The Film (3/5)
Andreas Marschall is a name I have come to know in recent years as a filmmaker (I knew of him as a cover artist) due to his association with the popular anthology film German Angst. During an interview I had conducted with Nekromantik director Jorg Buttgereit for Fang of Joy Magazine #2 Buttgereit had mentioned Marschall's Masks as a film to watch out for. Now that I have seen the film my feelings on the film are mixed to positive, and I feel a few more viewings are in order to fully needed to establish my complete thoughts on the film.
The film stars Susen Ermich as Stella an aspiring actress with more passion then talent who ends up as a student at a Polish acting school with a dark past. After proving her chops she is allowed to enter a program that has allegedly been banned in the after it caused the death of a number of students 40 years prior. At first the program is simply intense, but then it proves physically harmful, and far more destructive then anything she had signed up for, on top of that there is a masked man going around with a mask and spiked weapon going around killing people.
The biggest problem I have with horror in the modern era is the remake trend, beyond that it is how reliant it is on films of the past for inspiration. Masks falls into the latter category as it is in many ways both a remake and direct homage to Dario Argento's masterwork Suspiria. Not in any direct fashion, but it is about a young woman attending an art school with a sinister history. After that there are certain visual queues and story elements that seem to borrow directly from the earlier Argento film. If you are a fan of Eurohorror that has seen Suspiria enough times you will be counting the times Masks calls back to it. The ending which I will not spoil, even calls back to some of the later mid-period films of Argento with a sudden brighter ending that seems at times out of place from what came before.
When I could feel Masks channeling Suspiria early in the film I at first found it sort of endearing, as the film wore on and I could still see it happening I found myself wanting Marschal; and the film to find it's own voice. I should say at times Marschall would break away from Argento, and do his own thing, and at those times when he would channel the best of 70's Eurohorror and go completely off the rails the film was fun and delirious, and by the films final moments I was rooting for it, and wanting to see more of Marschall's cinema. I have yet to see Tears of Kali so I will have to go back, and I am excited to see what comes next. I also will rewatch Masks in the future hoping to see if I can more discern Marschall's voice from the layers of Argento homage found here.
Masks is presented by the upstart Reel Gore Releasing (an off shoot of Cult Epics) in a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The film looks solid for the most part with decent deep blacks, detail is solid, and colors are solid. It is a digital production, and looks every bit like one. The audio is presented DTS-HD MA 5.1 in German with optional English subs. The track is solid with dialogue and the excellent Sebastian Levermann score coming through nicely.
Fans of the film will be certainly pleased with Reel Gore's LE of Masks. The film has deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, a music video, and a slide shot. There a booklet of liner notes that include Kier-La Janisse review, and interview with the director and CD soundtrack.
An interesting film, but flawed as it leans very heavily on the work of Dario Argento for it's primary inspiration. The Blu-ray looks and sounds solid, and is loaded with extras. RECOMMENDED.