Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

How does a slasher killer achieve his or her fame? What are the steps and rituals that must be adhered to? Why would they want to enter into a life of killing and being killed? And once you’ve been selected as their Final Girl, is there any way to break the cycle? These questions and more are raised and answered by this mockumentary.

Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals, Home Alone) and her two cameramen, Doug and Todd, have been allowed to document Leslie Vernon as he prepares to become a slasher killer. He already has his backstory prepared — he’s based it on an urban legend of a boy who killed his family and was drowned by an angry mob.

Vernon isn’t even his real last name — it’s Mancuso in a nod to Friday the 13th producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. He doesn’t have any powers. But what he does have is a devotion to the methods, preparation and rituals needed to be a perfect killer.

At first, the crew is totally behind Leslie, but as time goes on, the idea of luring teenagers to an abandoned house and killing them one by one seems morally wrong. They try to talk him out of it, but he will not be swayed. Kelly, his Final Girl, will define herself by facing him. However, she is anything but a virgin and has none of the qualities that make up this character archetype. And even more surprisingly, she quickly is killed.

That’s when Taylor realizes that she was the Final Girl all along and is as trapped by the plot as Leslie is. She is the last one alive and must kill him in the exact way he had planned, burning down a shed to stop him. However, throughout the film, we also learned that Leslie had been practicing playing dead and had flame-retardant gel all over his clothes. Is it a surprise when he sits up, very much alive on an autopsy table over the end credits?

There are so many Easter Eggs in the film, from the car Sam Raimi uses in every one of his films to the Rabbit in Red Lounge, a Lament Configuration box, the song “Midnight, The Stars and You” from The Shining and the jump rope girls from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Genre vets Zelda Rubenstein and Kane Hodder turn up, as does Robert Englund as Doc Halloran, who is very much based on Dr. Loomis from Halloween. And Scott Wilson (The Ninth Configuration) plays Eugene, Leslie’s mentor, who is really Billy from Black Christmas.

It took me some time to get into this film. Leslie comes off like such a ridiculous Ryan Reynolds type at first and it seemed too goofy, but I’m glad I stuck with it, as it becomes a pretty enjoyable movie by the end.

There’s been some interest in this film in the ten years or so since its release. DeConte Collectibles put out a collector’s action figure that’s available at Amok Time, IMDB lists a sequel in production entitled B4TM and Scream Factory released it on blu-ray at the end of March 2018. You can also stream it for free on Amazon Prime or catch it on Shudder.

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