Skull - The Mask [Chattanooga Film Festival Review]

Skull – The Mask is everything you could want from a crazy, balls-to-the-wall foreign-language horror movie. This import from Brazil is bloody, steeped in cultural myth, and in possession of a tone that feels radically different from American fright films. Those qualities combine to make it hypnotic. You genuinely don't know where the ride is going to take you next.

The film has its World Premiere at the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival, which will be held online from Friday, May 22nd through Monday, May 25th. The fest is open to residents of the United States only, and festival badges can be purchased at the official website.

A prologue is set in 1944, where a dangerous artifact is utilized in an experiment being carried out by the military. That object is the Mask of Anhanga. He was the executioner of a pre-Columbian god known as Tahawantinsupay. In other words, a very bad dude. The experiment goes wildly awry and the mask is buried, not to be seen again until 2021. At that time, it's excavated in Sao Paulo, and once unleashed, it resumes carrying out a bloody reign of terror.

The main character is Beatriz Obdias (Natallia Rodrigues), a disgraced detective investigating a series of child disappearances. She gets pulled into the search for the murderous mask, which several people – including a ruthless businessman – seek to obtain. Meanwhile, a man named Manco Ramirez (Wilton Andrade) also goes on the hunt for it, hoping to honor his family's inheritance. Gory madness ensues, especially once the mask attaches itself to a human host. One extraordinary sequence is a bloodbath inside a nightclub, and it has to be seen to be believed.

The cultural aspect of Skull – The Mask is really cool. Something about the idea of a vicious, evil relic from a long-ago time hits just the right note of creepiness. Directors Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman stage the gruesome scenes in abrupt, shocking bursts of violence. The mask has a propensity for yanking people's hearts out of their chests and/or spilling their guts all over the floor. At the same time, there's real style at work here. One of the best scenes is a fight between the mask and a priest, where they're in silhouette in front of a giant stained glass window.

Extreme horror movies always have a thin line to walk. If the carnage is too intense, it can turn the audience off. Having a delicate tone is important, so that the gore is presented in a way that's sufficiently exaggerated to be gooey fun, rather than outright stomach-churning. Skull – The Mask achieves that. Whenever the attacks come, they don't hold back on blood and guts, yet you also marvel at how much fun the movie is having with them.

Skull – The Mask is a treat for fans of horror that isn't afraid to put the pedal to the floor. It does that from the start and doesn't let up.

Skull - The Mask is unrated, but contains graphic blood and gore. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.