By the 21st Century, the eponymous slasher genre had become very blase. Bland, generic remakes of classic slasher properties had flooded the cinema screen, and the release of the Prom Night remake in 2008 marked a possible death of the slasher genre, leading to watered down horror films that were made to titillate the teen market, instead of leaving a lasting impact. In the 21st Century, a film had to do more than just follow the standard slasher formula in order to gain recognition from a dedicated fan base, and Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is a fine example of a slasher movie that offers more than the standard slasher movie formula.
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is primarily a mock-umentary based in an alternative universe where slasher villains like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger were real people. In a small town called Glen Echo, a group of journalists follow a young man called Leslie Vernon as he plans to create his own night of slasher terror. However, what makes Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon stand out in the slasher genre isn’t just the mock-umentary elements, it’s the fact that, like Scream before it, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon satirizes the slasher genre by pointing out the genre’s strengths and weaknesses: it’s cliches, conventions and the formula behind it all. Unlike Scream though, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is crystal clear about the tropes and cliches of the slasher genre. The film is surprisingly very educational when it comes to understanding the slasher genre: the film explains the meanings behind the use of phallic and yonic imagery, it explains the meaning behind the ‘survival girl’ trope, and it explains what an “Ahab’ is how the use of one helps develop the film’s antagonist. Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon explains each and every point, giving context to the viewer about the thought process that goes into making a slasher film, and why the genre has been so loved throughout the decades by religious horror fans.
What really makes the film memorable, however, is the character of Leslie Vernon, portrayed by actor Nathan Baesel. Nathan Baesel is an amazingly charismatic actor who’s portrayal of Leslie Vernon makes the character really enjoyable and almost lovable. There’s very stark contrast when one compares his lovable nature in the first half of the film, to the character’s violent actions in the second half of the film. As the movie progressed, I, personally, empathized with Leslie Vernon every step of the way. I was wanting his dream to come true because of the excitable way that Nathan Baesel portrayed the character. However, when it comes to the final act of the movie, Nathan Baesel’s acting talent shines, because it shows how intimidating Nathan Baesel can be when character and killer become one when the mask is removed. In the end, Leslie Vernon goes from being a lovable young man to becoming a frightening killer, and Nathan Baesel doesn’t skip a beat when he shockingly turns the character from protagonist to antagonist in the blink of an eye.
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is essential viewing for fans of slasher flicks, and film-makers who want to make slasher flicks, because of the sheer amount of information about the slasher genre that is told to an audience during the course of the entire film: every single aspect of a slasher flick is expertly analyzed and commented upon throughout the film, thus making the film is very educational, as well as being incredibly entertaining to watch. Aside from the content, Behind the Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is a very entertaining film to watch. It may not be an overly violent film, but it tells a decent story in a very clever way, and it definitely sticks out amongst the slog of 21st century slasher films because of the way that the film is more intelligent about conveying its subject matter than any other slasher film. All in all, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is a fun slasher romp, perfect for a Friday night midnight movie.