Release Date(s)2006 (March 27, 2018)
Studio(s)Glen Echo Entertainment/Code Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
“Jason. Freddy. Myers. We all need someone to look up to.”
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon has been sort of dormant since its critically acclaimed release in 2006, and later on home video in 2007. A precursor to Cabin in the Woods, this clever horror mockumentary about a film crew following around a burgeoning serial killer who uses tropes and conventions to eventually kill his victims is a blackly comic, behind the curtain look at a slasher storyline in progress, but ultimately, with a twist.
Besides being well-edited, what makes Behind the Mask work are the performances, which are great from all involved, including Nathan Baesel as Leslie himself and Angela Goethals as Taylor. There’s an awkwardly funny vibe in the air while Leslie tells Taylor about why he does what he does and how he does it. It doesn’t go for intentional laughs, nor is it a total send-up, but it’s a look at things from an entirely different angle, deconstructing everything and then putting it all back together again. We as an audience are also sitting there questioning this film crew’s motivations the whole time, which of course, plays into the film’s eventual conclusion.
What’s also fun about it is that it contains an abundance of homages to horror films of the past, blatantly mentioning that Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Child’s Play all take place within this same universe. Not only that, but there are intended and unspoken nods to The Evil Dead and Black Christmas. Yet at the same time, it’s not overtly and constantly shoving references down your throat while you’re watching it. They’re in the story’s periphery, waiting for you to discover them. So on top of an entertaining story and good performances, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon has plenty of repeat value as well.
Although it’s been available for a while now on Blu-ray from Anchor Bay, Scream Factory re-presents Behind the Mask with a transfer utilizing a new HD master from the film’s 2K intermediate. The documentary footage was shot using Panasonic AG-DVX100A MiniDV camcorders while the rest of the film was shot on 16mm, all of it later blown up to 35mm. As such, there’s a built-in look that isn’t totally slick or perfect, but suits the film’s aesthetic. It’s obviously a crisper transfer, but not an obvious leap over the previous one. The documentary footage is still fairly low-tech while the rest of the film achieves a more traditional look with deep blacks (perhaps too deep) and decent color reproduction, even though there isn’t much in the color palette for it to pop. It’s also stable and clean without any deficiencies that aren’t already there. In other words, it’s a faithfully recreated presentation that satisfies the film’s intended look, which is all you can ask for. The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. I personally found the 5.1 to be less of an improvement over the 2.0 track as surround activity is fairly minor. On both tracks, dialogue is clean and clear with excellent fidelity for both sound effects and score. There isn’t much speaker to speaker activity to be had, but it’s not the type of film that really needs it either.
The extras selection carries over nearly everything from the film’s DVD release, which is something that the Anchor Bay Blu-ray upgrade didn’t do as it was basically bare bones, but it also throws in some new items of interest as well. There are two very good audio commentaries to choose from, one with co-writer/director Scott Glosserman & moderators Adam Green and Joe Lynch, and the other with actors Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spelling, and Ben Pace. The new material consists of two featurettes: Behind the Mask – Joys and Curses, which is a new 29-minute retrospective containing interviews with co-writer David J. Stieve, actors Angela Goethals and Ben Pace, which offers up some nice anecdotes (as well as a little surprise at the very end), and Before the Mask – The Comic Book, a 6-minute interview with illustrator and writer Nathan Thomas Milliner about his involvement with the sequel’s script’s comic book adaptation. Also carried over are The Making of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Casting of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon vintage featurettes; 10 deleted and extended scenes with optional audio commentary by Scott Glosserman; and the film’s trailer. Also included is an Easter egg. In the Bonus menu, if you press left when Behind the Mask – Joys and Curses is selected, Leslie’s mask will appear. Click on it and you’ll find two additional deleted scenes, one of which comically explains the film’s ending. Not included from Anchor Bay’s DVD release is the film’s script via DVD-ROM. However, the biggest omission is the film’s deleted prologue, a snippet of which can be seen in the film’s trailer.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is ripe for a resurgence with horror fans who have yet to see it or saw it once and forgot about it. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is the definitive disc of the film to own and definitely worth revisiting. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons