During World War 2, a mysterious ancient mask – historically and supposedly ancient mask used during the execution of a pre-Columbian God, resurfaces and is used for military experiments. The mask, and whoever wears it, leave a wake of gore and murder behind them, no matter who is standing in their way. Even as the mask is transported to be used for further experiments, soldiers and scientists alike are killed or brutally maimed along the way. The experiment then goes a little differently than initially planned as the subject is gutted by someone versed in the use of the mask, to create a literal blood bath to awaken it. The mask overtakes our surprise murderer, and as he laughs and cheers in triumph, quite literally blows his head off. The power of this artifact is insurmountable, ancient, and evil. Flash forward to 2021. An archaeological dig is in progress in the Amazon rainforest. The ancient mask is uncovered, and instantly seen for the cash cow it could be for the museum. Meanwhile, Manco Ramirez (Wilton Andrade), a day laborer in Sao Paulo, is given pieces of his father’s belongings. As he fights for more of his father’s belongings and his own family legacy, which is being hidden and protected by the church, he discovers his ties to the ancient gods and the mask, and begins to understand his place in history. The rediscovery of the mask leads to the brutal murder of Galvani Volta (Guta Ruiz) and her girlfriend, after she performs a ceremony to bring back the spirits involved with the mask. When a crew is sent to clean up the crime scene, the mask has returned to its full power and takes over one of the clean up crew (Rurik Jr.). Thus begins a horror show of blood and gore, in one of the most gruesome marathons in recent memory. SKULL: THE MASK is the slasher death fest that we’ve been waiting for. The “Skull” character, fully incarnate, is a gorgeous and unique creature. His size and power are reminiscent of Jason or Leatherface – hulking and brutal. The kills are incredible – while the effects budget may not have allowed for perfection, the framing and cinematography (Andre Swigalt, Director of Photography) combined with deliciously visceral sound design (Bruno Yudi, Sound Editor) make up for any visual disparities. This is a true slasher film, with the kill count and splatter to match. The nuanced and deeply emotional storyline underneath the killings is what drives SKULL: THE MASK from a B grade slasher flick into something much more lasting and important. The factor of legacy, running from your family history, and realizing who you are and how you tie into the “bigger picture” is a crucial twist in this stereotypically gory and gruesome tale. Andrade’s performance as Manco Ramirez is remarkable, and hopefully will garner the deserved recognition.
As so often happens in foreign films, and not nearly often enough in American films, SKULL: THE MASK is diverse and multi-dimensional in its portrayal of women, sexuality, men going through emotional trauma, and more. It has always been fascinating to me what we are okay showing in American cinema versus foreign, but in times like these it’s more apparent than ever. SKULL: THE MASK will most likely not get the recognition it deserves. However, it’s my hope that like Parasite, people will look beyond the one inch barrier of subtitles, and allow themselves to be introduced to a new, ancient, beautiful, disgusting slasher film – destined for the annals of horror history.
Makeup Artist, Monster Maker, Educator, Producer, Haunt-lover, and all around Halloween freak. When Miranda isn't watching horror films, she's making them happen. When she's not doing either of those things, she's probably dreaming about them. Or baking cookies.