Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Throwback: Behind the Mask - The Rise of Leslie Vernon

This post first ran last year on Tuesday, October 20, 2009:

It's always really rewarding when my trips to Blockbuster, or my skimming through Netflix reveal an undiscovered gem of a movie. There's so much crap out there, that finding a good movie within the major releases is tricky - to say nothing of finding an excellent original film that's been left to wallow in obscurity. Finding good movies in this "slush pile" can often be like panning for gold.

There are probably hundreds of great films made each year that for one reason or another never find the audience they deserve. Usually the reason has something to do with a lack of distribution. There are only so many films that the studios and DVD distributors can put their weight behind, and the rest are often consigned to oblivion. Even then, once a film gets DVD distribution, it can still be a struggle to capture audience awareness.

A friend and I used to have a semi-regular weekend ritual. We'd go to Blockbuster and try to pick a winner of a "so bad it's good" movie based only on the box art and the synopsis. If the key art and the title made us laugh - it usually got snagged. And yes, there probably we probably grabbed more than one exploitation flick on the basis of cleavage.

Oh, and the other thing that guaranteed we'd take the movie home was the presence of a B, C or D-list actor slumming it. This sort of thinking led us to rent American Vampire, staring Carmen Electra and Adam West as an aging hippie vampire slayer living in a trailer off of Venice Beach.

Another great find? Santa's Slay - a holiday slasher starring wrestler Goldberg as an evil Santa now free to go on a killing spree after a curse forced him to be nice for 1000 years. Seriously, how can you say no to this box art?

But all of those pale compared to my one truly brilliant discovery - a part-mockumentary/part slasher horror thriller called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. As it happens, I didn't come across this one at Blockbuster. I had rented another "so bad it's good" film through Netflix. Unfortunately, this film only qualified for the "so bad" descriptor. In fact, it was terrible enough that I don't even recall what movie it was. What I DO remember is that had the following trailer before the movie. (I always watch DVD trailers when renting a bad movie - it's a great way to find other bad movies)

I almost feel like that's all I should tell you about this film. By the time the opening credits had rolled on the movie I rented, I had already added Behind the Mask to my Netflix queue and kicked it to the top. This was the sort of movie that my friend and I couldn't stop quoting for days after we saw it. In fact, that night he immediately went to and bought the DVD so we could make all of our friends watch it.

This is the sort of film that is so clever, you HAVE to share it with everyone you know. It's one of those movies that compels you to pull out the DVD mid-party and say, "You haven't seen this? Well that settles it, we're all gonna watch this right now." This is bar-none, the BEST self-aware horror film since the original Scream. Whether you like horror films or you roll your eyes at how stupid they are, you WILL enjoy this. My girlfriend hates violent movies and she loved this one.

The film is directed by Scott Glosserman, who manages to ablely pull off the two distinct styles the storytelling calls for - from a script by Glosserman and David J. Stieve. Glosserman's IMDB resume is limited, but based on this film, I'd be first in line for whatever he comes out with next,

The cast is rock solid. I don't know why Nathan Baesel isn't a bigger star, but for the sake of this film I'm glad he isn't because the movie works so much better with an unknown star. Trust me, though... this guy is gonna be well-known someday. He's absolutely on my list of actors I want to work with. Angela Goethals also does good work as the student documentarian hunting around slasher Leslie Vernon as he prepares to make his legacy legend. Horror fans will also enjoy cameos from icons Robert Englund aka Freddy Kruger and Poltergeist's Zelda Rubinstein.

It is nothing short of a crime that, according to, the film grossed a mere $38,500. This is a story that deserved to be a wide release, pushed to the limit. With all the horror crap Lions Gate puts out (seriously, their motto should be "We'll release anything") you'd think they'd have snapped this up and pumped it hard. Hell, I'm shocked that no major distributor saw this and didn't see it as an instant win. Instead, it landed at Anchor Bay, which really screwed up if they couldn't make this one a hit.

I'm telling you all about this one now so you can rush out and get the DVD in anticipation of your Halloween scary movie marathons. You'll thank me later.


  1. I put it o the netflix list @ #5 behind "how to train your Dragon" and the 3 installments of "America : a history of us"...promised the kids we'd have flicks to watch on family nights. So I'll comment on BTM 1st week of december...when I should be watching Rudolph and Frosty.

  2. I remember when I first saw this movie. I found out about it through watching the documentary Dreams On Spec. David was one of the screenwriters and it was all about his Behind the Mask script and getting it to Scott.

    I totally agree with you, though. Very VERY good film. Truly a gem. Great concept. And I really liked the doc/mock style. Everyone should see this!

  3. Same here. Saw David J. Stieve and his success story on the "Dreams On Spec" documentary.
    I wanted to see the movie and finally found it. In the basement of a video store, literally in the backmost corner and on the bottom shelf. As if somebody wanted to hide it there.
    But I found it and watched it and me and my girlfriend liked it both.
    But, like Stieve said in the documentary, the director Scott Glosserman hardly co-wrote the script. He gave him some notes, changed locations and swapped a cool 70ies muscle-car for a Prius. Then he asked for written-by-credit. Stieve fought it but eventually had to defer to Glosserman. That's how it goes, I guess. But it still is a decent movie.