Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon – DVD Review

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Scott Glosserman


Nathan Baesel Leslie Vernon
Angela Goethals Taylor Gentry
Kate Lang Johnson Kelly Curtis
Scott Wilson Eugene
Robert Englund Doc Halloran

DVD Release Date: June 26, 2007
Rating: R
Running Time: 91Minutes

The Movie

The icons of horror have terrified us all for three decades now and probably will continue to do so for many more to come. Freddy Krueger. Jason Voorhees. Michael Myers. All names that become synonymous with terror thanks to countless films portraying them as the masters of their craft. But one has to wonder how they became who they are and learned to do the things they do. They couldn’t have just one day decided to become masterful serial killers could they? A young man by the name of Leslie Vernon volunteered to show us the truth.

In the small town of Glen Echo, there is a legend. The legend of a young boy born into evil and destined for trouble. The townspeople gathered together on the night of the full harvest moon, took the child from his home, and tossed him over a waterfall where his body was picked at by the fish. That young boy was Leslie Vernon and he has come back to Glen Echo to begin his legacy. He has the story of torment and now must exact his revenge. And he’s going to do it with the help of a documentary film crew that will capture his every move.

Leslie has gotten together with a few graduate students (Taylor, Todd, and Doug) who are going to follow him around and document his rise from the murdered child to the vengeful adult. Leslie shares his past with them and his reasons for coming back. He also takes them around town showing how he chooses his victims and why as it all leads up to his very first slaughter. Everything is perfectly scoped out and he even lets Taylor get in on a few of his schemes so she can see how exact he has planned it all.

As the days go by and Leslie has brought the crew up to speed, he’s even introduced them to his mentor Eugene. Eugene was in the same profession as Leslie, mass murderer, but is now retired. Taylor continues her solid reporting but is obviously creeped out by the tidbits Eugene shares. But the footage and interviews are worth it as it all leads up to Leslie finally going through his big night.

Every year on the anniversary of his death, a few local kids dare each other to spend the night in his old home. He has chosen his victims including the stoners, dumb jocks, and survivor girl (virgin) and has the entire evening mapped out. If all goes according to plan he will wipe out the kids one by one and eventually get his survivor girl completing his first big kill. But as the camera crew experiences the first kill of the night, they realize it is too real. Taylor wants out and Leslie doesn’t want his night ruined so he allows it. But Taylor can’t just leave because she knows his plan and must do what she can to save the others.

It is not often that a horror film scares me, and Leslie Vernon did not change that trend, but it surely was entertaining. The first hour of the film is just covered in dark humor that is tongue in cheek hilarious. The exquisite detail with which the entire process is laid out is absolutely perfect by anyone who is a fan of slasher horror flicks. You can’t help but notice that even the smallest things are included in each description from common patterns in Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street . And then the leap from documentary to slasher flick for the final third of the film is transitioned without skipping a beat.

Nathan Baesel’s performance positively blew me away. His transition from goofy kid with a dream of becoming a maniacal madman to actually becoming one was flawless. I couldn’t help but think of Jim Carrey when watching Baesel on screen. His mannerisms and acting ability are very similar to that of Carrey’s after his initial crazy jumping around wildness. He can be quiet silly and out there, but at the drop of a hat he can turn dead serious and malicious.

Every member of the cast played their role to perfection. The kids that Vernon was stalking were scared and dumb as they should have been according to slasher standards. The film crew was great, even though for most of the film they are stuck behind the cameras. But Angela Goethals, who plays Taylor, has really come a long way from V.I. Warshawski and it shows as she has truly heightened her acting ability. Throw the great work of Baesel on top of all that with fun cameos from Robert Englund and Zelda Rubinstein and a cult classic was instantly born. And I don’t know how anyone else will take it, but seeing Robert Englund almost literally play the role of Dr. Loomis from Halloween gave me goose bumps as two horror icons clashed as one.

The Video

The film is shown in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and looks great. The first hour of the film has a documentary/Blair Witch feel to it as all the footage is that from handheld cameras. But for being as it may, it still looks very clear and crisp with slight bobbing around to give full effect. Once the film goes to regular format, it looks even better if that’s possible.

The Audio

The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and I was very surprised at how well it sounded. For being handheld footage, everything sounds wonderful even though sometimes the actors don’t have their mics on and such, but that’s simply part of the story. The dialogue is heard clearly and a lot of action is done off camera so you must imagine what is going on, and the sound effects are so clearly defined that there is no problem getting a mental picture.

Special Features

Audio Commentary – Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spellings, and Ben Pace gather together to give their thoughts on the film. More so it turns into one big fun discussion of the film and their time shooting it. A lot of inside jokes and laughter are the things mostly heard while every now and then they will discuss some of the extra meaning behind a certain scene or two. The film is definitely worth multiple viewings, so be sure to catch it at least once with the commentary for some added laughs.

The Making Of Behind The Mask – Steve Glosserman goes through a bit of a director’s diary for the shooting of his first film. From getting the cast together for their first reading to making the sets, Glosserman takes us through everything. This is one of the most fun “making of” featurettes I’ve ever seen because he sincerely seems excited and happy about the film. He is so excited about the script and the sets and almost sounds as giddy as a small child when he finds out Robert Englund has accepted his offer.

The Casting Of Behind The Mask – A short but enjoyable look at the early script readings by some of the actors as the cast was being chosen. Obviously by the four finalists up for the part of Taylor, you’ll see that the correct choice was made in Goethals.

Deleted & Extended Scenes – Four deleted scenes that none but one really should have been left in the film. One scene involves more training from Leslie on being able to stay up with those running as he simply walks. It was a fun scene that really wouldn’t have hurt being left in for the four extra minutes it would have taken up.

There are six deleted scenes that were also rightfully cut down to size for the final cut of the film. Some of the scenes aren’t simply extended at the beginning or end, but there was a lot in the middle that was actually left out like the scene in Leslie’s study where the film crew is checking out his books. Some of the scenes began to drag considerably and it is good they chopped them up.

DVD-ROM: Screenplay – A very interesting look at the script for the film as it differs quite a bit from what is seen in the final version. The thing is, as we learned from the “making of” featurette that a lot of the writing and scenes had to be changed around a bit to go with budget costs and sets and many other factors. Seeing the different ways Glosserman and writer David J. Stieve went through the script to get the exact look and feel they were going for is quite enjoyable. Definitely worth checking out if you have a home computer.

TrailersHatchet, Night Of The Living Dorks, Hellboy Animated: Blood And Iron, and Masters Of Horror: Right To Die

The Inside Pulse

The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is not only one of the best films I have seen in a long time but it is also one of the best DVDs period. The film itself is almost perfect and a very enjoyable piece of work that will become a regular staple in my DVD viewing. The special features are quite in depth and give a real good personal feel as you can tell everyone was truly having fun shooting the film and putting it all together. Glosserman is so excited about it that you can see the extreme happiness in his eyes grow as each day goes on in his director’s diary. Getting a glimpse of the script too is a real treat to make some comparisons to the finished product and see how everything came about. There is no reason at all to simply rent this DVD as you will enjoy it enough then to go purchase and hence you wasted five extra bucks then. Check out the man who is a little bit Michael Myers, a smidgen of Jason Voorhees, and a good bit of Freddy Krueger (Nightmares 1 & 4 mostly) all rolled into one humorous and murdering sociopathic clown.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon
(OUT OF 10)