BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006) was the directorial debut from Scott Glosserman that presented itself as a mockumentary that focused on the life and experiences of the next great serial killer. The film stars Nathan Baesel (“Invasion”), Angela Goethals (Jerry Maguire), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Scott Wilson (“The Walking Dead”), and Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist).
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON follows a documentary crew that has been given access to document the life of Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), an up-and-coming serial killer, as he plans his next kill in the sleepy town of Glen Echo. Documentarian Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) doesn’t take his claims seriously at first, but as their investigation unfolds, the Taylor and her crew realize just how deadly Leslie’s intentions truly are.
It has probably been 12 years since I’ve seen this film so having had the chance to revisit it was like watching it all over again for the first time. Slasher flicks can get old after awhile, as they tend to follow the same beats over and over again. Luckily, instead of falling back on that pattern, director Scott Glosserman decided to take it to the next level and create a mockumentary that would give viewers a glimpse into the life of what our favorite serial killers do to prepare for their “job”. Combining horror, gore, cliche tropes and humor, the overall execution of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON is done almost flawlessly resulting in a film that perfectly meshes together the love of the slasher sub genre.
In terms of the acting, I was 100% mesmerized by Nathan Baesel performance of Leslie Vernon. He comes across as an attractive, fun loving guy, who has a bit of a sensitive side but oh wait, he’s also a serial killer. You can’t help but be drawn to him and his charasmatic ways, which is why he was the perfect choice for Leslie. His chemistry with Angela Goethals was palpable as they did a complicated dance around the dangers that Leslie presents as well as some possible affectionate tension that seemed to be brewing between the two. I also really enjoyed seeing cameos from Robert Englund, especially since his role had nothing to do with Freddy Krueger but more to do with being the heroic psychiatrist trying to save the day from a psychotic killer (sound familiar?). Even his mentorship with Eugene (Scott Wilson) was charming and fun, and I found myself wishing I could be friends with them (even though I know they would probably kill me). Also, even though it was quick, there was a brief appearance by the one and only Kane Hodder as well as a longer cameo from the amazing Zelda Rubinstein.
As for the story itself, it was pretty damn near perfect. The audience really gets an understanding of the complexity of Leslie and his love for what he does. I appreciated seeing his story told from the beginning in the sense that we get to see how he is before he prepares himself to become the predator he inhabits. Sure, it’s weird and highly unsettling to see him stalk women so as to pick his next victim, but he’s just so god damn endearing at times that it’s hard to look away. The viewer also gets the full story of what it’s like to become the next great slasher and the hardships that Leslie faces along the way. Interjected throughout is humor, mostly from Leslie, which helps to break up the tension that is forming once Taylor begins to realize just how serious Leslie is about everything. Horror and humor go hand in hand, but sometimes the result of that can be less than desirable, but in the case of THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON, it’s just enough humor so that it works within the film but isn’t overpowering.
All in all, I’m so glad that I had the chance to go back and watch THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON. Twelve years is a long time, and I have to say, this film definitely holds up against the test of time. For those looking for some special features, the Blu-ray release is chock full with interviews of the cast, commentary by Scott Glosserman that’s moderated by Adam Green and Joe Lynch, and featurettes that include The Making of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This Blu-ray release has easily become one of my favorites from Scream Factory and I look forward to diving into more of the special features in the near future. BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNONis now available to own on Blu-ray from ShoutFactory.com.