Revisiting Toronto After Dark 2006: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Toronto After Dark, I will be revisiting one film from each year of the festival. Please be aware that these discussions may include SPOILERS.

This really seems to be a very for film festival milestones. Only a month after the Toronto International Film Festival celebrated their 40th anniversary, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival is preparing to put on their 10th annual edition. As such, I though I would repeat what I did last month and watch a film from each year of Toronto After Dark’s history, including the first three years, which I didn’t attend. The natural film to begin this series with is Scott Glosserman’s Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which won the inaugural audience award at the festival.

Behind the Mask takes the form of a documentary, as a journalist named Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) follows around an aspiring slasher film killer by the name of Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel). The film breaks down the many tropes of slasher films, including the fact that Leslie targets a virginal “survivor girl,” who would be destined to survive the carnage.

This was my first time watching Behind the Mask and I had to admit that I thought that it was a very well put together film. While the film is a mockumentary for about two thirds of the running time, the film makes a switch in the final act and becomes the slasher film that Leslie Vernon was preparing for, complete with everyone, including Taylor’s camera crew, beginning to die gory deaths. The not too surprising swerve of the film is that, even though Leslie told the documentary crew that a girl named Kelly (Kate Lang Johnson) was the planned survivor girl, it turned out that it was Taylor all along that Leslie had his sights on.

Behind the Mask is also very interesting on a technical aspect. While the documentary scenes of the film have a very handheld and “real world” feel to them, the slasher film scenes have a much more cinematic production value to them. The film also features appearances from many well known horror character actors, includin Kane Hodder, Zelda Rubinstein, and Robert Englund, who is playing the Loomis-like “Ahab” character Doc Halloran.

While Behind the Mask is not the first (or last) film that breaks down the fourth wall of horror films and comments on the tropes and cliches, I still thought that it was quite well done film, which can easily be described as the This is Spinal Tap of slasher films.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).