I was going to do various Chrismas horror comedies first, but then this sort of fell into my lap.
Behind the Mask – The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a 2006 mockumentary, not to be confused with the actual documentary about animal rights activists called Behind the Mask released in the same year.
Spoiler warning. Spoiler warning. Spoiler warning. Spoiler warning. You know, there might spoilers ahead.
Leslie Vernon is a killer living in a world where many of the slasher movies were historical events. Leslie wants to follow in the footsteps of the greats, specifically mentioning Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers (naturally), and has thus been manipulating events in a small town to be able to enact his own massacre. He has picked out a final girl (or survivor girl, as he calls her in the movie) and is now explaining the situation to a journalist, who is interested in making a story about him.
We see Leslie explain much of the slasher culture and show Taylor, the journalist, his methods. He plans everything out thoroughly and has a deep understanding of the human psyche in order to manipulate the situation the exact way he needs to do it. The ending is not much of surprise, but it is a twist of sorts.
This came out eight years after Scream destroyed all attempts at making a traditional slasher (although many seemed to miss this and tried anyhow). While Scream would look at this from the point of view of people being forced into being the victims of a slasher killer, this dwells into the world of the killer instead. The most famous scene in Scream is about Jamie Kennedy’s Randy explaining the rules of slasher movies. While Leslie probably isn’t aware of Scream (nor do we know if it exists in this world), he follows these rules religiously. To him it’s important that his victims will follow them unknowingly as well.
Another easy point of comparison is a Belgian film called Man Bites Dog (C’est arrivé près de chez vous) in which a documentary crew follows a serial killer who is much less methodical and in time falls into helping the killer. In Behind the Mask, Taylor doesn’t actually fall in with the killer, but for a long time she remains a neutral observer, even though she does feel empathy for Leslie. She does break law by not informing law enforcement of Leslie’s crimes, but she does want to understand. She admires Leslie’s approach to what he sees as a form of art, which has been sculpted by his predecessors.
But due to the nature of the movie, Leslie actually just regurgitates the work of his idols. He doesn’t actually bring anything new to the concept. Sure, he has put a lot of thought into this and has studied his predecessors, but in the end, he’s more like a cover band than a true innovator. If these killers are common, his massacre would be a headline story in international news for a day, but would then sink into being a local legend, whereas the aforementioned Jason, Freddy and Michael would be remembered… except that Leslie thought to bring in a camera crew.
I don’t know how well-documented these earlier killing sprees were in this world, but as they weren’t planned in the same way, it’s quite obvious that at least the planning (if there even was any) was caught on camera. Thus, Leslie might have bought himself a infamy by taking the risk of bringing in the camera crew. This would mean that the whole thing would be more visceral to everyone, as the footage would leak and be available somewhere.
I was thinking about real world comparisons. If I remember correctly, there is plenty of video material on Columbine shooters shot by the duo themselves. However, this is not a good comparison, as it was the largest shooting in the US in over 30 years (at the time), with only Texas University shooting in 1966 being worse by that point. So, clearly it isn’t just the footage (which I doubt even that many have seen) that has kept Columbine in the popular consciousness.
That footage would at least make Leslie Vernon a big name in the academic circles. He would be studied by experts from various fields and many theses would be based on his actions. He would be able to remain in the memory of at least this small circle for a very long time. Would that be enough for Leslie? On a metalevel, he never got a sequel, unlike his idols. Freddy has nine, Halloween consists of eleven and Friday the 13th has a total of 12 movies (both Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises include movies where Jason and Michael Myers are not present). That’s a long way from one.