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"Skull: The Mask" (2021) Review - Empty, Heart Removal Horror

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

Acabe Com Ele!

The Brazilian fantasy horror film Skull: The Mask is written and directed by Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman. In 1944, a mask in the shape of a skull is found and used in a ritual in the Amazon. The mask belongs to Anhanga, the executioner of a Pre-Columbian God named Tahawantinsupay. The ritual only ends in bloodshed and the mask is awakened by human blood and entrails being splattered and poured on top of it.

70 years later, the mask is discovered on a construction site. It’s brought back to the city of Sao Paulo in an effort to showcase it in a local museum. But the mask gains control of a human body and begins a bloody killing spree.

There’s a secondary storyline about missing children that is basically shoehorned in to try to appease the mask. The children are to be served as sacrifices by the museum to appease the fact that it’s now imprisoned forever. But nearly all of the information regarding the missing children is given through nightly news updates. It’s rarely, if ever, mentioned in the hunt for the mask.

Natallia Rodrigues, who plays Detective Beatriz Obdias, looks and sounds like a Brazilian knockoff of Scarlett Johansson. This is worth mentioning because her acting isn’t up to Scarlett Johansson’s in any way whatsoever. Rodrigues is always frowning and seems like she hates her job even though she does nothing but work in the film, lives alone, and has no other apparent characteristics. She also the worst runner in the film; running with heavy feet that clomp the pavement whenever she takes a step. Who knew that being a flatfoot would be taken so literally?

Fatalidade!

The black magic aspect of Skull: The Mask is the most interesting angle of the film, but it feels like it’s barely explored. The opening ritual that takes place in 1944 seems like a generic rip off of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. There’s this cosmic element of what seems to be the god trapped within the mask that these sacrifices are seemingly attempting to release. He looks like a semi-crushed human skull with a cinder block strapped to his head. And the inside of the mask is shown sporadically; sometimes when someone is trying to call to Anhanga and then whenever the film feels like after that. But imagine a constellation being completely doused in blood and that’s what the inside of this mask looks like.

There’s also a severed hand that was chopped off of someone at the 1944 ritual that doesn’t really serve much purpose other than being gross for 70 years. The hand is taken out of a box, starts smoking, and shows up on a guy’s chest while he’s sleeping. It points in the direction of where the mask is coming from at one instance and spins around like someone is using it to play spin the bottle at another, but mostly just looks like dried, shriveled up beef jerky most of the time.

The choreography in the film is so bad that it tries to be covered up with bad green screen effects, shaky editing, and horrible wrestling maneuvers. In 90 short minutes, you witness a Rock Bottom, a dropkick, three chokeslams, a powerbomb, John Cena’s FU, and a Stone Cold Stunner. The gore tries to be the best part of the film, but even that is lacking. The blood seems like it’s too dark. Victims are also left with their hearts ripped from their bodies, so their chests are protruding out with bits of their ribcage sticking out. However, the wonky makeup effects in the film just make it look like a pile of discombobulated spaghetti.

The vessel the mask uses to kill is this beefy crime scene/forensic specialist/police officer. Bullets don’t faze him and his “powers” seem to fluctuate the more the film progresses. He has intestines wrapped around his arm that wriggle around almost as if they have a life of their own. Later on, he attaches a machete to the end of the intestines that he uses a lot like Scorpion’s spear in Mortal Kombat. The filmmakers must have been purposely referencing Mortal Kombat since at the end of the bloodiest sequence in the film at a costumed rave, the masked killer rips someone’s heart out, pauses, then lifts the heart high above his head as if he just successfully executed Kano’s heart-rip fatality for the first time.

Skull: The Mask is a lousy excuse of a horror film with a deteriorating storyline that crumbles under its own weight, an incompetent lead actor that never should have gotten the spotlight, and lackluster gore that can’t decide whether to be fully practical or partially CGI.

© 2021 Chris Sawin

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