This is one of my favorite modern horror movies. I’m a sucker for movies that show a well-known story from a different perspective (Colin and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil are other favorites of mine in this vein), and this one absolutely nails it.
If you’ve ever talked to me about slasher films, chances are pretty good that you’ve already heard me rave about this film.
Behind the Mask lives in a world where all of the iconic, unkillable legends of slasher films actually existed (Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are all referenced). Leslie Vernon is trying to add to that legend in his hometown of Glen Echo, where he was murdered as a child. Now, years later, he has come back to claim his revenge on the town, and he does it by emulating his heroes. For the first two acts, we’re treated to a a behind-the-scenes look of a slasher in action, by way of a documentary crew that is following him around. We see him identify his “survivor girl” and the group he’s going to kill (there has to be a good mix of different types of people). We see him slowly stalk her and have her discover the legend of Vernon’s death. We see him prep the house he plans on killing the group in. Basically, we watch as he explains every slasher trope from the perspective of the killer (including the importance of cardio: “You have to run like a freaking gazelle without getting winded. Plus, there’s that whole thing of making it look like you’re walking when everybody else is running their asses off! And I gotta stay with ’em! It’s tough, man.”).
It would be easy for all of this to get cheesy, and, while it borders on that from time to time, it never jumps over that cliff. It’s an incredibly smart and fun look at the slasher genre, while still creating an exciting new name in slasher lore.
On top of all that, there are some fun cameos. Robert Englund has a pretty big role as Doc Halloran, Zelda Rubinstein shows up for a few scenes, and Kane Hodder makes a very brief appearance. And fans of The Walking Dead will recognize Leslie’s mentor, Eugene:
It’s a really fun movie that plays with slasher conventions, but shows an obvious love for those that blazed the trail. It’s basically a love letter to the slasher genre, and it’s perfectly done.
Fun fact: there’s a reference to Leslie Vernon in Hatchet II. When talking about local legends and ghost stories, one of the characters mentions his hometown of Glen Echo.