Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon isn’t a horror movie. It’s a comedy that tries to deconstruct the slasher film with mixed results, which may be why I never heard of it. Or maybe I’m behind the times.
A nobody who wants to be somebody, Leslie Mancuso decides to co-opt the legend of deranged person Leslie Vernon. Leslie wants to be a serial-killer superstar and have his name spoken in the same whispers reserved for Freddy, Jason and Michael. Even though most real-life serial killers are borderline imbeciles incapable of forming relationships, Leslie is a charming guy. A meticulous planner who knows all the tropes, Leslie does cardio, reads books about magic tricks and escape artists and focuses his breathing to the point where he can seem dead.
He doesn’t hire a publicist but does the next best thing. Meet Taylor Gentry, who is making a documentary about Leslie Vernon. Taylor’s a wannabe also, which might explain why she tags along as Leslie stalks, terrorizes and kills people. Seeing Leslie and Taylor chat about his plans for mass-murder, it’s obvious they have a real bond. Their relationship is the most interesting element of Behind the Mask, and the way the filmmakers handle it is a real lost opportunity. I didn’t like the twist, but others may love it.
We get the behind-the-scenes stuff before Behind the Mask morphs into a quasi-slasher movie. The characters that don’t get the joke are quickly disposed of. As per usual, all IQs drop twenty points. Watching Taylor fumble for the axe in the shed, I recall Leslie telling her hours earlier how he’d sabotaged the axe in the shed. I guess it’s easy for me, sitting in my living room.
Bottom line: Behind the Mask is a good movie, but Scream did the same thing better. There are lots of in-jokes. Robert Englund makes a cameo as Donald Sutherland – er, Doc Halloran. We also meet Leslie’s serial killer mentor, Eugene. I don’t know who Eugene is based on and I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, so if someone could tell me I’d appreciate it. Leslie looks like a big chicken in his slasher outfit, but I don’t know if that was done on purpose or not.