In memory of Scott Wilson – March 29, 1942 – October 6, 2018
A documentary film crew is invited for an inside scoop of a soon to be legend. Leslie Vernon, a jovial and reclusive man will be that legend. He’s offering us an all access exclusive to the inner workings of pure evil. But is Leslie just one over the top fan of horror? A man caught up into delirious cinematic lore or is his passion a reality?
Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a 2006 mockumentary horror flick directed by Scott Glosserman and stars Nathan Baesel, Robert Englund, Angela Goethals and Scott Wilson. It also features a cameo of Kane Hodder and Zelda Rubinstein. The film never received a theatrical release but was mainly shown at festivals and it only grossed about 70 thousand at the box office. However through the years Behind the Mask has gained a cult following, especially among hardcore slasher fans.
Here we have this film crew lead by Taylor and her two camera men Doug and Todd. Taylor is your rookie Barbara Walters. We’re not really sure if she is a student or actually working for a news station. Her channel signature says WQHS 12 on the bottom corner. I like to think she’s a student trying to get some big story so it brings her fame. I’ve always believed reporters love serial killers because it makes them famous. Kind of like how weathermen love hurricanes.
She’s actually invited by Leslie and he promises to give her pearls of information regarding the way slashers work. Things that as Leslie states “those in the industry would know.” As filming begins Taylor and her crew are opened up to his world. He shows them how he picks his girl, breaks down the friends surrounding her and even gets them involved in certain pre-requisite tactics before the night of slaughter. At one point Leslie introduces them to a retired slasher named Eugene and his wife Jamie. They’re a nice couple that are also in on Leslie’s profession. They’re obviously his parent-like mentors that Leslie has a sincere bond with.
Through all of this Taylor and the crew bond with Leslie and see moments in him that are friendly and jovial. But often at times witnessing a dark and sinister demeanor. Taylor, Todd and Doug get drawn into this world where it begins to get too dark for them. They almost spoil Leslie’s plans which in turn almost destroys the trust Leslie has for them. When the night of slaughter does eventually come, it’s made clear that Leslie has been serious all this time. What follows turns into an unfolding of tradition and mayhem. With Taylor, Todd and Doug having front row seats to the show.
Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon puts the entire slasher genre into a new perspective. One that makes the typical slasher into a profession. If you’re a fan of slasher films then this movie is right up your alley. Behind the Mask is both insightful and entertaining. Like getting a real cool teacher in school that makes a subject fun to watch yet extremely educational.
The dialogue between Leslie and Taylor breaks open the basic conventions of all slasher films. There discussions lead you to believe that what we know of these killers is more than just about the blood and slaughter. These people aren’t the personification of evil. or even what psychologist claim are sociopaths dreaming of sleeping with their mothers. It’s about prolonging the rituals that perpetuate the ideas of good and evil. That because of evil things like purity, inner strength, growth, aggression and victory are made possible. The symbol of these traits are found in the “end girl.” She must rise up against the problems surrounding her and take matters into her own hands. Thus creating a bond between killer and girl that cannot be found anywhere else.
Eugene & Jamie
Now, work with me here because it may seem strange. I believe this couple has more to do with the story than just being Leslie’s mentors or parental figures. To Leslie, Eugene and Jamie are what Leslie is looking for. The entire focal point and reason for why Leslie is doing what he is doing.
They’re a happy couple that have this ideal marriage. Eugene is much older than Jamie and they love each other dearly. They touch each other without thinking and make jokes together as if they’re best friends. The kind of way things are with couples before they have children!
In my opinion Eugene and Jamie were at one point a slasher and end girl. What I’m saying is Eugene was the killer and picked Jamie as his end girl. She defeated him and because of this, a loving relationship was formed. It’s insane and I know it doesn’t work with the #metoo movement, but it fits the entire premise of the film. Everything Leslie talks about and wants to accomplish is exemplified by Eugene and Jamie. I’m not saying the movie is a love story but what you see is what you see. I actually do have proof of this. When Leslie is getting ready to go on his night of murder, Eugene and Jamie are talking to Taylor about tips for survivors. It’s a great scene that may make this relationship completely clear. Eugene mentions that when in a group facing a slasher, it’s best to run faster than everyone else. Jamie quickly says “I was fast wasn’t I Eugene!?” in a playful manner in which Eugene responds “You sure were”. They both hug and it’s hilarious yet what I find to be an intriguing moment in the movie.
Much like The Office, this film has numerous funny moments that use awkward silence and out of place behaviors. Leslie himself offers a hilarious sense of humor without actually trying to be funny. Although there are some very funny moments it also has very serious and dramatic situations. Leslie goes from cheerful next door neighbor to stone cold darkness. Those moments are what create a great shift out of the comical realms of the film. Nathan Baesel and Angela Goethals are amazing as Vernon and Taylor. Taylor always has this bewildered and terrified look on her face. Like she doesn’t know what to think of anything she’s witnessing and she just wants to run away. While Leslie is cool and calm, as if everything we’re witnessing is like taking your kid to work day! You connect to their characters. Leslie’s relationship to Taylor is brilliant and purposeful for the twist in the last 20 minutes of the movie. They end up sharing an emotional connect to one in another which inevitably leaves Taylor questioning weather or not she can just let Leslie go kill innocent teenagers or attempt to stop him.
Another great character is Doc Halloran played by Robert Englund. He’s pretty much the Dr. Loomis of the film and what Leslie refers to as his “Ahab.” That one shining person that represents all the goodness and is willing to sacrifice everything in order to stop Leslie. Which is a hilarious type of character for Englund to play.
I for one believe this is one of the best and most clever horror films directed in modern times. It may not have a great deal of gore and actual “horror” doesn’t really take place until the end of the movie. In fact, none of the slasher moments really matter. It’s the fact that you’re exploring this entire world of slashers that draws you in and keeps you engaged. Scenes like Eugene being woken from his deprivation chamber are awesome and in their own way offer great insight to popular questions like “I thought the killer was dead?” Or “How do these guys not run?”
Leslie Vernon represents an understanding to the calamity of the genre. Like how Cabin in The Woods sort of universalized the world of horror into one massive lore, Behind the Mask does so; but on a more personal and emotional level. I wish movies like this could have their own class or sub-genre. Maybe something like “homage horror” could work. Horror films that pay homage to a genre and spin the ideas of them around. Scream is another film that could be considered homage horror. Even What We Do In The Shadows or Killer Klowns From Outer Space as well. Either way it’s a must see kind of film for any horror collection.
With the recent and tragic news that actor Scott Wilson has passed, I felt it appropriate to recommend this movie to offer my respect to such a great actor. His character of Eugene is amazing and he was a beloved person in the good seasons of The Walking Dead. I love Leslie Vernon and would love to see a sequel. I am sure there is much more insight to the revenge aspect of the slasher genre that could be explored. Either way, the movie makes me wanting more. This is why I have chosen Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon for Horror Movie Marathon 2018.