Brazilian Gorefest Skull: The Mask (2021) Slices Its Way to Conventional Slasher Horror
Title: Skull: The Mask
First Wide Release: May 27, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman
Writer: Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Natalia Rodrigues, Ivo Müller, Rurik Jr
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A bizarre and bloody ritual deep in the wilderness at a nameless compound fails spectacularly before the ancient artifact at the center of the madness is taken off site. Eventually, it finds its way into the hands of an art collector who is tasked with retrieving it for her boss in the city. After a brutal double homicide, a hardened detective (Natalia Rodrigues) is tasked with tracking down the missing artifact that could be key to solving the case. Unbeknownst to her and the police, the mask has come to life and attached itself to a hapless crime scene responder and has begun a reign of terror to collect more sacrifices.
Skull: The Mask is a valiant attempt at conjuring a South American slasher icon that is as messy as the bodies it slices into pieces.
What starts out with a promising opening sequence and subsequent first act slides into tedium as the story veers into too many directions. This clunky Brazilian import takes on way too much for its plot to handle. Had more time gone into developing its tone and purpose, it could have been a cheesy B-movie, a truly terrifying slasher, or a smart politically tinged horror. Instead, it’s a mishmash of three movies in one that amasses all of the pitfalls each story could take without any of the benefits. This causes severe bloating in the plot and pacing issues that follow the film to its end, which admittedly ties up most of its loose ends.
Odd writing choices frustrate the most here. The story is slowed down by the creeping pace of Skull’s campaign through the city, told over the course of several days rather than one night. Not only does it drag the film down significantly, it also doesn’t make much sense. You’re telling me that no one saw this hulking, possessed man causing carnage in the city at any given hour? He is always moving and never spotted, even during the day? If you say so.
The motivations behind the characters in the film cause more confusion than what would be ideal. Skull’s is most confusing. Towards the beginning the audience is led to believe that Skull is content to run the usual reign of terror but switches halfway through once the audience is given more backstory. The worst part is that this become a twofold quest where neither goal is consistently followed. I would assume that this is because it stretches out the action of the film rather than the filmmakers wanting to characterize Skull as fickle and forgetful. Regardless, it doesn’t help alleviate the tonal whiplash of the film at all.
Skull: The Mask excels mostly in its creativity rather than its story and people. There are plenty of nightmarish and imaginative sequences thanks to the world of Skull. By far the most visually appealing and engaging portion of the film, I wish that the filmmakers would have spent more time here. The forever night sky and sinister looking temples make for a much more interesting setting than another urban set horror film. Chock full of blood, guts, and bones, Skull: The Mask basks in the glow of its carnage and viscera. These effects range from mediocre to fantastic, so it is a mixed bag that ultimately pays off when one considers its B-movie status.
While there’s clear heart behind this project, Skull: The Mask doesn’t make any strong impression on what exactly it is supposed to be. Gorehounds will likely be satisfied and those interested in the novelty of this Brazilian feature may find something special here, but most other will find themselves disappointed. Disappointed not only by the uneven writing, muted score, and muddled social commentary, but how much potential the film had. If you’re unsure if this film is going to be it for you, take my advice and don’t sacrifice your free time until you’ve exhausted your current watchlist.
Overall Score? 5/10