Skull: the Mask aka Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá review – chaotic and bloody Brazilian slasher Face off!

3

Summary

Ancient South American demon returns in modern São Paulo, leading to a killing spree against a backdrop of religious angst and corporate greed. Intense stuff!

How much gore does a Nazi prologue need! Not quite all of it, apparently, there was plenty left for the main body of this bizarre and over-the-top horror. Skull: the Mask (originally called Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá in its native Brazil) is a supernatural serial killer film – that is, detective meets demon – based on Anhangá from ancient mythology.

The Mask of Anhangá, that the Nazis revered and ritualized in the prologue is recovered by present-day archaeologists. The lead archaeologist has a girlfriend who’s itching for some pre-Colombian mysticism, and has no qualms giving the audience a head-trippy wet-t-shirt display with candles when the (more rational) tomb raider is in bed… but it turns out we’re not being introduced to new characters, but simply leading up to another bloodbath… followed by another when the crime scene techs encounter the mask, which produces finger-like tendrils and goes all medieval on their asses. All of this is merely joining the dots from 1944 Amazon to a contemporary detective Beatriz Obdias (Natallia Rodrigues) in São Paulo.

But this demon, like Jason Voorhees wearing Jim Carrey’s Mask, doesn’t do anything as mundane as just slashing victims’ throats: guts and hearts are pulled out, faces peeled off… and I think Rob Zombie could take lessons from his behavior at a costume party that takes place about halfway through. In case I’ve not made it clear: Skull: the Mask is a bloody, bloody film.

Written and directed by Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman, Skull: the Mask is chaos from start to finish: the story has Skull (Rurik Jr.) killing seemingly random people, descendants of some sort of working-class knights trying to protect people from it, a kidnapping and murder investigation, and a corporation attempting to requisition the mask for their own seedy purposes. But even though the plot is all over the place, the direction hangs together just right, and I stick with it all the way.

The present-day, urban elements reminded me of Patryk Vega’s Polish thrillers, an entertaining blend of glamorous and gritty; and it was odd seeing that style married to a mythological slasher. But fair enough: it would certainly look odd if there was an actual primeval being roaming modern streets. The gore effects and action are remarkable, though, especially the mask taking over and attacking people with what looked like skinless tentacles. The action was almost non-stop, leaving just enough time for a little investigative dialogue, and very well done: the production looked much more professional and polished than an average film of this blend of genres.

And the acting? None of it was poor, but beyond that, I’m afraid I didn’t notice: there was just so much piercing and peeling and slicing going on, all varied and creative. Strangely, for an action-packed and gruesome horror mystery, there was no humor that I noticed; but Skull: the Mask was entertaining enough without it that I only realized afterward.

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Alix Turner

Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.

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