that is his life’s ambition, to become a legendary boogeyman. He invites a young woman and two cameramen to interview him and see the world through his eyes. At first, they are fascinated with him by how excited the idea of the slaughter makes him. With either disbelief that this is what he is or just plain morbid curiosity, they follow as he stalks his “virgin” and plans for the night when his legend would be born.
I see a lot of horror films and very rarely are they this surprising and quite frankly, creepy. This is a thinking man’s horror show that explains the details of why the victims never seem to be able to run away, or why, when they protect themselves, it never works. As Leslie’s mentor (Scott Wilson) claims, if you really want to get away, just run straight ahead and never look back. The improbability of this film never affects its fascinating premise. It is hard to believe that people would just sit around filming this guy and not try and stop him. But Nathan Baesel has an almost childlike glee in the first half of the film which keep his likability factor up. His performance is right on target, as he conveys madness, deterioration and in a fascinating scene where he begins to cry at the thought of it finally being his night, vulnerability. I also really warmed up to Angela Goethals as the interviewer. She is one of the best leading ladies in a horror film… ever. She is strong, horrified, frail and just a pleasure to watch. Both Nathan and Angela have some incredibly real moments. So when it comes to the fodder as the night of terror arrives, and people die, it doesn’t matter that the victims are not more prominent. You don’t need it because this is about a killer and his connection to humanity as portrayed by a journalist.
For much of the first part of the film, the terror is only hinted at. There is so much humor here, yet it balances itself well and never feels like a joke. It delves into the characters as others come in and out of the picture. Like Robert Englund as Leslie’s nemesis whom he calls his “Ahab”; I would have called him “Loomis”. There is also a brief role with Zelda Rubinstein from the Poltergeist franchise. But the horror cameos were not needed. They were entertaining, but this film had so much more to offer that I was sold before either of them showed up. It’s always refreshing when a slasher flick is this reinvigorated with something to make it unique. And that happens here. Although the documentary film crew has been done to death, I really loved the relationship between Angela and Nathan. They had me at Halloween.
Video / Audio
One of the best films of the year; Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon adds a witty and exciting chapter into slasher history. What could have been a ridiculous story about some dimwits that follow a psycho around on his deadly path, turns into a smart and very fascinating slice of horror. Nathan Baesel plays Leslie Vernon with glee while never losing sight that this is a maniac. And Angela Goethals is a major find who I hope to see much more often. She is one smart actress who gives her role credibility and charm. If the entire movie had been awful, but she gave this performance, it would still be great. Part satire, part horror and part comedy… and yes, any self respecting horror fan should get Behind the Mask.