Skull: The Mask Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Raven Banner Entertainment
Written and directed by Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman
2020, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered at The Chattanooga Film Festival on May 22nd, 2020
Natallia Rodrigues as Beatriz Obdias
Ivo Müller as Tack Waelder
Wilton Andrade as Manco Ramirez
Elder Fraga as Oswaldo
Guta Ruiz as Galvani Volta
Greta Antoine as Lilah
Gilda Nomacce as Delegada Bruno Tristão
It takes bold choices and a deft hand to mix together the structure and presentation of a slasher; the stylings of a cop drama/giallo hybrid; the fight choreography of backyard wrestling; the aesthetics of grindhouse graininess; and the all-out gore of splatstick. It’s a lot to throw together; hell, that was a mouthful just to type! Wonderfully enough, Brazilian festival darling Skull: The Mask has done just that with some real style points and a big bad that could easily birth a franchise.
Opening in a 1944 Nazi encampment, we’re introduced to the titular skull mask (known as the Mask of Anhangá), an ancient artifact from the bowels of the Earth that calls forth the executioner of a pre-Colombian god. Things don’t go very well for those folks, and we jump forward to the present day in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The mask has been discovered by an archaeological team, and it isn’t long before someone does something stupid and awakens the monster. A sinister businessman named Tack Waelder (Ivo Müller; The Orphan) wants the mask for his own nefarious purposes, and hardened (and controversial) detective Beatriz Obdias (Natallia Rodrigues; The Awakener) stands in his way. Mixed up in all this is Manco Ramirez (Wilton Andrade; VIPs), a descendant of one of the workers involved in the original Nazi disaster, who has business of his own with the monster. One thing is for sure: a lot of blood is going to be spilled.
Skull: The Mask is balls-out crazy and frenetic in its pacing (with occasional pauses for that giallo-style mood as the B-plot develops). It’s also a damn good-looking film that’s peppered with lovely shots (like the silhouette fight between priest and monster in front of the church’s stained-glass window) that complement the grainy grindhouse look of the whole affair. This is no amateur hour stuff – the art on display is legit despite the occasionally tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
Natallia Rodrigues turns in a searing performance as the tough-as-nails detective. She’s disarmingly attractive and surprisingly intimidating at the same time. Ivo Müller is appropriately sleazy and a bit of a caricature, but it works for the part he plays. They’re the standouts in a cast of highly competent actors who will make those of you that hate reading subtitles forget that you’re doing just that.
The Monster (aka “Skull”) is one nasty son of a bitch and easily one of my favorite creature designs I’ve seen in years. The movement, physical build, and violence level is pure Jason Vorhees…so much so that I had to double check the credits and make sure it wasn’t Kane Hodder under the makeup. It’s a clear homage to Jason Goes to Hell, as the mask inhabits a host body after growing legs and doing a spider-walk that’s clearly inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing. He wields a nasty machete and literally uses intestines as a secondary weapon/extension for his blade.
Yes, I said he uses intestines as a blade extension. You may rejoice now. He does this in a nightclub full of people!
There’s a cubic fuckton of spilled guts, sheared faces, torn-out throats, forcefully removed hearts, and disembowellings. Dude has a serious fetish for relieving people of their innards. As the movie progresses, he becomes more and more gore-soaked and simply wears it like a second skin. It’s really quite beautiful. Also, that mask design is spectacular in its simplicity. It’s straight out of the pages of a Dungeons and Dragons “Monster Manual”, and that is never a bad thing. It looks cooler the bloodier and slicker it gets.
Plot points and connections do have a tendency to turn on a dime and get a little muddled here and there, but let’s face it; the human element (while surprisingly solid) isn’t the selling point in Skull: The Mask. This is a classic slasher with a small dose of giallo for flavor and enough human insides to rival anything you’re likely to see anytime soon. Think of a painter carefully using a small brush for wonderful scenery that surprises you with their skill and precision before picking up a couple of huge buckets of human chum and gleefully splashing it across the canvas.
Hey, Skull? Will you be our new Jason? We’ll pay Brazil all the tax they want.
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