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What do THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACE, FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2,
Treat Williams and Michael Berryman all have in common? Yes, they‘re all
remarkable, but that’s not where I’m going with this. Give up? They all have cameos
in MASK MAKER (a.k.a. MASKERADE, and now on DVD from Screen Media), a film that succeeds in knowing exactly what
it wants to be (don’t you hate when people say that?) and has no problems
getting lost in the extensive annals of the cookie-cutter slasher film.
Sticking to conventions, our lead is female. Jennifer (Nikki
Deloach) is a college student who seems to have only two things on her mind:
investing for the future and convincing herself she cares more about her
friends than they care about her. What’s the perfect birthday present for a
little lady like that? Her boyfriend Evan (Stephen Colletti) knows: a weekend
spent at an old, dilapidated farmhouse with 40 acres of land that he plans to
flip and make a fortune off of, joined by their closest friends: two
self-absorbed females and their equally chauvinistic boyfriends.
seems too good to be true, with the discovery of antique china, furniture and
wine that was bottled “when Lincoln was in office”—but they soon learn of the
chilling historical events surrounding the previous resident’s departure 50
years prior. Will they heed the warnings of the local outcast (played aptly by
Bernie Lomax himself, Terry Kiser!) and leave “that evil place,” or will they
get picked off one by one by an ominous, bulky, faceless maniac with mommy
issues? Will they have time for a fun little clean-up montage? And more
importantly, will they bump uglies to their hearts’ content? If you’ve seen
your fair share of slasher films, you already know the answers.
Two of the more unforgivably “borrowed” elements are the
killer’s shtick of removing his victim’s faces and donning them as masks (à la
the CHAINSAW franchise) coupled with the introduction of the unstoppable
monster’s mother’s favorite dress, which is later used in a
scenario (as in FRIDAY PART 2). MASK MAKER also lacks a bit in the gore
department, which is typically the area in which modern slasher films grab the
spotlight. Not only are the methods stock (i.e. broken necks and impalements)
and sometimes out of frame, but the post-coitus restroom break, the girl
confusing the killer’s silhouette for her boyfriend and the bathtub gag can all
be traced back to higher-profile films of this type. There’s a fine line between
homage and ripoff, one that this film straddles unashamedly.
Although the whole experience makes you feel as if you’ve
fallen victim to the old bait-and-switch, there’s still some enjoyment to be
had with this film. The direction by Griff Furst (of, er, LAKE PLACID 3) is
basic yet tight, and it’s not hard to stay awake thanks to the quick pacing and
94-minute running time. For the most part, the acting is solid all
around—taking into consideration how exaggerated each character is. Of course,
all of this is to be expected, and any aficionado of the slasher genre will
more than likely welcome its familiarity with open arms. Let’s face it, the
golden age of the slasher film died in the mid-1980s—it’s a fact—but that
hasn’t stopped filmmakers from flooding the market with hundreds of uninspired
films taking the established formula, adding one or two slight variations and
served up with a pleasant sense of déjà vu.
The lone “special feature” on Screen Media’s DVD is the
trailer, and MASK MAKER can only be truly recommended to all you slasher
completists out there. Being one myself, I can honestly say I’ll watch this
film a few more times before I die, but that’s only because I’m a sucker. Very
few post-golden age slashers have stayed true to the formula while offering a
fresh, smart take on the subgenre. It’s not an easy task, and unfortunately,
MASK MAKER is not one of those few. And in the current age of remakes, this
once-charming formalism just comes off as a bit too familiar.
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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