GORE IN THE STORE
SKULL: THE MASK ***
Directed by Armando Fonseca & Kapel Furman.
Starring Natallia Rodrigues, Wilton Andrade, Rurik Jr.
Horror, Brazil, 90 minutes.
Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest: Digital Edition
Described by its directors as a “mystical slasher” SKULL: THE MASK certainly stands out as a singular entry in the field. Telling the tale of a supernaturally powered ancient mask it spans from the closing days of World War 2 to the present day in Sao Paulo. This low budget gorefest is packed with enough story and off the wall details to satisfy not only horror fans but also those with a taste for the weird and wilder side of cult cinema.
Various subjects are tossed on the screen here; occult Nazi organisations, hard-nosed cops who don’t play by the rules, kung-fu priests and possessed heavyweights who use wrestling moves in their increasingly gory kills. The storyline involves the mask above, once used for a pre-Columbian god of death, acquired by a corrupt multinational corporation, for its own mysterious and dreadful ends. When the mask gains sentience, it attaches itself to a burly crime scene cleaner, played by the imposing wrestler Rurik Jr, and proceeds on a bloody crime spree through the city. Detective Beatriz Obdias, one of those cops who does not play by the rules, is roped into taking down the all-powerful killer, despite her moral code going against that of the villainous corporation which has given her the task.
SKULL: THE MASK has a plot that’s filled to the brim with its cast of characters and sub-plots. The script has too many ideas than it knows what to do with; however, it’s go for broke attitude, and sense of enthusiasm sweeps up in its gonzo nature. Its low budget notwithstanding it tries to do something different than the majority of horror films out there, especially slasher movies. The directors, Fonseca and Furman, should be commended for their efforts here, especially for completing such an ambitious project in the struggling Brazilian film scene.
The pace, despite its lean running time, is uneven. Beatriz’s task to find the killer, as well as her tragic backstory, tends to slow the film down as she is not the most interesting character here. Her half-hearted attempt to pursue a shaman on foot, who has his links to the mask, is the films unintentional comedic highlight. The shaman, Manco, played by Wilton Andrade, who has more of a connection to the film’s storyline is more exciting, but for some reason, we are stuck with Detective Beatriz for the majority of the running time.
What has been described here so far may make it sound like a mindless goofy romp. Still, the films commentary on the ruling class and widespread pillaging and destruction of the country’s natural landscape is presented neatly, naturally settling in alongside its more fantastical storyline. Distinctive and accomplished, this ambitious film signals an exciting career ahead for the writing and directing duo of Fonseca and Furman. The open ending here suggests a return to the storyline and its more interesting characters that could be worth the wait.