Directed by Scott Glosserman; Written by David J. Stieve and Scott Glosserman
Leslie Vernon is a mythic serial killer in the making. Hoping to join the ranks of Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers, Leslie gives full access of his planning and eventual night of mayhem to a trio of documentary filmmakers.
This film combines elements of found footage and traditional slasher films to provide a unique visual experience. One moment, the audience is experiencing the scene from the perspective of the camera crew; the next, the view is in third person more like a traditional film.
This alternation between film techniques allows the audience to explore the character of Leslie Vernon. In being viewed from the third person perspective, Leslie appears to be much like the boogeyman of a typical slasher film: masterful at stalking his victims, executing brutal slayings, always being one step ahead, etc. From the perspective of the film crew, however, the audience is able to connect with the elements of humanity within Leslie and identify him as an antihero. This analysis of Leslie’s character illustrates but the tip of the iceberg, so to say, of the intricacy of the plot.
Behind the Mask functions both as a homage to and revision of the slasher genre. This film is set in a universe where the events of Haddonfield, Elm Street, Camp Crystal Lake, etc. all occurred. Throughout the film, Leslie and his mentor, Eugene, detail the roles and rules, so to speak, when involved in these scenarios. One can consider this film to be in direct competition with Wes Craven’s Scream in this regard.
The revisionist elements come as a result of changing the audience’s expectations and desires for the film’s conclusion. In many slasher series, often after the number of sequels fails be counted on one hand, the audience begins to root for the killer at some point (see Halloween V). Behind the Mask complicates matters a bit in that the audience can see both sides of the equation: a sadistic killer wiping out a group of oblivious teens, and a passionate man exhibiting antihero qualities. This shakes up traditional cliques and such to produce a feeling of watching something new and, more simply put, awe.
The acting in this film is quite superb. Nathan Baesel’s portrayal of Leslie Vernon is nothing short of excellent. Angela Goethals also delivers a great performance as the leader of the documentary crew. Robert Englund (the original Freddy Krueger) makes an appearance as the Dr. Loomis inspired Doc Halloran.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a film that can be appreciated by all audiences. Its stylistic and storytelling elements are well executed enough to gain approval from newcomers to the genre and innovative and well grounded enough to please the staunch critic.