Come and stay for the gore and the B-movie tropes as there isn’t much else going on with Skull: The Mask. A film that falls short of being great due to it forgetting that there needed to be a solid story to hold it all together between all of the bloody practical effects.
A Pre-Columbian artefact contains the spirit of Anhangá, the executioner of the God Tahawantinsupay. Whoever wears the mask is possessed by Anhangá and compelled to commit sacrifices to resurrect his God. It’s up to a museum assistant and a policewoman to stop the slaughter before the ritual is completed.
Opening with a pretty good prologue set decades earlier, with the tone set for Skull: The Mask. This film plays it straight as a narrow as everyone is taking it seriously; it just so happens that what goes on throughout the film is just ludicrous. A movie that is doing everything it can to be a breakout picture and one that horror fans will automatically latch onto due to what we see, and boy, will genre fans find a tonne to like in the schlock. Yet there is an awful lot wrong here, even for the genre fan like myself. Gore, for gore’s sake, isn’t always positive.
While not a full gripe with this specific film, there needs to be a limitation on editors and directors throwing a filter to make their digitally shot films look as if they were captured on film. This is a trend that has gone on for too long, and no amount of grain is going to keep us from thinking it was made recently; nostalgia can only take us so far, folks.
Some moments truly have you either laughing or scratching your head in Skull: The Mask, be it when one of our protagonists takes a close-range bullet to the upper abdomen and other than the odd wince, runs, leaps and swings weapons about as if it was nothing but a scratch. By the way, this is during an assassination attempt to which after he is shot, one of the potential attackers RUNS AWAY, just utter nonsense. The fight scenes are next to non-existent, with some seemingly happening in slow motion. Yet for all of that you keep watching, you want to know where this is going and whether that is from hate-watching or finding a connection with it.
This is another struggle for Skull: The Mask – The story rarely tries to explain itself other than Anhangá feeding off the blood and parts of The Masks victims so he can become fully formed and walk on Earth… I think. We have our detective Beatriz (Natalia Rodrigues), who tries to keep her side of the story together and investigates the entire piece and becomes caught up in trouble quite quickly. An explanation of why almost every scene we have of her when she is “investigating” noir music appears might be needed. Still, it is probably safe to assume that Armando Fonceca and Kapel Furman are just having a whale of a time with their script and have added it for all of the funsies.
The most impressive aspect of the film is the practical effects without a shadow of a doubt. Each death is as elaborate as the next, peaking in a wonderful scene in a nightclub where our masked man decides to swing for the fences, and God helps anyone who is in his way when he does so. Characters die left and right, and as hearts are pulled out of chests from a man possessed by a demon mask, there is an almost police procedural going on for some unknown reason. The best and worst aspect of Skull: The Mask is these effects.
While they are great and have you cheering for each death, just because you want to see how it happens, they fully distract you from the story as they don’t push the story on enough. It is revealed pretty early on that there isn’t much else to the film other than these deaths, and that is a shame, as you want to like a movie that goes so hard with its gore, yet here we are, a movie that doesn’t try to do anything other than showing us gore.
A lot does work here, but you have to have your B-movie cap on to enjoy it without trying to pick the mountain of plot holes, especially when we have a character trying to find redemption but did something that causes us to struggle to want her to succeed. When you lean towards a mountain of a man who is killing everyone insight, you have a big problem.
Skull: The Mask is out now on Shudder.
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