Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a 2006 horror film / mockumentary directed by Scott Glosserman. It stars Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals and Robert Englund. The film is an homage to the slasher film genre. It follows a film crew that documents an aspiring serial killer who models himself according to slasher film conventions.
- Nathan Baesel as Leslie Mancuso/Vernon
- Angela Goethals as Taylor Gentry
- Robert Englund as Doc Halloran
- Zelda Rubinstein as Mrs. Collinwood
- Kate Lang Johnson as Kelly Curtis
- Ben Pace as Doug Johnson
- Britain Spellings as Todd Best
- Hart Turner as Shane
- Krissy Carlson as Lauren
- Scott Wilson as Eugene
- Bridgett Newton as Jamie
- Anthony Forsyth as Pete
- Jenafer Brown as Carrie
- Travis Zariwny as Doctor Mueller
- Teo Gomez as Stoner #1
- Matt Bolt as Stoner #2
This is the story of an eager, up-and-coming serial killer named Leslie Vernon. Leslie lives in the small, suburban town of Glen Echo and his life’s goal is to become a master in the art of fear, just like his more infamous contemporaries, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.
To document his meteoric rise to power, Leslie has enlisted the aid of grad student documentarian Taylor Gentry and her two cameramen, Doug and Todd. Taylor has a one-on-one interview with Vernon, who affably details the tricks of the trade. He also illustrates the numerous pitfalls that come with his chosen profession, as well the rules and code of ethics that every serial killer worth his salt must abide by.
Leslie brings the crew to the home of his mentor, Eugene, and his wife Jamie. Eugene is an elderly man and a retired serial killer. He adds some insight into the evolution of the industry and comments how today’s serial killer’s have a much tougher go at it then the older generations.
Leslie shows Taylor his primary target, his “survivor girl”, Kelly Curtis. Kelly is a young, blond-haired, “virginal” woman who works at a diner. His intent is for Kelly to be the one member of her peer group to survive Leslie’s carefully prepared massacre, and quite possibly, be the one who will ultimately defeat him. Leslie convinces Taylor Gentry to assist him in a “fly-by” scare outside of the diner where Kelly works.
Later, he details his “red herring” strategy, which involves killing someone who only has marginal contact with his prime target, but is not someone whom Kelly is intimately close to. For this, Leslie chooses Mrs. Collinwood, the old librarian from the Glen Echo Library. Kelly spends a lot of time here, and Leslie manipulates her into asking for Mrs. Collinwood’s assistance on researching a thirty-year-old newspaper article.
Donning his torn-up overalls and green fright-mask, Leslie is ready to slaughter Mrs. Collinwood right before Kelly’s eyes. Suddenly, a well-dressed elderly man bursts into the library shouting Leslie’s name and waving a gun. Screaming, “No more. It ends here!”, he fires off a few shots and Leslie takes one to the shoulder. The Librarian faints and Kelly runs off screaming, but Leslie and Taylor’s crew manage to escape the library without further incident.
Leslie then explains to Taylor that the old man was Doc Halloran, his former therapist. Leslie is in fact overjoyed at this sudden turn of events, and cites that Halloran is his “Ahab” – a representation of all that is good in the world, and one who serves as a primary counterbalance to all of Leslie’s efforts. Apparently, it is the purview of all serial killers to earn themselves an “Ahab”.
Taylor however, is not as elated by the experience as Leslie is. Taking some time alone with her crew, she begins to suspect that Leslie is not playing a trick on her with all of his psycho-killer talk and may actually prove to be a threat to Kelly. She goes to the diner to warn her, but runs into Doc Halloran. Halloran tells Taylor that Leslie lied to her about his background. His real name is Leslie Mancuso and he’s from Reno, Nevada. He tries to warn her to stay away from him, but Taylor and her crew leave the diner in a hurry.
Outside the diner, Leslie is waiting for them and discovers that Taylor intended on warning Kelly. Angrily, he slams Taylor against the side of her Volkswagen van. Taylor fires back, accusing him of lying to her. Leslie finally admits that he was dishonest about his identity and that he chose the Vernon family name in order to immerse himself into the town’s local lore.
After much planning, Leslie details his ultimate plot. Regional legend posits that the long-abandoned Vernon farmhouse is haunted by the spirit of the late Molly Vernon. It has become a tradition for young students to see who is brave enough to spend an entire evening inside the house.
Aware of when this event is taking place, Leslie surveys the house at length, making sure that his strategy for slaughtering Kelly and her friends will not yield any dangerous surprises for him. He shows Taylor how he has bolted all of the windows, rerouted the power box, replaced fresh flashlight batteries with dead ones and sabotaged any possible weapon that might be used against him. He has even pre-cut window-side tree limbs, in case any of his would-be victims should try to evacuate by climbing out of a second-story window. He intends his final showdown with Kelly to take place in an adjacent building which the Vernon’s used to crush apples from the orchard inside of an old, metal grinder.
That evening, Taylor, Doug and Todd accompany Leslie Vernon to the farmhouse while the party is taking place. Taylor still thinks that Leslie isn’t serious about committing wholesale slaughter, but she soon discovers how wrong she is as Leslie murders two of the revellers with his sickle.
Once realizing that this is actually happening, Taylor and her crew flee the house. Sensing her betrayal, Leslie comes outside and warns them against disrupting his plans. He goes back inside to kill the rest of the partiers.
Taylor cannot sit by and allow this senseless murdering to continue. All three go back inside to warn Kelly about what is taking place. Leslie is elsewhere in the house and the rest of the guests have yet to realize that they are being stalked. Taylor bursts into a room where she finds Kelly having wild sex with her boyfriend. It is clear to her now that Kelly is not nearly as innocent and virginal as Taylor had been led to believe.
Vernon meanwhile, kills two stoner kids who had the misfortune to wander out near the tool shed. He kills the first stoner by slicing his head in two with his sickle and kills the second one by extracting his heart with a fence post digger.
Inside the main house, the others begin to realize what is going on and that their lives are in danger. Taylor finally comes to the realization that she was always intended to be Leslie’s “survivor girl”, and not Kelly. Vernon had worked Taylor, Doug and Todd into their plot as well. Kelly tries to escape by smashing out an upstairs window. Taylor tries to warn her about the pre-cut tree branches, but she is too late, and Kelly falls to her death.
The crew race outside to escape Leslie Vernon, and Doug decides to run off on his own. When he spies Leslie, he baits him to follow him, thus enabling the others time to escape. Leslie catches up to him in the middle of the orchard and breaks his neck.
By this point, Doc Halloran arrives at the scene and faces Leslie Vernon inside the barn. Leslie draws in close, and stabs him in the shoulder with his sickle. Todd tries to stop Leslie, but Vernon violently pushes him into a support beam.
It comes to the point where the only ones left are Taylor and Vernon. As Vernon predicted, Taylor evolves into the “survivor girl” archetype and openly challenges Leslie to stop her. The two face each other in the apple orchard barn and Taylor succeeds in killing Leslie by crushing his head with an apple grinder. Afterward, she douses the barn with gasoline and lights it up.
Taylor runs outside and is happy to discover that Todd and Doc Halloran are still alive. As they watch the flames consume the barn, Todd openly asks, “What was he?” to which Halloran responds, “Just a man. He was just a man.”
- Originally, this film was simply titled Behind the Mask, but the producers had to alter it upon discovering that this was also the working title of the fourth film in the Hannibal Lecter franchise. Ultimately, that film became Hannibal Rising.
- Behind the Mask won the 2006 Audience Award at the Gen Art Film Festival in New York.
- The end credit role reveals that Leslie Vernon actually survived the debacle with the apple grinder and is truly a “supernatural killer now”.
- References are made to several horror movie icons including Chucky, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, all of whom exist within the internal continuity of this movie. Moreover, actor Robert Englund, popularly known for his portrayal of Freddy Krueger, makes a guest appearance in this film as Doctor Halloran.
- Robert Englund’s character is named after Halloran from the Stephen King novel The Shining, although his personality and demeanor is more akin to that of Donald Pleasance’s Sam Loomis character from the Halloween films.
- While surveying the high school, there are two girls that can be seen wearing communion dresses and playing jump rope in slow motion. This is a reference to one of the nursery rhyme scenes depicted in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
- Zelda Rubinstein, who plays the role of Mrs. Collinwood in this film, is more popularly known for playing the diminutive psychic Tangina in the 1982 film Poltergeist.
- The sensory deprivation tank that Eugene utilizes in this movie is actually a coffin.
- The legend of Leslie Vernon states that after being cast down the waterfall, his body was eaten by turtles. Leslie Mancuso owns two turtles in this film. By his own admission, Leslie only keeps pets that he can eat.
- The end credits include the disclaimer, “Only one animal was killed during production”.
- Actor/Stuntman Kane Hodder makes an uncredited cameo appearance approaching the house at 1428 Elm Street. Hodder is famous for his portrayal of Jason Voorhees in the 7th-10 installments of the Friday the 13th franchise.
- A Hellraiser puzzle box can be seen inside Eugene and Jamie’s home.
- Director Scott Glosserman appears as district attorney Heilman in a deleted scene from the film.
- Leslie’s pet turtles are named Church and Zoe.
Categories: Cult Movies