REVIEW: Skull – The Mask (2020)

dir. Armando Fonesca & Kapel Furman.

When a mask belonging to pre-Colombian civilisation is unearthed, it quickly falls into the hands of a shadowy cabal who appear to have designs on harnessing its power. The mask however has other ideas and, after being roused to life by black magic, attaches itself to the nearest unfortunate to go on a killing spree. With the cops, the criminals and a cult closing in, the stage is set for a cosmic showdown to stop an ancient demon… doing something.

The lack of clarity about what is actually happening in Fonesca and Furman’s insane story is just the beginning of its problems. Badly under-written (who the mask is and what it wants is frankly unclear), things are compounded by the gear-grinding transitions between different generic tempos. The opening act is eerily occult before things give way to a police procedural that seems more City of God (2002) than City of the Living Dead (1980), before changing again, this time to standard stalk-and-slash tropes as the mask(ed) kills its way through a roster of typical victims (couple having sex; kids dealing drugs; happy-go-lucky party goers). And so it goes, back and forth. The violence is outlandish, the fight choreography appears to resemble Mexican wrestling, and the whole thing is utterly disorientating.

Add to this a series of strange set pieces (when one character is shot in the chest he cheerfully runs away and plugs his wound with a tampon, apparently fine) and several continuity errors (t-shirt covered in blood/magically clean) and you’re approaching a sense of the bizarre confusion this film inspires.

There will be those who perhaps thrill to the shifting sands of uncertainty the narrative puts beneath their feet, but those looking for anything coherent should look elsewhere. By the time the oddly anti-climatic ending rolls around it’s neither bad enough to be good, or – well – good.

Tim Coleman

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