Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2005) - Dread Central
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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2005)



Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon (click for larger image)Starring Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, Kate Lang Johnson

Directed by Scott Glosserman

Imagine yourself in a place where among the world’s most infamous killers stand Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers… hell, even Charles Lee Ray. It’s a world where there are people conceiving of incredible evil as casually as a person punching a time clock at work. They kill because it’s their calling in life. This is the world of Leslie Vernon. Leslie is a young, funny, seemingly nice guy. Leslie is about to kill a whole mess of people.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is the story of Leslie (played by relative newcomer Nathan Baesel), an up-and-coming supernatural killer who’s decided to invite a camera crew to record the “birth” of his bloody legend. Reporter Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) and her crew follow Leslie around while he explains his intentions, teaches them the terminology of “the business,” and does his best to accommodate them. What you get is a film jam-packed with nods to our favorite horror films and a theater full of inappropriate laughter.

Leslie lays out his myth, showing the reporters his childhood home and the cursed lands surrounding it. Then he takes them through the house, explaining exactly what is to happen in every room and how he’ll get the drop on trespassing, drunk, and horny teens with the help of some old fashioned pre-planning. In between, we sit down with Leslie as he attempts to enlighten the viewer on why he is what he is and does what he does. This all plays out like one part Scream, one part Man Bites Dog, and a heaping helping of Monty Python-esque delivery. As you watch, you can’t help but think, “What if under that hockey mask, Jason Voorhees was just some guy in makeup who kills because it’s what he loves to do?!” Behind the Mask gives you that dual vision.

Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon (click for larger image)When Leslie is with the reporters and pretty much talking to us, we laugh along with him and generally can’t help liking the guy. As soon as he dons his mask, he becomes his character, the relentless, unfeeling killing machine with his eye only on destruction. Loss of human life is just part of the job. Shortly after, he returns, slipping out of his character as if he just played a prank on a good friend. There are three layers here. We see the world of the horror film where Leslie runs about creating terror and killing at will. We follow this with the camera crew on the second level, out of harm’s way but still close enough to smell the blood. At any time people from the second level can cross into the first with their choices. If they break that unseen wall though, they face the other Leslie. On the third level is the movie viewer who is completely safe but forced to watch as an air of creeping dread washes over the film. As Leslie’s acts escalate and things get sticky, the tone goes from dark humor to just plain DARK. We realize that Leslie may be a fun-loving guy, but his idea of fun leads to dismemberment. A question becomes thrust upon the reporters as well as the audience. Could you just stand there and watch?

Baesel plays Leslie Vernon as a man who knows why he was put on this earth. Nothing else matters past what he considers his calling. He’s invited these people to get a look at the other side and record something the world has never seen, but make no mistake: If they get in his way, they risk becoming part of the legend. Nathan is completely believable as he laughs with child-like glee at the thought of cutting some teens to pieces and cries at the thought of his life’s work coming to fruition. It’s delivered with the playfulness of a young Jim Carey mixed with the intensity and conviction of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman with a little bit of Freddy Krueger thrown in. Alongside Leslie is Angela Goethals’ portrayal of reporter Taylor Gentry. Angela practically plays straight man to Leslie’s manic range of emotions. At times we see her warming to Leslie, only to stop as she reminds herself what this man is about to do to some fairly innocent kids. During the filming we hear chatter from cameramen Todd and Doug played by Britain Spelling and Ben Pace, who seem to completely forget what they are recording at times, bonding with their subject.

Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon (click for larger image)The secondary cast includes Kate Lang Johnson as Kelly, Leslie’s target for terror, who screams, jumps, and freaks out like a good terrified horror movie heroine should. Film vet Scott Wilson (Last Samurai, Monster, and most recently Junebug) plays Eugene, Leslie’s friend and mentor, having been a maniacal killer once upon a time himself. Eugene waxes nostalgic about the good ol’ days of hunting and slashing and provides some equally hysterical and creepy moments, often referring to classic screen baddies by their first names as if they all meet at a bar in hell once a month to catch up and trade stories. Zelda Rubenstein (the little lady from Poltergeist) drops in for a cameo as the librarian, delivering a five-page monologue on the legend of Leslie Vernon in her still fantastic crackly, Southern-drawly voice. Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger himself) appears as Jack “Doc” Halloran, an almost mirror image homage to the late Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis in Halloween. This appearance actually blew me away as Robert transcends the characters we’ve seen before and becomes Doc Halloran, completely engaging you in what would normally be seen as a sort of “throwaway” part. He’s damn intense! The rest of the cast is primarily the teens who run with the heroine Kelly, soon to be meat for the beast. These are your stereotypical horror movie kids who play up their two-dimensional roles with subtle, humorous results. We know they are there to get dead and the reporters know it too, but they are stuck in the movie so they haplessly go where the movie takes them… and where Leslie meticulously pushes them through fear and a swinging scythe. Also watch for a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo from Kane Hodder.

At no time while watching was I thinking Behind the Mask was a low budget, indie film. Director Scott Glosserman delivers stellar production quality as we shift from the shaky hand-held to chase Leslie around, into a single position for interviews, and into still another POV as Leslie takes us into the horror film he is unfolding. The director utilizes the theater’s sound system to immerse you further, switching from the two front speakers in the reporter’s viewpoint to surround sound as we dive into the horror film. Behind the Mask stands out as a spectacular thinking man’s horror film, capable of playing to an art house crowd and diehard horror fans sitting side by side. On one hand you’ll get to laugh at lines nodding to the ghosts of horror movies past and Leslie’s general indifference with the blood to come. You’ll flinch as Leslie begins his work, dicing up his targets with a methodical pace that would make Michael Myers beam with pride. There’s no denying this is a very entertaining horror film. On the other hand is the underlying message. As the reporters struggle with the morality of rolling film while Leslie goes about his work, you can’t help comparing it to the audience who lines up to watch horrific images every day around the world. Sure it’s all fantasy, but I’m always surprised at some of the moments the crowd around me laughs at in a film. Sure, any horror fan will let out a laugh when Freddy takes out a teen with crackerjack comedic timing, but what of the people who chortled as a girl was raped at a recent showing of The Hills Have Eyes? Leslie Vernon may be a sick, sick man for doing what he does, but it would take a completely desensitized camera crew to continue to follow him and record it. Thankfully, the film doesn’t hit you over the head with this message, but it’s there in plain sight.

If Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon isn’t picked up for big screen distribution, I’d consider it a crime. Here’s hoping there is a way for you to see this film — and soon. Those who have recently said a “horror comedy” won’t sell have never met Leslie Vernon!

5 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)


The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods

The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.


  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom


In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!



Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher

The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film


Ultimately chilling in nature!

User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
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