Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon



This review was written for the theatrical release of "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon."

Anchor Bay Entertainment

Horror spoofs and mockumentaries are two genres that have not exactly been underexploited lately, and "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" combines them to less than cumulative effect. This satirical portrait of a would-be serial killer training for his upcoming murder spree while being trailed by a documentary film crew offers a few knowing laughs, but even the humorous presence of such icons of the genre as Robert Englund ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") and Zelda Rubinstein ("Poltergeist") is unable to make this effort directed and co-written by Scott Glosserman of interest to anyone beyond hard-core horror buffs.

The reasonably clever concept has the title character (Nathan Baesel) attempting to follow in the footsteps of his idols Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc., through stringent planning and preparation. Followed by an intrepid young filmmaker (Angela Goethals) and her cameramen, Leslie wanders through the idyllic small town where he lives, scoping out beautiful virgins and other classic victim types for future killing.

It's apparently no easy matter being a slasher killer, we find out as Leslie elaborates on his training techniques, including extensive cardio -- he has to appear to be calmly walking while his victims are running -- and yoga exercises, so that he can more realistically appear to be dead.

Also, no small amount of legwork is involved, such as finding exactly the right remote locations and laying out elaborate booby traps for his unwitting victims.

Most of this is fairly predictable spoofing, and Englund is wasted as a psycho-hunting shrink clearly modeled after Donald Pleasence's character in "Halloween." But there are moments when the proceedings are unsettling and original, such as the emotional reunion between Leslie and his retired serial killer mentor (a creepily underplaying Scott Wilson), who nostalgically reminisces about the old days.

Least effective is the lengthy and pedestrian climactic killing spree, in which the film descends to the level of the cliched enterprises it is seeking to satirize.