Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) [31 Days of Gore]

Here’s the Spinal Tap of slasher movies. Filmed mockumentary style, Behind the Mask takes place in the same universe as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Leslie Vernon is a deranged killer who wishes to join their iconic ranks, so he invites a documentary crew to follow his pre-spree preparation rituals.

It isn’t easy being a slasher. In one scene Leslie details the excruciating process of finding the right group of victims. In order for it to work flawlessly, he’s gotta have the perfect mix of jocks, stoners, and hormone-addled teens surrounding the virginal heroine who may or may not make it to the very end. In another scene he shows the fictional filmmakers how he sabotages the makeshift weapons and escape routes his victims might use to thwart him.

For something which looks so cheap, the movie’s surprisingly well made. (I loved the idea of digital cameras democratizing the filmmaking process in the late 90s and early 2000s, but rarely the results.) The unknown leads are talented, sometimes outshining the recognizable faces which include Robert Englund, Zelda Rubinstein, and The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson. I’m not the biggest fan of movies which poke fun at the tropes of horror, but Behind the Mask isn’t making fun of them so much as it’s pointing out how unlikely they are.

So it’s a head-scratcher that the movie eventually descends into the very thing it’s lampooning. There’s a major reveal you’ll see coming from several minutes away and although the movie thinks its uncharacteristically serious climax is subverting the cliches of previous horror films, it still very much feels like a run-of-the-mill finale. Since it’s so creative for the first hour or so, the last ten minutes or so are kind of disappointing.

I still recommend the hell out of this movie. It’s a great ride up until it forgets it’s a comedy.

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