With so many horror movies, particularly slashers, trying very hard to be meta and subversive these days, there aren’t very many modern slashers that just go old school and try to have a gory fun time.
But in Shudder’s latest original film from Brazil, that’s exactly the goal! Skull: The Mask blends 80s camp, over the top practical gore, and a fascinating dive into indigenous Brazilian mythology.
The movie opens almost looking like a Hammer film, with the vintage costumes and picture quality that has a 70’s era grain. We see a ritual that involves the ancient Anhangá being summoned. For those unfamiliar, the Anhangá is a deity of the Tupi tribe, an indigenous nation of Brazil.
In recent years, some older horror films have been criticized for their use of indigenous cultures’ themes and beliefs as fodder for horror. This usually occurred when the mythology around a certain people’s culture was the subject of the horror without any of those people actually playing a major role in the movie.
Rightfully so, this practice has been recently reevaluated as exploiting said culture. But that’s something that Skull: The Mask takes an interesting approach with. Yes, it’s certainly using the Tupi mythology as the subject of the horror, but the characters themselves are the ones trying to use and exploit the culture, and in many ways they get their comeuppance for doing so.
After being summoned, the spirit manifests into a tall, dominating figure that wears the titular skull mask. The movie then goes between a police procedural as the São Paolo police force tries to solve the murders, and a brutally gory slasher with amazing practical gore effects.
The over the top bloody kills are definitely the highlight of the movie, and sure to satisfy the blood lust in any horror fan. The production design and art design do amazing jobs to create a visually fun and interesting slasher. It’s the type of movie that you could watch on mute, and still enjoy the visuals.
Honestly, the only real issue with the movie is that between the mythology mystery and the fun slasher, it’s not sure which tone it wants to go for. Scenes go from being campy fun to serious mystery and it gets a bit jarring. Had the movie chosen one theme to go with and committed fully, it probably would have had more tonal consistency.
Overall, Skull: The Mask is an incredibly gory slasher that’s fun and thought-provoking. While at times, it does struggle with figuring out what kind of movie it wants to be, it does both themes very well. It delivers on the gore, while also giving many viewers a window into a country and culture they might not be familiar with.
What are some of your other favorite gory slasher movies? Let us know in the comments!
Skull: The Mask is streaming exclusively on Shudder