Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie of Vernon vs. How To Be A Serial Killer

These two very unique films carry a “behind the scenes” feel. It’s remarkable that the Gorehound, who has seen more movies than have actually been made, has never seen anything similar. Years ago I was hesitant to watch Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (’06; BTM) because I thought it was an actual documentary (like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) which garners zero interest from the Gorehound. After watching BTM, I had the quickest change of heart. Similar to how I feel after watching a movie which quickly becomes my favorite, BTM took a unique place in my repertoire. I love this movie. It is unique, brilliant, and worthy of praise. Let us progress…


By the way, this is an old, old blog entry. I watch How To Be a Serial Killer (’13; HTBSK) when it first came out but never got around to writing it up. While in the early minutes of watching HTBSK, I sensed a BTM tone and was optimistic.

So the basic premise of both these movies follows a protagonist (typically the good guy, hero, or main character you root for) under the instruction or interview of a killer, at which point near the end, the roles change. Both are very similar, with the most distinguished difference being the genre: BTM is horror centric and HBTSK is suspenseful and mysterious.

Matthew Gubler (serial killer) and Dameon Clarke (protege)

Matthew Gubler (serial killer) and Dameon Clarke (protege)

The characters and actors are fabulous in each film. Each are strikingly unique, including a guy you’ll recognize immediately Hershel (Scott Wilson) from The Walking Dead starring as Eugene in BTM. I didn’t recognize anyone in HTBSK but it was the directorial debut by Luke Ricci. In BTM, Nathan Baesel is the killer. There are numerous references (such as 1428 Elm Street) and cameos including Kane Hodder (cult actor most famously known for portraying Jason Voorhees),  Robert Englund (another cult actor and most famously Freddy Krueger), and many, many more. Lastly, Zelda Rubinstein has a short role, need I say more?

By the end of HTBSK, I really didn’t care what happened. Whether the protege took the role of killer or rebelled against his instructor, I really didn’t care. But a good movie should make you care. BTM held the viewer tight. Is this just another day for Leslie Vernon? How will it end? Will the documentarians survive?


Nathan Baesel (Leslie Vernon) and the stupid teen who has plummeted to her death.

So why was BTM so much better? For one, horror is the best and surpasses any genre. BTM also delves into common themes of horror movies (sexual empowerment, virgin power, urban legends) and states them bluntly. It merges documentary with horror. How does a killer, who is walking slowly, catch the sprinting teen girl? Why wear a mask? Who do you look up to? This movies answers these questions and becomes self-aware in the best way possible. By analyzing different themes of horror movies and then displaying them for the final act. The movie is brilliant.

Leslie Vernon gearing up for a night of massacre which defines his existence as a legend.

Leslie Vernon gearing up for a night of massacre which defines his existence as a legend.

It’s difficult to ascertain the why else BTM is better because I believe it comes down to general filmmaking. While both appeared to have similar budgets, the difference was the angles, lighting, and sound which seemed to be constantly off in HTBSK. In the end, the collective qualities of BTM beat out HTBSK.

In conclusion, while BTM may not contain many elements of horror until the final scenes, it is a 5/5 film. Similarly, HTBSK is very good but simply isn’t comparable to a 5/5. By the way, there is a prequel to BTM coming out called Before The Mask (B4TM) which will likely follow Eugene. There was a funding drive which I would loved to contribute to in order to get some credits in the end.


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