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  Skull: The Mask It Won't Conceal The Fear You Feel
Year: 2020
Director: Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman
Stars: Tristan Aronovich, Ivo Muller, Micas Carvalho, Guta Ruiz, Natallia Rodrigues, Beatriz Severo, Elder Fraga, Eduardo Semerjian, Gilda Nomacce, Greta Antoine, Livia Inhudes, David Wendefilm, Thiago Carvalho, Raphael Borghi, Laerte Kessimos
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Brazil, 1944, and an artifact has been uncovered at an archaeological site which, now word is out that it has been found, is being much coveted by various factions, and currently is held by a collection of menacing authorities who are bringing it to a sacred ceremony location. However, there is an assassin determined to claim the boxed object for himself (or his bosses) and is slaughtering his way through the corridors as he closes in on it. But once the ceremony begins, it is apparent that blood is necessary to awaken the demonic spirit of the artifact, and as the red stuff begins to flow strange effects appear. But beware, because if you are not fully prepared for this, your head will explode!

Part of the intermittent attempts from many parts of the world to recreate the feeling of the old grindhouse cinema of the nineteen-sixties through the seventies to the eighties, Skull: The Mask approached the grue and insanity with some gusto, if not a whole lot of coherence. You could just about follow what was going on, but if you had ever had the dubious pleasure of a Coffin Joe movie from the seventies, then you would be on firmer ground to tackle this not dissimilar horror flick from the same part of the globe he hailed from, Brazil. If it was a shade too po-faced to embrace his brand of subversive, some say cheeky, extreme imagery, there was a definite sense that they were straining at the budget to provide the shocks.

In fact, if you were in the mood for it, it being some South American exploitation movie magic, you could have a pretty good time with this, as it blustered and raged its way through a cast it was never happier than when it was blowing up their heads or tearing out their hearts: turning their intestines into snakes was also available, though optional. While the prologue took place in the war years, with possible Nazi allusions (again, some of this was difficult to entirely work out), the bulk of the movie was set in 2021 - the year after it was made - where Sao Paolo is labouring under a spate of child kidnappings. Could they be connected to the re-emergence of the artifact, actually a skull mask, as the title suggests, that possesses the wearer Jim Carrey-style, though without the CGI cartoon effects, more a passion for that heart-ripping?

Indeed, the effects here were pleasingly grungy and rubbery, as seen in the horror of the eighties, another touchstone of this generation of chiller filmmakers, though the limited repertoire indicated the directors had a speciality devised for this project and they were going to make the most of it, come what may. The plot, if you were feeling generous, boiled down to a Chinese-backed corporation trying to control the mask while a cop (Natallia Rodrigues) did her best to tie its efforts in with the disappearance of the children, which she believes it was involved with. But really, to limit the storyline to these two aspects was to do the invention a disservice, as if the makers were terrified as well as the characters - terrified that the audience would grow bored, therefore they changed streams every five minutes, a bit of Lovecraftian cosmic horror here, a dose of Jason Vorhees there, and that was barely the half of it. If it was somewhat wearing after a while, you did admire the energy, as scattershot as it was. Music by Fernando Arruda.

[Premieres 27 May 2021 - A Shudder Original Film.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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