Notable Cast: Nathan Baesel, Robert Englund, Zelda Rubenstein, Angela Goethals, and a cameo by Kane Hodder
When it comes to low budget horror films, one gets either inspired ideas or complete rehash. "Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon" is, in an ironic sense, both. By creating a film that's about a young man whose inspirations for his life goals happen to be the slashers from some of the 80s best horror films (Kruger, Myers, and Voorhees) it's able to cleverly use all the elements that worked in those films and spin them into a rather inventive new take on a wore thin genre.
Leslie Vernon is a simple man. A simple man that wants to be legendary like his heroes Jason, Freddy, and Michael. He has the smarts and the will to do so. But to create his own legacy he invites a young aspiring film crew of journalists to document his voyage into slasher history. Of course, the crew seeing an opportunity for something clever never realize how well Leslie has thought out his night of terror on his carefully chosen victims and how far he is willing to take his 'stunt'. Now the Horror isn't some fantasy. Leslie is making it real.
The brilliance of "Behind The Mask" is masked in its own intelligence. By spinning a slasher film this way (at first I thought the documentary style was a bit gimmicky but it easily came to make sense in its overall scheme) it takes a ragged concept and makes it fresh. Blending tons of dark humor into the film with its overall insanely fun horror fan attitude - try to catch all the old school horror references folks, because there are a ton - "Behind The Mask" comes off masked in its own homages to create a film that's actually pretty deep and intriguing. With a stellar performance from our leading villain Nathan Baesel and leading interviewer Angela Goethals and some hit or miss supporting cast, this film is able to sell itself quite nicely even without its somewhat gimmicky moments.
At it's core the film still isn't quite perfect though. It suffers from some minor scripting logic flaws and its budget retrains it at times. For example, I do really wish though the film would have built up the tension within the film crew about whether or not Leslie would actually go through with his diabolical plan. Its even a bit hard to believe that it never really crossed their minds until the shit started to hit the fan and then by the time it does, the decision and some of the choices there seem a little rushed. These are basic things that all slashers suffer from so its not a huge dilemma in the end.
"Behind The Mask" is a horror film made for fans by some serious horror fans. Half the fun of this film is putting together the references and little pieces of homage like when Leslie's friends give him the doggy bag after dinner look at the decorations beside the lamp behind him - for example. This film just comes off far more clever and interesting than it should have, which is both impressive and surprising. Strong performances, a strong idea, and some more than impressive special effects make it a fantastic slasher too. Definitely a must watch for horror fans.
Written By Matt Reifschneider