Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Massacre By Ritual: Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020)

Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (AKA Skull: The Mask) (Brazil, 2020)
Rating: ***
Starring: David Wendefilm, Tristan Aronovich, Thiago Carvalho

From tame strangle-a-thons like Shock: Diversao Diabolica (1984) to gory splatterfests like The Ritual of Death (1990) and Satanic Attraction (1990), Brazil has its fair and fun share of slasher flicks throughout the years and it appears we're given the good grace of another worthy modern entry going by Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020), a supernatural slasher neo-noir!

Splitting its focus throughout many plot threads including a cop drama, a prophecy thriller and a gory monster/slasher hybrid, Skull opens with a prayer that summons Anhangá, a being depicted here as the murderous servant of the pre-Columbian god Tahawantinsupay. We then shift our attention to a prologue set in the 1940s Amazon, where a dude in a supervillain get-up beats and murders his way to retrieve a dangerous artifact known as the Mask of Anhangá, which his Nazi clients proceed to use in a military experiment involving a religious ritual. Something went wrong and the scene ends up with one guy on fire, another gutted, and another having his head explode.

Flashforward to the present and an archeological dig uncovers the Mask of Anhangá once again, now brought to São Paulo, Brazil where Tack Waelder, the shady head of a foreign company, plans on secretly using its powers for his own gains. However, before he could get his hands on the item, the mask somehow finds a way to murder a few people before eventually possessing a worthy body, unleashing Anhangá and its insatiable bloodlust under the guide of its god.

Caught in this trail of murder and mayhem is one Manco Ramirez, a simple laborer whose family happens to belong in a long line of protectors who battled and stopped Anhangá from unleashing his god to our world. With the help of his own father's mummified severed hand that directs the demon's whereabouts and the Femur of Tahawantinsupay, a blunt weapon that can harm the god's servant, he prepares himself to honor his family's duty and fight a good fight against Anhangá, even if it means his own demise.

In the midst of this, Beatriz Obdias, a detective working on a missing children’s case, sees herself looking into the increasingly bizarre and gruesome murder spree now plaguing São Paulo. Complicating this matter, unfortunately, is Waelder forcing her to join him in getting the mask back and eliminate some troublesome individuals in the way, blackmailing her with a few skeletons in her closet and promises of keeping quiet about them should she accept his proposition. With the killings getting more visceral by the day, she may have no choice but to agree with the offer, but at what cost?

A tad overambitious with the number of story lines intertwining, Skull occasionally feels like two to three different kinds of movies playing all at once, thinly interconnected through varying plot points that do little to help with the overall hodge-podged tone and pacing. One moment we're looking into a cop's dark past involving framing children for murder, the next has us watching a masked slasher raid a drug house to slice its occupants into pieces. That said, the film is still worth its while by being chaotically fun with its slasher/monster attacks, cheesy badassery and misplaced seriousness, all the working traits of a good B-grade horror and a noir crime drama that aren't far off from the ones you would encounter in old pulp fictions and EC horror comics given they have the chance to be written this exploitative and messy.

Delivering greatly a barrage of awesome practical and visual effects on screen despite its limited budget, Skull has the blessing to be full of splatter in its purest form whenever it dives into the slasher segments; with a hulking man-monster that looks like a blood-soaked Hatchet (2006)'s Victor Crowley in a skull mask, armed with wriggling tentacles that wields its bladed weapon and unleashed at an unsuspecting city, you can bet that blood flows like rivers and chest cavities are pried open in pure carnal display in what are perhaps this movie's strongest and most macabre scenes. Highlights would include a dance bar getting the nasty case of a spree killing and a priest, drawing a hidden sword from a crucifix, dueling our masked slasher to the death.

Clashing urban decay with gore-filled mysticism, Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá (2020) earned its title from the Chattanooga Film Festival as an "insane midnighter" for just how manically enjoyable it is, so long as you don't mind limping through a conjoined serving of evil businessmen being shallowly evil and tidbits of action drama, slow cooked for an attempt for originality. It doesn't always work, but the final product has heart. One that's ripped out of a fresh body just for our grim sense of entertainment which I wholly appreciate!

1 male decapitated with a crescent blade
1 male had his throat cut with a crescent blade
1 male caught on fire
1 male knifed on the gut, disemboweled
1 male had his dead explode
1 female had her chest cavity pried open
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male had his chest cavity pried open
1 female had her chest sliced open with a window shard
1 male strangled with a victim's innards
1 male had his throat ripped open
1 male gets a machete hacked and repeatedly pounded into his side
1 male had his face sliced with a machete
1 girl seen shot dead
1 male hacked on the head with a machete, face peeled
1 female gets a machete to the neck
1 female gutted with a machete
1 male hacked on the head with a machete, spine torn out
1 female gets a spine stabbed into her forehead
1 male hacked on the gut with a machete
2 males and 1 female seen murdered
1 male crushed with a statue, bled to death
1 male had his head stomped on
1 male stabbed through with a wooden plank, heart torn out
1 male shot on the face with a shotgun
1 male shot on the head
Total: 28

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