Follow TV Tropes


Film / Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Go To
Lace up your boots, kiddies. It's going to get wet.

Deconstructive Parody, Lampshade Hanging and metahumor are the name of the game in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, in which charming psycho killer Vernon brings a film crew along to document the series of murders that will cement his name in the slasher hall of fame along with Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.

Interviewed by a student journalist named Taylor Gentry, Leslie details the extensive preparations that slashers go through in order to make a killing spree possible, especially setting up his survivor girl: a blonde virgin named Kelly. When it comes time for the actual murders, though, the documentary crew finally realizes what they've gotten themselves into and opt out at the last minute.

Though a Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, funding is still being sought for a sequel


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Area: According to Leslie, the first step in being a slasher is to have "an anchor for your legend." In this case, the Vernon legend revolves around an old scary house built on an abandoned apple orchard.
  • Adaptational Mundanity: Slasher killers like Freddy and Jason seem to be real in this world, but everything seems to indicate that they are people who prepare a lot, rather than real supernatural beings. Apparently, Slashers choose an Urban Legend to attach themselves to and act out, similar to the copycat killings in My Bloody Valentine. So there was a deformed Special Needs kid who drowned in Crystal Lake while the counsellors were busy making whoopie, there was a pervert with a striped sweater who got firebombed by the townsfolk, and there was an abused boy who lost it and got lynched after murdering his parents, but that was, in all cases, the end of it until some murderous psychopath heard about how they supposedly come back and take revenge on the living.
  • Advertisement:
  • Affably Evil: Leslie Vernon is so charming and friendly that the filmmakers completely forget that their new buddy is an aspiring mass murderer. This seems to be par for the course for killers. Eugene, the retired slasher, is also very personable.
  • Affectionate Parody: Cross with a Deconstructive Parody of the horror slasher genre.
  • All Myths Are True: Variation. All slasher movie characters are real. Subverted, however, in that Leslie Vernon turns out to be Leslie Mancuso, a mortal man who's simply using the urban legend of slain Leslie Vernon to instill fear in the townsfolk and implying, by extension, that Freddy, Jason, et al were similarly lacking in supernatural powers.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Do the grad students understand Leslie is a real serial killer in the making? Do they just believe this is all an elaborate prank? Are they taking journalistic integrity way too far?
  • And Show It to You: One of the stoners gets it with a post-hole digger.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Leslie looked up to the great slashers of the past as his idols, and now he gets to be one. Indeed, the entire movie is about his preparations to become one of the greats.
  • Badass Normal: Leslie Vernon possesses no supernatural powers like Jason Voorhees or Freddy might possess but makes up with Batman-level preparation.
    • Eugene also makes use of stage magic and other tricks like Leslie but has become a Retired Monster.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Leslie's driving force, and the alleged driving force of many a serial killer out there. In order for good to triumph over evil, there needs to be evil, and Leslie feels it is his duty to provide it.
  • Batman Gambit: Leslie is really good at predicting what people will do. Indeed, we see his meticulous preparation to make sure to cover every eventuality in the isolated location that is killing zone.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Leslie has a habit of discussing murder in the same sentence as he might discuss his favorite food or his pets. One of his comments suggests that his favorite food and his pets may be one and the same.
  • Buried Alive: Eugene, the retired slasher, has this done to himself deliberately. Apparently it's a form of meditation that helps him slow his heart rate and breathing to undetectable levels. He's first introduced after Leslie and the unseen camera crew have to unearth him. Leslie has also studied the trick.
  • Captain Ersatz: Doc Halloran dresses and wears his beard the same as Dr. Samuel Loomis. They also have the same occupation and relationship with their killer patients. His name, however, is a reference to The Shining.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Freddy Krueger is alluded to early in the film. It's unknown whether he bears any resemblance to Doc Hallorhan.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • The cider press. Leslie indicates that it will be of some importance, though does not say for what. Taylor uses it to "kill" Leslie. It's almost certainly rigged not to actually kill him.
    • The tree branches near the second story of Leslie's house.
    • The anti-bruising jelly Leslie puts on to reduce lacerations and bleeding is also flame retardant.
    • The fire proof make-up which Leslie puts on before he's "burned" to death.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The mentor showing that he can feign death by meditating in his sensory deprivation chamber.
  • Cool Mask: Leslie, of course.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The bulk of the film is dedicated to Leslie's preparation for every possible scenario.
  • Deadline News: The crew loses a cameraman to the killer.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Todd, the camera man.
  • Death by Sex: Discussed well in advance and eventually invoked by Leslie when he begins his killing spree. It's even justified since the reason Leslie kills the copulating young couple first is because they are both distracted and away from the central group.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Takes apart the slasher genre bit by bit and pieces it back together again.
  • Determinator: Doc Halloran, Leslie's "Ahab".
  • Doing In the Wizard: While horror icons like Freddy, Jason, and Michael exist the movie indicates that they're regular human beings instead of the supernatural slashers of their respective franchises. Alternatively, Leslie and Eugene might just be the muggles of the group.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Intentional on Leslie's part. He tells Taylor all the Freudian motifs within the journey of Final Girl towards heroism, namely how the moment she grabs a weapon (a phallic object) to fight him she's, in his own words, "empowering herself with cock". In the climax this gets a reference when Taylor is being choked by Leslie, causing her to run her hand down his chest trying to grasp his weapon in a way that rather strongly evokes sexual imagery.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: Kelly, built up to be the virginal survivor girl throughout the movie, is caught having sex — and going by the position she's using, it's probably not her first time. The crew then decides that they need to protect Kelly before Leslie can discover that his girl isn't quite the virgin he believed. Kelly, about to become completely central to the resolution of the plot, is instead unceremoniously dispatched when she attempts to crawl out the second-story window onto a sabotaged tree branch... and falls to her death.
  • Evil Plan: Leslie's plan is ultimately to be defeated by his final girl.
  • Eyes Always Shut: The two stoners.
  • Fanservice: Discussed and deconstructed, like everything else. When Leslie is going over the plan for the climactic "teen party" scene, there's an extreme close-up of one of the teen's bare breasts. The image actually pauses, while Taylor asks "Isn't that a little gratuitous?" Leslie simply replies, completely deadpan, "Who's telling this story, you or me?"
    • Played straight later on when Taylor, before attempting to swing an ax at Leslie, whips off her zip-up sweater (ostensibly to free her arms) to reveal a skimpy tank top.
  • Final Girl: Referred to as a "survivor girl." Played with, in that the girl Leslie has been setting up as the Final Girl turns out not to be a virgin, and thus not the designated survivor. It's Taylor, the maker of the documentary, who was his intended Final Girl all along. It's also implied that Jamie, Eugene's wife, had once been his survivor girl. It's also mentioned that a proper Slasher will select his Final Girl months in advance, which one of the documentary crew likens to having an example pie ready to eat in the demo kitchen of a cooking show.
  • First-Name Basis: Leslie and Eugene apparently know very well, or at least comfortable talking in very familiar terms about, slasher legends like Fred, Mike, and Jay.
  • Foreshadowing: There are many clues dropped throughout that Taylor, not Kelly, is Leslie's real intended "survivor girl". Taylor is dressed fairly plainly and doesn't wear makeup, she's seen turning down a beer when visiting Eugene's house, she's squicked out when Leslie describes a sex scene in detail, and she's clueless as to the phallic metaphors Leslie invokes — all indicators that she's sexually inexperienced and otherwise "innocent". Kelly, meanwhile, is seemingly dressed like a modest final girl... except for her willingness to show off her long legs in a tiny miniskirt, which Todd even comments on.
    • Additionally, there is a hint dropped during Leslie's killing spree regarding his real target. At the start of his killing spree, he shows the crew a pair of spark plugs he's removed from cars around the house, saying "I do NOT plan to get run over tonight". Later on, one of the teens mentions all their tires have been slashed, which would make removing the spark plugs redundant. If you notice that, you'll realize immediately what car he MUST have pulled the spark plugs from - the crew's.
  • Freud Was Right: Many of Leslie's claims about the final battle between a slasher and his survivor girl revolve around phallic and yonic symbolism. For example, he claims that when the survivor girl fights back with a long, hard weapon, she's "empowering herself... with cock."
  • Genre Savvy: Leslie has studied everything there is to know about slasher killings, and has prepared his oeuvre using all of his collected knowledge.
  • Go Through Me: Doug, one of the camera operators, at least puts forth the effort.
  • Godiva Hair: When Kelly, the supposed survivor girl, hops on the nerdy kid's johnson like it's a pogo stick.
  • Hand Wave: Practically used in-universe. In a deleted scene, Eugene recounts the ways in which he'd been "killed" in his "career," including decapitation, among others. When asked how he survived, he says something about "meditation techniques" and "homeopathic remedies." There's a homeopathic remedy for having your freaking head cut off?!?
  • Internal Reveal: The mockumentary crew has this when they realize this is not a elaborate prank by Leslie Vernon and he's just murdered two people.
  • Love Makes You Crazy
    • In the sense that Leslie Vernon loves his intended Survivor Girl. Of course, when asked about it, he says "I love the idea of her."
    • Leslie takes the documentary crew to visit his best friends, Eugene and Jamie, a married couple who are strongly implied to have started as a slasher-survivor girl relationship.
  • May–December Romance: There's at least twenty years between Eugene and Jamie, and probably more than thirty.
  • Menacing Stroll: Explained in a deleted scene. The killer runs while the victim isn't looking and slows to a power walk when the victim turns around. Even implies that the "tripped while running away from evil cliche" is due to the victim's increasing panic as the killer draws steadily closer while (apparently) moving no faster than a Slow Walk.
  • Meta Guy: Leslie, of course.
  • Mockumentary: A bunch of graduate students follow around a slasher as he prepares for a supernatural killing spree.
  • Mood Whiplash: The last 15 minutes or so are played as a straight slasher. Especially once Leslie goes after Taylor and her camera crew.
  • My Car Hates Me: Justified in this case. One of Leslie's tricks is to remove spark plugs.
  • Necessarily Evil: Eugene claims that slashers like him and Leslie exist to embody humanity's sins and worst qualities so that those who survive their rampage or are unwilling to walk away — usually Final Girls or "Ahabs" — can step in and bring hope to everyone else by facing them as the hero.

  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The entire movie is based on the premise the graduate students aren't taking Leslie Vernon seriously. It's only after he murders his first two victims that the crew realizes how deep they're in.
  • Not Quite Dead: Guess who wakes up in the credits.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Used extensively by Leslie. He explains this tactic as stage magic, having learned it by studying the likes of Houdini, as well as extensive cardio.
  • Old Master: Eugene, a retired slasher and Leslie's best friend.
  • Our Slashers Are Different: They're apparently Badass Normal Crazy-Prepared individuals rather than actual supernatural killers. They just take advantage of local legends and myths (or outright invent them) in order to scare their prey.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: It wouldn't be a slasher homage without one.
  • Phallic Weapon: Leslie is quite specific about this, making sure that his Final Girl will end up having to face him with a long, hard weapon that is easily equitable with a penis, as a demonstration of her taking his male power away and symbolically killing him with his own penis.
  • Real After All: Double subverted. Leslie Vernon is not Leslie Vernon the boy who killed his mother with scythe and was dumped into a lake. He is Leslie Mancuso from Reno, Nevada. He is, however, a dangerous serial killer.
  • Red Herring: Leslie describes his first murder, that of the librarian, as this, complete with the trope name, designed to set up the conflict later in the movie. Pay attention to his choice of words, though, and you can spot that he's letting slip that Kelly isn't the Final Girl.
  • Reference Overdosed: Even beyond the more obvious shout outs, there are dozens of far more subtle references to various horror movies, particularly slashers.
    • Halloween: The opening scene discusses the events of these movies in Haddonfield, Illinois, as real. Michael Myers is mentioned a few times. Doc Halloran's role, occupation, and style are nearly the same as those of Dr. Sam Loomis. There's also an opening shot with Taylor that shows the Red Rabbit Pub. Not to mention, Eugene's wife is Jamie, and Kelly's family name is Curtis. Sounds familiar?
    • Friday the 13th: The murders at Crystal Lake are also discussed during the opening scene, and Jason Voorhees is mentioned a few times. There's also a slow-motion shot in a barn near the end that appears to be an homage to a shot in Part III. Leslie Vernon's real surname is Mancuso, possibly related to Frank Mancuso, Jr., who produced all of the Friday The 13th sequels and the related TV series.
    • A Nightmare on Elm Street: Not only are Freddy Krueger's killings mentioned during the opening, the house featured in the original movie is shown with Kane Hodder as a briefly-shown resident. Additionally, there's a shot of three little girls in white playing jumprope.
    • Hellraiser: A puzzle box is visible at Eugene and Jamie's house.
    • Pet Sematary (1989): Leslie's turtles, Church and Zoe, are named after the pets in both this movie and its sequel.
    • Maniac! (1980): The bit when Leslie starts to cry and says "I'm so happy" is a reference to a rather disturbing scene from this movie.
    • The Shining: The music playing in the background while Leslie puts on his makeup is a reference to this. Additionally, Doc Halloran is named after a character from this movie.
  • Retired Monster: Eugene is almost literally this, a prolific slasher-killer who has mellowed out to essentially become a genial Cool Old Guy. Could also double as an Evil Mentor for Leslie.
  • The Reveal: Two of them.
    • The first, revealed about halfway in, is that Leslie isn't Leslie Vernon at all, but a guy named Leslie Mancuso from Reno, Nevada. He's just some guy using the Vernon urban legend to get famous, while Doc Halloran is hunting him because of his past as Mancuso.
    • The big one, however, is that Taylor, not Kelly, is the Final Girl. Leslie agreed to do the documentary in order to get close to her.
  • Rewatch Bonus: It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but when Leslie takes Taylor and her film crew to Eugene and Jamie's place, it almost resembles a Meet the Parents scenario. Especially when Eugene tells Leslie that Taylor's "a regular little spitfire". This implies that not only does Leslie knows that Taylor's the real final girl by that point, but that Eugene and Jamie figured it out also.
  • The Scourge of God: Booze, drugs, and sex are conventional means of getting killed in an slasher; this is no different.
  • Shared Universe:
  • She's Got Legs: Todd remarks quite approvingly about Kelly's long legs. The fact that she shows them off so much is one of the first clues that she's not the virgin Leslie is building her up to be — and not his real survivor girl.
  • Sinister Scythe: Leslie's Weapon of Choice, although it's actually a hand scythe.
  • Slasher Movie: Part of it, anyway.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • It is one to Scream due to Leslie's study and explanation of slasher conventions. Eugene and Jamie also give tips on surviving an attack from a slasher villain.
    • It can also be considered an American successor to Man Bites Dog, which also has a film crew creating a documentary by following the daily life of a serial killer.
  • Start of Darkness: Both played straight and played with. The movie is one for Leslie, while Leslie's "backstory" of a young boy forced to cut grass for his abusive parents several decades ago is a fabricated one.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Kate Lang Johnson, the actress who plays Leslie's survivor girl Kelly, is both very attractive and very tall. It's especially noticeable when she's standing next to Taylor, who is played by the 5'4" Angela Goethals. Her height is never pointed out in the film. The closest the film comes to doing so is in the audio commentary, when some of the filmmakers seem to notice it for the first time.
  • Stock Slasher: Deconstructed (and then Reconstructed). Leslie himself constructs the perfect persona: he's a tall, imposing, masked figure who is able to walk implacably towards his kill. However, he carefully takes the documentary crew through his preparations, collecting all the weapons, explaining how he has to do cardio in order to make sure he can switch between walking and running when the victim looks away, and inventing a backstory that he is secretly related to the girl who is supposed to be his Final Girl. When Leslie actually puts his plan into action in the final third of the movie, all these aspects are shown going off without a meaningful hitch. He comes back from the dead while in the mortuary at the end.
  • Stoners Are Funny: Two of teenagers in Leslie's target group are one-dimensional potheads appropriately credited as Stoned Guy and Slightly More Stoned Guy.
  • Take That!: Eugene is rather dismissive of the uninspired slashers who'd just carve their way through a sorority house or something, and frequently only had one half-assed killing spree in them. (A reference to the innumerable low-quality slasher ripoffs that succeeded, mostly, Friday the 13th.)
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Leslie wears his terrifying costume because he normally looks like a twenty-something. This, of course, allows him to go about his preparations in secret.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lampshaded.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Of course, the spoken plan goes off without a hitch, too. At least the parts that weren't deliberate misdirection.
  • Villain Protagonist: Leslie Vernon is an aspiring serial killer and our mockumentary's subject.
  • The Voiceless: Averted for most of the movie; unlike most of the well-known slashers, Leslie is very chatty. This flip-flops during the final act, when Leslie gets into character and plays this trope (mostly) straight.
  • Weapon of Choice: Though he uses some other tools here and there, most of Leslie's kills are performed with a handheld scythe.
  • Wicked Pretentious: As Leslie explains to the documentary crew step-by-step how the events of his first rampage are going to go, he gives a freudian interpretation of certain tropes and cliches (the "sacredness" of hiding in the closet, Final Girls using the killer's weapons against them, etc) that comes across as snobby film-analysis that Taylor frequently snarks at.
  • Within Arm's Reach: In their final confrontation, Leslie is choking out Taylor, who manages to run her hand down his body and grab his weapon, which she then uses to attack him. Possibly justified there as Leslie knows all about slasher tropes and wants his ideal Final Girl to fight back against him.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: The situation for which Leslie is preparing. He expects the group of friends who associate with survivor girl Kelly will dare each other to spend the night in the creepy old farm house on the Vernon orchard. Naturally, they do, with the usual results.