Though the slasher film parody has become well-trodden ground since the birth of the teenage body count genre in the late 1970s, screenwriters Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve--who are clearly fans of the genre--find some new blood to let out of the serial killer comedy in BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON. The film adds elements of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986), and centers on a grad student named Taylor (Angela Goethals). Taylor is making a documentary about Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesal), a killer-in-the-making who has a dark legend surrounding him in his small Maryland hometown. Leslie's plan incorporates all the necessary factors to put him in the same situations that allowed his heroes Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers to continue killing through sequel after sequel, right down to singling out the virginal heroine who will be the one to stop him after he knocks off her promiscuous friends. Unfortunately, Taylor has a larger role in Leslie's plans than she knows, but when she finally realizes that she can't just sit back and film his killing spree, it may be too late to stop him.
The first half of BEHIND THE MASK is the funny part. Baesal, whose dry delivery often resembles Will Ferrell's, makes us forget that Leslie's planning to do some horrible things. But when the killing actually starts, the film becomes a bona fide slasher itself---and is often as good as the classics that it good-naturedly apes. Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund lends some cred in a sharp supporting role, as does Scott Wilson, best known for his portrayal of a real killer in Richard Brooks's IN COLD BLOOD.
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