Did Billy train Leslie Vernon to kill?!
Exactly ten years after the release of Scream, another meta slasher film arrived on the scene in the form of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, director Scott Glosserman’s brilliant deconstruction of the sub-genre. The film centers on the titular Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel), a slasher villain on the rise who’s being followed around by a documentary crew. It’s creatively set in a world where all of the other big horror villains exist (Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers are mentioned by name), and Vernon hopes to become the next great slasher icon.
At one point in the film, Leslie takes a trip to the home of a character named Eugene, a “retired” killer who has been serving as Vernon’s mentor. Eugene, played by “The Walking Dead” actor Scott Wilson, mentions that he was active in the late ’60s/’70s, but there are of course no slasher villains from around that time named Eugene. Then again, maybe Eugene isn’t his real name.
Maybe it’s Billy.
A conversation the other day between Heather Buckley, Nat Brehmer, and Adam Barnick over on Twitter led me to an interview Barnick conducted with Behind the Mask writer David J. Stieve for Icons of Fright several years back, and I was shocked to discover that Stieve mentioned in the interview that Eugene in Behind the Mask was actually intended to be unseen sorority house slasher Billy from Black Christmas. And so I reached out to Stieve today, who confirmed that yes, if only in Stieve’s mind, Billy and Eugene are indeed one in the same!
Stieve explained to me:
I can confirm that Eugene has always been Billy in my mind. Scott (Wilson) would be the right age for him, and it always fit for me that Eugene would have that “old school” nostalgia and slight professional jealousy that even though he was a pioneer in the business of fear, he never achieved the fame or notoriety of his successors (Michael, Jason, etc).
That’s just me, however. It was never explicitly written into a draft, it was always just lore that Scott Glosserman and I carried with us!
Armed with this fun little trivia tidbit, I went back and re-watched Eugene’s scenes in Behind the Mask, and it all adds up. Here’s Eugene’s monologue about his career:
It was a whole different world back when I was in the game. I had a good portion of my success in the late ’60s, ’70s. Back then, it was about quantity of work – how many jobs can you fit in a year, how many places can you hit? Ya know, we didn’t have all this preparation these guys use today. There’s always been hacks out there. People mucking it up. One-hit wonders who make a bloody mess of some sorority somewhere and get killed… or arrested. Makes it bad for all of us. Cheapens it.
In the next scene, Eugene adds:
Jay, Fred, Mike… there weren’t nobody like them in the early years. We just hit hard, wiped everybody out, and disappeared as soon as we could… without ever giving a thought to coming back. Those boys lifted it to a whole other level, they made an artform of it. Turned themselves into legends, by returning like a curse over and over again. That was a radical change in philosophy. Changed the whole business.
In the wake of Black Christmas, the slasher sub-genre was indeed changed forever thanks to Jason, Freddy, and Michael – killers who returned over and over again, racking up the body count with each passing year. As for Billy, he “hit hard, wiped everybody out, and disappeared“… without ever giving a thought to coming back. There never was a Black Christmas 2, now was there?
A fun new way to watch Behind the Mask, if nothing more!