Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #4 Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon

*Skip the premise if you already read my previous posts on the list*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.


Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) is a slasher mockumentary-style horror film written, directed and produced by Scott Glosserman. The movie consists of a television troupe that is filming and interviewing Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), a guy from Glen Echo (USA) who wants to follow the footprints of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger.

Yes, because in the movie fictional world these three horror icons are real and they are world-wildly renowned for their murders. Leslie Vernon so decided to became ‘the next big serial killer’ and to be shot on camera so that I can be famous – or infamous, if you prefer – like his idols.

This is an amazingly original idea at its core but the movie progression is even more unconventional and the development is surprisingly excellent. Behind the mask is also filled with comedic sketches and Easter eggs which wink to tons of horror cults – from The Shining to Hellraiser, from Nightmare to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plus, the film contains plenty of cameos, with Zelda Rubinstein and Robert freaking Englund to shine among the others.

Beyond the cameos, Nathan Baesel is suitable for the role, being able to combine a quirky sense of humor with a foolish look and a bit of meticulous craziness. What is even more satisfying, is the relationship between Leslie and Taylor – the crew leader played excellently by Angela Goethals. The two characters confront one another throughout the entire movie and complete each other by any means.

Speaking of the direction of the film, Behind the mask is able to avoid all the found-footage flaws and cliché – except from one small moment in the library scene, towards the half of the movie. Being a non-Hollywood production (so CGI-free), Glosserman’s work succeeds in dragging the audience into a fictional world in which everything look just absolutely real.

The only complaint I perhaps have towards The rise of Leslie Vernon is that the shooting style switches abruptly from mockumentary to third person, when we are 63 minutes into the movie already, backing up the huge plot twists occurring at this point. These first 63 minutes to me represent a movie on its own, which doesn’t need a completion to be fully appreciated. To be honest though, the other 28 minutes or so procure the horror-slasher element which is largely absent in the first part that can be considered as a unique product, unconventional if there is one.

Without spoiling anything, I just suggest you guys to watch the film until the very last word of the end credits comes on screen. It’s worth waiting. Also because the very last song of the movie – Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads – is something you can’t miss out.

Let me get a bit ‘ranty’ before I sum up the reasons why you must sit through Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon.

Ready? Ready. This movie made a $69,136 cash-in at the box office. Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? Yet, the Leslie Vernon story is largely unknown among the horror fans. Everyone knows Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. None knows Leslie Vernon, even though he probably is the best slasher villain ever since the 80s! I’m not gonna play it safe: this movie is pure genius. It should have been advertised by word of mouth all over the freaking planet Earth!

Okay, I held my horses now. Sorry guys, I really needed to rant against the mainstream audience, production companies and horror world in general that panned this great movie. Now I feel way better.

In conclusion, comparing the quality of the movie to its box office return, Behind the mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon is quite the gem on this ‘underrated horror movies’ list. Recapping: the characters are compelling and the chemistry between the two protagonists is excellent, the plot is original and refreshing for the genre, the storytelling is unconventional, there’s plenty of amusing and chuckling moments, the cinematography is good, the photography splendid and the direction is brilliant.

You must watch this movie, sponsor it to your friends and spread the fact that Leslie Vernon is out there and it’s waiting for you horror fans to fall in love with him. Cheers.