Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Scott Glosserman
Written by Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve
2006, 91 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on March 27th, 2018
Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon
Angela Goethals as Taylor Gentry
Robert Englund as Doc Halloran
Scott Wilson as Eugene
Zelda Rubinstein as Librarian
Ben Pace as Doug
Britain Spellings as Todd
Kate Lang Johnson as Kelly
Everyone in America is free to dream, to aspire to being the best in their respective fields and give everything they’ve got to accomplish their life’s work. Leslie Vernon is no exception as he is ready to advance his career as a psycho-killer. He has been preparing for months, training with his mentor, Eugene, a retired pro whom Leslie admires. Joining our hero for his monumental debut is a trio of grad students filming his actions for a documentary project. Exercise workouts, recon missions and advance prep of key locations are just a few of the elements covered here as Leslie readies himself for his big night. He shares many of his innermost thoughts on subjects ranging from casual references to the need for having a solid red herring and the Freudian overtones at the heart of his work to the importance of gaining an “Ahab”. Leslie Vernon has many sources of inspiration and some big shoes to fill, but he has done enough homework to give it his best shot. Fingers crossed that he will be successful in this challenge!
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is the brainchild of co-writers David Stieve and Scott Glosserman who capture the spirit of great mockumentaries like those created by Christopher Guest (Best in Show). The thing that separates this film is the tonal shift that carries the final act into the traditional cinematic realm. Leslie Vernon wants to be the next great psycho-slasher and spends the first two-thirds of the picture innocently laying out his master plan. It is when things go off-book that the mockumentary is over and the traditional horror movie elements take control. Vernon is a good-natured guy who is so earnest in his pursuits that viewers want him to succeed. He has an infectious energy and a pitch-black sense of humor making him all the more likeable. His potential targets are faceless archetypes that simply provide a means to an end and are undeserving of our attention or sympathy.
Bursting onto the scene with an amazing performance is Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon. He carries the first hour of the picture almost singlehandedly and is immediately charming in the role. Playing a solid straight man to his larger-than-life antics is Angela Goethals as documentarian Taylor Gentry. She handles her character well and effortlessly makes the jump from observer to participant. The two share great onscreen chemistry and together they keep things light and friendly despite the serious overtones. Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) is deadly serious as Doc Halloran, Leslie’s relentless “Ahab”. He gives the film a much needed gravitas and is captivating every moment of his screen time. The always welcome Scott Wilson (Exorcist III) is wonderful as the affable mentor Eugene. He is engaging and thoughtful and elevates the material with his presence. The late Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist) appears as the town librarian and it is great to see her again. She delivers a haunting monologue that reveals the legend of Leslie Vernon in hushed tones that will give you goosebumps.
Director Scott Glosserman strikes a playful tone with the material and keeps things moving at a brisk pace with the help of Editor Sean Presant. Performances are strong across the board as both seasoned professionals and those making their debut maintain a natural, low-key delivery that keeps things believable even as the situation grows more outrageous. The script is playful and engaging with its focus on humanizing the monster that stalks and slashes his way through the night. It is fun to see Leslie insecure and nervous about the challenges that await him. There are a few nice setups that genre fans will appreciate as conventions are overthrown and there is a major reversal in the final act that still managed to catch me off guard. I first caught Behind the Mask during its limited theatrical run in 2006, and then again on DVD the following year. I haven’t seen the picture in nearly ten years and was pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up. Casual viewers will likely enjoy the humor whereas horror fans will find this one a real treat. Check it out.
Video and Audio:
This new Collector’s Edition blows the 2009 Anchor Bay Blu-ray out of the water with upgrades to both video and audio presentation.
The picture receives an all-new 2K scan of the digital intermediate that delivers a stronger transfer with a much cleaner and sharper image quality. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio is opened up slightly to the now-standard 1.78:1 and features a vibrant color palette with rich blacks and plenty of small-object detail.
Both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix are solid upgrades here, though I prefer the former. The majority of the picture is dialogue-driven and the audio is clean and free from distortion. The rear channels come to life when the movie switches gears in the final act in a most satisfying manner.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The previous Blu-ray release from Anchor Bay was bare bones, but its DVD counterpart had a fair number of supplements that have largely been ported over here. Scream Factory has produced a few new goodies too and fans should be pleased by the effort.
First up, is the all-new featurette Joys and Curses (29 minutes) with actors Angela Goethals and Ben Pace joined by co-writer David Stieve celebrating the film’s 10th anniversary. Topics of discussion include the origins of the project, the production process, public response, the legacy and sequel potential. The interviews are informative and entertaining, but the absence of Scott Glosserman and Nathan Baesel are deeply felt.
Before the Mask (6 minutes) spotlights the efforts of artist Nathan Thomas Milliner and his creation of the comic book sequel. He reflects on his history with the project and his initial reluctance to take on the job, but appears satisfied with the end product.
A pair of audio commentaries are up next, the first with director Scott Glosserman, moderated by fellow filmmakers Adam Green (Victor Crowley) and Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2). This is a fast-paced, fun and highly informative discussion that is definitely worth a listen.
The second commentary features actors Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spelling and Ben Pace. The group is clearly having a blast watching the film and they are eager to contribute to this lively discussion.
The vintage featurette The Making of Behind the Mask (32 minutes) is a self-explanatory look behind the scenes at the creation of the feature. A generous amount of on-set footage is balanced with a handful of interviews, including Scott Glosserman, Robert Englund, Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Scott Wilson and Zelda Rubinstein. This piece is very well worth taking a look.
The Casting of Behind the Mask (6 minutes) is a look at the audition process with actor Nathan Baesel auditioning with several ladies trying out for the role of Taylor.
A collection of ten deleted and extended scenes running half an hour are a bit of a mixed bag but prove more satisfying than not. The scenes come with optional director’s commentary.
A theatrical trailer is here, but the teaser that appeared on the original DVD is missing.
There is also a short Easter egg included for your viewing pleasure.