‘Skull: The Mask’ review: move over Jason, there’s a new slasher anti-hero on the scene

Stylised Brazilian horror shows the bloodiest genre has plenty of guts left to spill

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    Ssssssmokin’! No, wait: that’s the wrong The Mask. But while Skull: The Mask has zero to do with the zany green-face guy, the idea is similar: Jim Carrey’s Stanley Ipkiss transformed into an even-more-OTT version of Jim Carrey when he put a wooden Viking mask on; here, the wearer of the ‘Mask of Anhangá’ turns into a near-immortal killer with a rampant appetite for human hearts. And we spam the film with hearts in return, because properly great horror movie villains are rare things, but with its wiggly tendrils and Alien facehugger tactics, the parasitic skull demon Anhangá has the makings of a movie monster hall of famer.

    Were its superstar killer not enough, we also have black magic incantations that take people to a trippy other realm, a creepy collector bent on getting hold of the mask, a dishevelled ex-missionary who considers it his duty to keep the skull away from the wrong hands, a hard-bitten detective working the case, a very enjoyable (if you like that sort of thing) slasher-in-a-nightclub scene and a cool backstory that employs the folklore, mythology and demonology of indigenous Amazonian peoples to wreak havoc in the modern day setting of Brazil’s concrete gomorrah, Sao Paulo.

    Writer/directors Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman are clearly in thrall to the slashers of the 1980s, but while the film borrows stylistic tricks from the likes of Friday The 13th and Hellraiser, it also brings to mind the work of Tarantino with its stylised action sequences and antiqued flashback footage. Indeed, a scene in which Anhangá and a priest square off in silhouette viewed through stained glass is – it seems strange to say – quite beautiful.

    The worst thing, sadly, is the subtitling, which renders the dialogue in the voice of your average AI shopping bot. Take this bit of badinage, in which the villain is asking his henchman the whereabouts of the missing Bolivian children whose blood he is milking (yeah, didn’t even mention the child-milking). “They are confined,” replies the goon. “Find the mask before the children languish,” replies the villain, in another triumph for Google Translate.

    A must-see for even casual horror fans, then, or as the subtitles here might put it, “essential ocular activity for the people of the horror.” Watch it before you languish like those poor kids. Ssssssmokin’!

    Details

    • Directors: Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman
    • Starring: Natallia Rodrigues, Wilton Andrade, Ricardo Gelli
    • Release date: May 28 (Shudder)
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