Nikki Deloach - Jennifer
Stephen Colletti - Evan
Anabella Casanova - Annette
Ross Britiz - Mike
Terry Kiser - Mr. Peck
Mariah Bonner - Hillary
A.J. Allegra - Ken
Lara Grice - Lydia
Michael Berryman - Fred
Treat Williams - Mr. Tucker
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Witchcraft
Running Time - 88 Minutes
Jennifer (Nikki Deloach) and Evan (Stephen Colletti) are a young college couple celebrating Jennifer's birthday for the weekend. Evan's present is a huge one - a house for the two of them in a woodsy area. And it's not just any house - it's an American gothic house that he got cheap, but with all the furniture, silverware, and history left inside. As Jennifer and Evan celebrate with four of their friends, they don't realize that a killer [who wears masks made of his victim's skin] has been buried in their backyard. Apparently, some Native American magic has kept him hibernating for years, keeping the small town at ease. But once Evan pulls out the stick to study it, all hell breaks loose as this masked killer continues where he left off.
MASK MAKER was expiring on Netflix this past weekend, so I decided to check it out. I wasn't expecting a whole lot to be honest, already set that this film wouldn't turn out to be any good. But to my surprise, MASK MAKER was actually a decent little slasher!
There's nothing really special about MASK MAKER, as it's a very generic slasher that follows the standard conventions while taking moments from more popular slasher films. The killer wears masks made of human flesh, like Leatherface from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. There's a person warning the characters about the danger of the land where the house is built, like FRIDAY THE 13TH. Jennifer wears the clothes of the killer's mother to trick him, like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. And even the killer's demise is similar to FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. Each character has a stereotypical role to play, and the film follows a predictable path. If you're looking for something original, MASK MAKER is not for you.
What the script does well is make the characters very likeable. They're all stereotypes. We have The Final Girl. We have the Good-Looking Boyfriend. We have the Two Outcasts Who Fall For Each Other. We have the Weird Sex-Crazed Couple. We even have the Old Man Who Warns of the Killer's Legend. And while they all play their roles to a tee, at least none of them are annoying. In fact, you would really think the younger characters were real friends, wanting to celebrate Jennifer's birthday with alcohol and sex. The dialogue is fairly realistic and the characters even react realistically to this creepy house that Evan bought. In fact, Jennifer is upset about the house, wanting an engagement ring and thinking about finishing school and getting jobs. It's not the best characterization ever, but at least the screenwriter put some thought into making the audience feel something when each character got murdered.
My issue really comes with the legend of this killer. We get flashbacks and exposition about the killer's backstory, which involved adultery between his mother and her boss, witchcraft, and skin diseases. There's also that Native American stick that kept the killer at bay, which really didn't get much development as a subplot. I wish more was done with this aspect of the story because I found these moments pretty interesting. But they were brought up few and far between. I didn't really connect with the killer's past as much as I wanted to, even though I understood what the deal was.
The gore in MASK MAKER was well done for a low budget film. The editing by director Griff Furst hid the effects they couldn't do, making the violence more implied and brutal at times. But there are pretty graphic moments, like barbed wire to the throat, a scythe slicing a throat, neck twists, axe and pitchfork fun, decapitations, and even a head slicing down a stick via THE FINAL CHAPTER. It's all been there and done that, but at least it was done well.
The direction by Furst was pretty good too. There was actual tension in the film, which pleasantly surprised me. The picture quality looked crisp. The editing was strong. The framing and composition made certain moments pop. I didn't hate the visuals in MASK MAKER at all.
The acting in the film was also better than average. The only actor I really knew by face and name was Stephen Colletti, who was a reality TV star on MTV's Laguna Beach years ago. Who knew he was a decent actor outside of reality television? I thought he was pretty good. Nikki Deloach was really cute, and carried the Final Girl role well. The other younger actors varied in performance, but none were terrible. We also get cool appearances by Treat Williams, Michael Berryman [in a different, non-typecast role], and Terry Kiser. I thought the cast was fine.
THE FINAL HOWL
I wasn't expecting much out MASK MAKER. It's not original, it's very predictable, and has some narrative flaws. But this modern slasher still managed to entertain me with its decent acting, inspired direction, better than expected death sequences, and characters that came across as very likeable. Sometimes I get weary about these lesser-known horror/slasher films I see on Netflix Instant. But MASK MAKER was a pleasant surprise and worth a look if you want to see a slasher that rips off THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and several FRIDAY THE 13TH films in a pretty decent manner.