Shudder Review: Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon
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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Shudder Streaming
Directed by Scott Glosserman
Written by Scott Glosserman & David J. Stieve
Starring Nathan Baesel, Andrea Goethals, Kate Miner, Scott Wilson, Robert Englund, Zelda Rubinstein, Bridgett Newton, Ben Pace, Britain Spellings
Glen Echo Entertainment
Rated R | 92 Minutes
Original Release Date: October 13th, 2006

Did you ever wonder how in a slasher movie, you run and you run, and the killer always manages to end up in front? Have you ever considered that horror’s most notorious killers actually craft out lengthy plans, before showing up and wreaking havoc? Ever contemplate that Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers have a lot more working upstairs than just raging bloodlust? If you answered yes to any of these questions, and hell, even if you didn’t, then Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon from 2006 is for you.

This is one of the most original, self referential, and unique horror films of the past decade. And the best place to find this hugely underrated and underseen horror gem is on the newest horror movie streaming service, Shudder.

Nathan Baesel is Leslie Vernon. Leslie has contacted Taylor Gentry (Andrea Goethals) and her film crew to follow him and document his journey, as he aims to become the newest slasher legend. Director Scott Glosserman films the movie mockumentary-style. We are watching Taylor and her cameramen follow a man who is claiming to be a future serial killer! The problem is that Leslie is so damn funny and charming, that the three of them can’t resist.

Baesel is terrific in what is essentially his only lead role on his IMDB resume. He has a ’90s Jim Carrey vibe to him, and reminded me a lot of a horror version of Truman Burbank (Carrey’s Golden Globe winning role in The Truman Show). There Carrey effortlessly morphed from happy-go-lucky laughing normal Joe, to paranoid irrational and spontaneous. Baesel’s performance here was eerily similar. In one scene he enlists Taylor’s help scaring his “Survivor Girl” Kelly (Kate Miner). He shows how horror icons pull the “door suddenly slams” trick using some fishing line. The next minute he gets a question that throws him off and he scares them almost away.

Leslie Vernon as a character has everything a horror icon should. The creepy small town atmosphere ala Springwood and Haddonfield; here Glen Echo. He has a mysterious backstory involving the murder of his parents on the family farm, and his round up and death at the hands of vengeful locals. He manipulates library microfiche and edits articles, to trick Kelly into drawing illogically logical connections and backstories. He has a creepy mask and signature weapon (a hand scythe). And he has a plan for Kelly and her gang of stereotypical horror teens at the old farmhouse. He lays out these plans to Taylor methodically and in clear order. It’s really such a brilliant touch. Leslie is meta without being cynical.

One of the best parts is when Leslie brings the crew to meet his mentor, a “retired” serial slasher Eugene (Scott Wilson, aka Hershel from The Walking Dead). Eugene discusses how “Fred, Jay, and Mike” changed the game, by going back to the same place over and over and never getting stopped. You can tell Glosserman has a true passion for horror movies as his script (co-written with David J. Stieve) is full of homages, callbacks, and cameos for real horror geeks. In fact, having just watched it for a second time, I noticed at least three things I missed the first. This is the type of movie you should watch with a group, so you can keep track of all the references, and in jokes. Robert Englund (Freddy) plays a supporting role, and there are cameos from Kane Hodder (Jason in Friday 7 – 10) and in her final role, Poltergeist‘s Zelda Rubinstein.

I don’t want to say anymore because it will ruin the surprises, but suffice to say Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is tremendously successful on multiple levels; as a dark comedy, a mockumentary, and a scary slasher movie. The only thing more shocking than how few people have seen this should-be classic, is that no one in the movie really blew up. Despite winning several film festival awards for Best Director, Glosserman has only directed 2 things since, and one was a documentary on Wikipedia. Glosserman, Stieve, Baesel, and most of the cast are all listed as “announced” for a film called B4TK, but IMDB has nothing more.

As it stands, Behind the Mask is as hidden a hidden gem can be. Horror geeks will LOVE this movie, and it’s so clever and unique that even non-genre fans can join in the fun. I absolutely LOVE this film! Everything from the cameos, the names of characters, and even the ending credits, are made special for horror fans.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is available on Shudder, streaming on ROKU, or at Shudder.com. Shudder costs $4.99 a month (with a $49.99 yearly option). Shudder is so cool, they offer a 14-day free trial so sign up and watch the movie right now!


Behind the Mask – trailer

On the surface Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) seems like your average, small-town, nice guy. He has goals, ambition and aspirations to… follow in the footsteps of his long-time heroes Fredddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees and be the world’s next great psycho-slasher. A true self-promoter, Leslie gives documentary filmmaker Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her crew exclusive access to his life as he plans and executes his next great reign of terror over the sleepy town of Glen Echo, all the while deconstructing the conventions and archetypes of the horror genre for them.

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