Thursday, May 31, 2012

MaskMaker In the Woods

So, here’s the thing about MaskMaker

Have you seen Cabin In the Woods?

If you haven’t, then you should probably skip down to the Rent/Bury/Buy section for a summary that doesn’t spoil a seemingly unrelated masterpiece to this decently made but minor slasher. But for the smart ones here who have already seen Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s horror comedy, you’ll understand that it’s hard to view such standard dice up the pretty people fare without thinking about The Ancient Ones.

Quick Plot: A young college couple majoring in economics takes a drive to a secluded old farmhouse for Jennifer's birthday weekend, where the perky coed learns the musty but antique-filled homestead is now hers. Some guys buy flowers, others, engagement rings. Evan, on the other hand, paid $10,000 for some property and put the grant in his lady love's name. Sure, the local hardware store is run by Michael Berryman and the only other customer offers ominous warnings of the house’s backstory, and yes, the remote location offers little to no cell phone coverage (as pointedly remarked upon to silence audience objection before it starts) and oh fine, there’s a dead pig’s head chilling out in the vintage refrigerator with what can only be genetically mutated Panem-bred superflies, but hey, a deal’s a deal!

Despite their misgivings, Jennifer and Evan settle in, inviting two more frisky couples along for a weekend of bonfire guitar strumming, aged wine drinking, and role playing fornication that oddly enough, fits right into the soon-to-be-awakened killer’s MO.

See, amongst the creepy relics Jennifer discovers is a leather-bound diary of the previous tenant, a French maid (not like THAT! except, well, kind of like that) who raised her monstrous son Leonard with witchcraft and a lack of discipline. As Jennifer reads the artistically rendered script---

Fine. I can’t ignore it anymore either. Yes, Cabin In the Woods fans: the MaskMaker of the title could easily have been hanging out inside one of the elevator’s rotating cubes. And yes, among our pretty young people are scholars, whores, fools, virgins (eh, close enough) and athletically built young men whose death and pain would easily sate the appetities of some old hungry demons. 

There’s a harbinger--

And shock of shocks, he’s not actually played by Berryman but Bernie himself!

We’ve got a torture room...


A relic (in this case, a big ol’ magic stick thingy) that resurrects the past

Unmarried sexual encounters...

And in case you were worried about the future of mankind, plenty of death in the order The Ancient Ones require.

Mask Maker has about as much originality as an accountant’s lunch order, but it does what it’s expected to with better skill than most of its contemporaries. Though the idea of the killer is nothing special, Leonard himself looks menacing and quite eerie when wearing his victim’s cleanly extracated faces on his own. Some viewers might find the young cast’s talkiness annoying, but I appreciate the script’s insistence on giving its victims’ some individuality, something helped by the energy of its actors. We don’t necessarily like them, but at least they’re more interesting than the garden variety camp counselor or drunk teens. Director G.E. Furst (he of a few Asylum titles) shows some skill in establishing their chemistry as friends and lovers.

But...but...they’re STILL hard to think of as anything other than than The Whore(s), The Virgin, The Athlete(ishes), The Fool(s) and Scholar. With that in mind, I’d rather attend a party thrown by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.

High Points
You can’t argue with the impressively done gore, complete with drippingly fresh face maks and big ol’ fashioned axings

(MINOR SPOILER) There is a small effort to play a little with the death order. It’s not revolutionary, but one kill did happen far earlier than I expected, making it land quite effecitvely

Low Points
I rarely speak ill of anything involving Treat Williams, but the flashbacks of Leonard’s childhood story are easily the weak link of MaskMaker. Filmed in an undefined gray sheen, they just never evoke anything of the scandal or supernatural I assume they were going for

Not sure who decided it was a good idea to throw in a weirdly homophobic electrician, but I suppose one low point of the film would have to be the weirdly homobophic electrician

Lessons Learned
If horror movies have taught me anything, it’s that when a bloodthirsty killer has me straight in his aim of a knife or spear throw, it’s really easy and instinctual to just wait til the last minute to duck or roll over and avoid the death blow

In 2012, male college professors can totally say things like “just like a woman to compare investing to cooking” and get away with it

Some people are into being puked on

Look! It’s...
One of the London Twins (can people really tell them apart?) popping up for the final scene with an adorably strained Louisiana accent. I hope they didn’t spend too much money on that

Credits Curiosity
Ever see a film’s tagline plopped under its title in the opening credits? Me neither. Until now.

For what it is—a direct-to-DVD slice ‘em up about pretty people being hunted by a silent madman—MaskMaker is slightly above average. The acting has spunk, the makeup mostly looks great, and kill count is high and messy enough to not leave you feeling cheated. It does absolutely nothing new in terms of the genre, (even borrowing the basic monster design from Leatherface’s closet and a key plot resolution from Friday the 13th Part 2) but if you’re in the mood for a slick piece of modern American horror, it’s serviceable. Not special, but good enough in an unambitious way for a lazy Instant Watch while you're alphabetizing your DVDs or separating Lucky Charms marshmallows from the boring rice crisps. 


  1. Sounds like one of those that's good to watch while you're falling asleep. Also *still* haven't seen "Cabin in the Woods" and can't wait to!

  2. This sounds exactly like my review of Hatchet. There's a great big vague quality range out there between, "Not as much fun as having sex" and, "Better than having to watch Sex & the City".

  3. You know, it IS a good fall asleeper. Unlike Cabin In the Woods, which must be watched full throttle!