Thursday, March 29, 2018

BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2007) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Scott Glosserman
Cast: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Zelda Rubinstein, Scott Wilson, Robert Englund

In Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007) we have a documentary film crew lead by journalist Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals, V.I. Warshawski) who along her two cameramen, Doug (Ben Pace) and Todd (Britain Spellings), have been invited by an aspiring serial killer named Leslie Mancuso (Nathan Baesel) to accompany him while he prepares to debut his serial killer persona, that of Leslie Vernon. He took the name of a local urban legend as his identity, Vernon was a local farm boy who murdered his family before being killed and dumped in the river by a mob of local vigilantes. In this alternate reality slasher film killers are real, this includes Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees, these are Leslie's  role models and who he aspires to be, he even has a mentor, a retired serial killer named Eugene, played by Scott Wilson (The Exorcist III, The Walking Dead). 

The film crew documents Leslie's preparations for his debut as the killer Leslie Vernon, a detailed vision map where he had identified his virginal final girl, and her group of peripheral friends whom he plans to kill at an abandoned farmhouse which figures prominently into both he local lore and his character's mythical backstory. As we all know every serial killer must have a nemesis, for Leslie it's Doc Halloran, his psychiatrist/nemesis played wonderfully straight by Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), his character is a nice homage to Donald Pleasance's Dr. Loomis from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978).  

Nathan Baesel is great in the role of Leslie, he's charismatic, disarmingly affable, but also intense and slightly goofy as he sets about showing the doc-crew how he will execute his kill-spree, it's sort of akin to a magician showing you how his illusions are achieved. We see hi doing cardio so he can seemingly speed-walk to catch fleeing victims without looking like he's running, pre-spooking the final girl days before the event, and nailing windows shut to prevent escape, really going into detail about how it will all go down - the documentary team are totally in awe of his preparation. 

However, on the night of the kill-spree Taylor begins to have reservations about baring witness to a mass murder and tries to prevent Leslie from going through with it, but once he dons his signature mask and outfit, including a hand-held sickle-weapon, he will not turn back. Taylor and the camera crew try to warn the final girl of what's about to happen, in a nice twist they walk in on the virginal final girls riding a guy reverse cowgirl style, which would seem to throw Leslie's final girl aspirations out the window, but there's a nice twist to ti all and the films plays out wonderfully. 

At this point the doc crew abandon the documentary and the film reverts to a traditional narrative style, abandoning the documentary-POV, and when I first saw this film I did have a problem with that, the tonal-shift and change in perspective was jarring - but not so much this time around, I was able to just go with it and enjoy the slasher movie it becomes, which is rather good, maybe so good that I kinda want a straight Leslie Vernon movie. Once the carnage starts it's pretty good, there's an exquisite though not to graphic kill with Vernon plunging a post-hole digger into a victim's chest and pulling out his heart with the tool, depositing in into the hand of the victim, that's just great stuff. For a few brief scenes I could really see Angela Goethals as an Amy Steel type final girl, I was really into the whole last third of the film. 

The only downside to it all is that we've seen Leslie's civilian identity we know what nice-guy type he is, and while his murdering persona shows none of that you just cannot unsee that, so it informs you're enjoyment of the slasher part of it, I call this the Osbourne Effect. I love Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne's music, but after having watched Ozzy's reality show The Osbournes I cannot help but think if what a drug-addled dip shit the guy is when I hear the music, I still love the music, I could listen to "Fairies Wear Boots" on repeat for days, but there's always that niggling image of that drug-addled and befuddled Ozzy in the back of my mind when I hear his music, the same with Gene Simmons, what a fucking douche-nozzle, but I still love Ace Frehly era Kiss, though I do tend to skip over a few of the Simmons-sung songs mow! 

Audio/Video: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new HD master from the 2K intermediate. I never had an issue with the previous Anchor Bay Blu-ray and I struggle to see much of a difference here, but that's fine because the image looks solid with what looks to be accurate color reproduction and deep blacks, so all is good. This is shot in part as a documentary so the video and audio components are a bit limited when compared to a full-on traditional film, but everything looked authentic to my eyes without any issues, and when it reverts to a traditional narrative slasher the visual quality is vastly superior. Audio options include both English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and stereo, the 5.1 is not the most active but there's some decent use of the surrounds from time to time.    

Scream Factory celebrate the 10th anniversary of this meta-slasher gem with new extras in addition to porting over the extra from the Anchor Bay DVD (which were not ported over for Anchor Bay's own Blu-ray upgrade). These include an audio commentaries, deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a half-hour on-set and behind-the-scenes making of doc,  six minutes of casting sessions including a few actresses who didn't make the cut, and the theatrical trailer. New stuff exclusive to this edition begin with 'Joys and Curses', a retrospective doc with new interviews from actors Angela Goethals, Ben Pace and co-writer/co-producer David Stieve who discuss the genesis of the project, the struggle to make it while actors Angela Goethals and Ben Pace speak about their unfamiliarity with the slasher genre.

There's also an interview with comic book artists Nathan Thomas Milliner (he's also a slipcover illustrator for Code Red and Scream Factory among others) who did the artwork for the sequel comic books for the film, speaking of how he reluctantly came to work on the comic after creating a promotional poster for the film.  

This single-disc collector's edition release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the b-side featuring the original movie poster, the a-side is a new illustration from artists Joel Robinson (Misery, Silent Night Deadly Night, Tales from the Hood) which is an improvement on the original home video artwork IMO, though it is too floating heads-style for my tastes. This release comes with a slipcover(o-card) featuring the same Robinson illustration as does the Blu-ray disc. 

Special Features:
- NEW HD master from the 2K intermediate
- NEW Joys and Curses - interviews with actors Angela Goethals, Ben Pace and co-writer/co-producer David Stieve (29 min) HD
- NEW Before the Mask: The Comic Book – an interview with comic book artist Nathan Thomas Milliner (6 min) HD
- Audio commentary with co-writer/director Scott Glosserman, moderated by filmmakers Adam Green and Joe Lynch
- Audio commentary with Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spelling and Ben Pace
- The Making of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon featurette (32 min)
- The Casting of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon featurette (6 min)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary (25 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Easter Egg ( 1 min) 

When I first saw Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon about a decade ago I enjoyed it but I didn't love it, but watching it again after having some distance from it I think it has aged remarkably well, I love it. This is not a send-up of slashers, this is a straight-up love letter from a writer and director who clearly love this stuff, this thing is great, glad to finally have it on Blu-ray with some worthy extras. 

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