Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Director: Scott Glosserman

Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund

“Never hang out with a virgin. You got a virgin in your crew, either get somebody in her pants or get the hell away from her.” (Jamie, Behind The Mask)

Behind The Mask is a clever movie. It fools you into thinking it’s only pretty clever, then completely turns things upside down in the final act to show you that, in fact, it’s more than just pretty clever. It’s actually very clever, maybe even ruddy clever.

At first it’s a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with a crew following Leslie Vernon (the oddly appealing Nathan Baesel), an up-and-coming slasher villain who one day dreams of being as famous as Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. Leslie takes the crew round his local haunts, introduces them to his parents and shows them his target girl, the one he’s chosen to stalk serial killer-style.

Yes, it's the wee woman from Poltergeist. She's a bit of a legend

Leslie plans to attack this “hero girl” in typical slasher style, by breaking into the house during the party she’s set to throw with her friends and killing them off one by one. He’ll use every trick in the slasher book to get them, from cutting the power off so one of them goes into the basement, to hiding the bodies in a way that they’re found at just the right time.

Every scene had me smiling with its constant nods to previous horror films and its overall attention to horror cliche detail. Leslie shows how many of the typical horror set-pieces are really done – when a girl’s on her own and the door slam shuts behind her, it’s because the killer has already set up the door and pulled it shut with some fishing wire, and so forth.

You can always rely on Robert Englund to put in a good performance

It’s all entertaining until the night of the party, when the camera crew and presenter are forced with a moral dilemma – do they allow Leslie to go ahead with his plan and actually kill all these kids, or do they try to interfere and risk pissing him off? The resulting final act is gripping stuff with a fantastic twist that, while one you’re likely to figure out five minutes before the characters do, is still smartly handled.

Behind The Mask is a surprisingly original movie with a strong cast. A notable mention should go to Robert Englund as he performs his best professor-who-knows-the-killer impression in the style of Donald Pleasance in Halloween, while the rest of the cast is similarly appealing. I strongly recommend this if you fancy something different.

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