Recently added to Amazon Prime Video in the UK, as well as Shudder in the US, is the Brazilian horror movie, Skull (aka Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá). Written and directed by Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman, the movie stars Natallia Rodrigues, Wilton Andrade and Rurik Jr., and tells the story of a detective on the hunt for a masked killer of supernatural origin.
In the movie, Detective Beatriz Obdias, is brought onto a case involving a double homicide in São Paulo. The victims have been eviscerated, in what is believed to be a violent robbery, but in reality, their deaths are the result of a ritual sacrifice.
One of the victims had dabbled in the occult, and she called forth the spirit of Anhangá – the bloodthirsty executioner for an ancient god. Brought into the real world, Anhangá’s spirit possesses the body of a human, which allows it to go on a killing spree.
With bodies piling up across the city, Detective Obdias soon makes a connection between the homicide and the other murders. This leads to a showdown with a potentially unstoppable killer, who is sacrificing people with carefree abandon, in order to appease his god.
There are two main takeaways from Skull. The first is that this film is very much a throwback to the Friday 13th movies of the late 1980s – specifically the films featuring actor Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. The masked killer of this picture looks, acts, and moves very much like Hodder’s version of Jason, and if you’re a fan of his era of the Friday movies, then you will enjoy this element of the film.
The second takeaway is that despite the fun nod to a fan-favourite horror franchise, pretty much everything else in this movie falls flat. At times, the acting is ropey, some of the camera work is a bit iffy, and the story is patchy throughout.
This is a crushing disappointment, because I can see there is a lot of potential in this picture. However, that potential is lost somewhere in the mix, in what becomes a dull, uneven, and overly complicated horror.
Just trying to describe the premise of Skull gave me a headache. There are simply too many ideas being shoehorned into what is essentially a slasher movie.
What I’ve detailed at the start of this review, is a very simplified plot summary. In truth, what I should have said is:
‘A woman uses a mask to bring forth a spirit, which then possesses a human, who transforms into a freaky-looking mute killer. The killer murders random victims on behalf of a god, who never manifests in the real world, but merely (and rather pointlessly) waits in the wings while the killer racks up a body count.
‘There is also a subplot about missing children, and a prologue set during World War II, neither of which really go anywhere. And this is all set around the story of a detective, who is not a very interesting character.’
I didn’t go into this much detail about the plot summary, because a.) some of the plot points are fairly redundant, and b.) all the stuff about a god hanging around in the background, not really doing anything, is all just messy. This whole story should have been streamlined, because what is served up is way more than needed.
But it’s not just the fumbled premise that causes issues – the pacing of this movie is off too. Early into this movie, I found myself bored beyond belief and losing interest rapidly, and by the halfway point I was about ready to switch it off.
I could have easily stopped watching and walked away without a second thought. But hey, I’m a trooper and I couldn’t bring you (yes, you) a fair review of Skull unless I saw this movie through to the end; so, I stuck it out. You’re welcome.
The one saving grace of Skull is the effects work, which despite everything else is top notch. In terms of splatter and gore, this movie delivers in spades, and throws plenty of blood and guts at the screen.
As mentioned, the film is clearly influenced by the Friday the 13th movies and this is where it shines. Sure, it’s nothing new, but watching a knock-off Jason tearing up the town is at least fun to watch.
Those who love this sort of thing will find themselves in their element, and this is the one area of the film which really excels. If I was critiquing Skull based purely on this aspect, I would be a lot more positive – but alas, I am not.
I genuinely believe that everyone involved with this film tried to make something fresh and imaginative, which could also appeal to long-time horror fans, but sadly it didn’t quite work out. The end result is a mishmash, which falls short.