BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006, streaming on Shudder) is a horror mockumentary about a would-be serial killer preparing for his first massacre in a world where legendary killers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger are real. This was a lot of fun.
The story focuses on a small documentary crew following Leslie Vernon as he makes all the preparations for a grisly massacre in the hopes of joining his pantheon of heroes. We gain insight into the rules, ethics, vast amount of training, and meticulous planning that make all the crazy tropes of the slasher genre make sense. As the big night looms, Taylor, the documentary maker, and her trusty cameramen finally face the very real consequences of all this, and must make a decision.
BEHIND THE MASK could have traded entirely on its inside jokes but instead achieves its own identity as an homage by delivering something much deeper and more satisfying. Leslie Vernon is funny, sympathetic, and utterly menacing, an artist in training who wants to become a legend. The lore is great as we learn the “tricks of the trade” of seemingly supernatural mass murder. The comedy is consistently solid, and the small roles by Robert Englund (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) and Zelda Rubenstein (POLTERGEIST) are great. The last act rolls out as a slasher film as good as those it parodies. Another example of what indie filmmakers can achieve with a strong idea and good writing. Highly recommended for horror fans.