The second offering from Nico B’s Reelgore Releasing line is upon us and after the gore filled train wreck that was Violent Shit, my expectations have been put into check. This time, instead of a remake of a crappy 80’s slasher flick no one has ever heard of, we get a send up to the violent and atmospheric giallo films of the 1970’s with Andreas Marschall’s, Masks.
Masks thankfully is a much stronger follow up release in the Reelgore line, although it’s still far away from being a great or even good film. Telling the story of wannabe actress Stella, Masks is a giallo throwback in the vein of Suspiria, though any comparisons to that film will only serve to hurt Masks and possibly set expectations much too high.
Stella, who longs to be a great actress, is accepted into a private acting school in Berlin, the Matteusz Gdula-Institute. In the 70’s, Matteusz Gdula, the schools founder, used a teaching method which drove students to their absolute mental limits. The infamous method was known to cause strange deaths and was eventually banned after Gdula committed suicide. In present day the school is still very much active, but with the abandoned wing where Gdula’s methods were practiced being locked away. The past still haunts Matteusz Gdula-Institute though, and at night Stella hears the cries of the past throughout the corridors of the school.
It’s an interesting enough if not a somewhat familiar set up for the film. Unfortunately, it spirals into an overly long mess of a movie. Convoluted plots are a part of the charm of giallo; it could be forgivable here if the other aspects of Masks were as strong as other films of this ilk. Where Masks falls short is that when it does find the time for a set piece, they just aren’t that memorable, and lack any real excitement. Violent Shit was crap, but it was a spectacle of grueling bloodshed and gore. It definitely delivered on the modern gore film promised from Reelgore Releasing. Masks, while certainly not lacking in violence, bloodshed, and gore just feels tame in comparison.
The most glaring issue with Masks is that it’s just a slog to get through. There is way too much time spent with Stella aimlessly wandering through eerie hallways with spooky noises. It’s just not exciting to watch, and with a run time of a 1 hour and 45 minutes, it feels like the film could of been tightened up in editing quite a bit. Masks isn’t helped by the poor sets. They amount to nothing more than hallways draped with plastic and colored lighting, I honestly hated how this movie looked.
None of this is to say that Masks isn’t worth a watch for genre fans. As a result, it has some cool moments and an increasingly confusing ending sure to please giallo fans. Masks is at its strongest in the final 20-25 minutes with just enough to carry it through the bloated run time for those who know what they are getting into. Plus, a satisfying and effectively creepy finale keeps Masks from being a total letdown after sitting through the somewhat boring first three quarters.
Masks is a modern film shot in digital high definition so it of course looks fine. Colors and detail look good and the image is very clear aside from a few brief moments of digital noise on the screen. Sadly, it does not matter how clear an image is when it’s in service of a cheap looking digitally shot movie. The image overall is flat, lacking in any real depth, and for a movie filmed with so many useless hallways, the cinematography used to guide us through them just looks boring.
One of the most exciting aspects of giallo filmmaking, especially in the style of Dario Argento, is the use of color and wonderful camera movements. Masks lacks any of that, and instead provides a standard looking low budget movie. It is made even cheaper looking by its flat digital image and numerous uses of a terrible film grain and scratch overlay.
Reelgore Releasing has provided Masks with a great sounding release overall, providing both 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital options, and the fact that it has a great score and soundtrack doesn’t hurt. Dialogue levels sound great, which unless you speak German doesn’t matter anyway. Sebastian Levermann has provided a simply awesome musical score with a catchy little main theme that’s sure to get stuck in your brain. Much like Violent Shit, Masks excels in the audio and music department. I love that all these releases have included soundtracks so far.
Once again, the quality of the release that Reelgore has put together is almost certainly the biggest draw here for Masks. Featuring a solid dual disc Elite case packed with a Blu-ray/DVD combo, the original motion picture soundtrack on a separate CD, an illustrated booklet, and a Reelgore Girls Collectors Card #2. All this comes packed in a beautiful slip-box with some great artwork, they are hand numbered, and limited to 3000 copies.
The discs themselves include a 15 minute behind the scenes featurette, 4 deleted scenes, multiple trailers for the film, and a slideshow of all new stills. The behind the scenes feature amounts to not much more than a series of clips filmed on set. No interviews with cast or crew are present. Thankfully, the included booklet features the director’s introduction and an interview with Andreas Marschall himself. Consequently, this will provide some insight for those looking to dive deeper into the film.
Also worth mentioning, one of the deleted scenes happens to be the most cinematic and best filmed scenes on the whole disc, a meaningless but beautiful 25 seconds that should have been included when the movie was already this long. Fans of the film and this style of cinema will find a lot to love here, and I think collectors will be tempted as well with just how wonderful these Reelgore releases are; they look great on the shelf.
1080p High Definition 2.35:1/16:9
German DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround
German Dolby Digital 2.0
Once again, Reelgore Releasing has put together a perfect package and solid feature set for what is a below average and surely to be divisive film. If you picked up Violent Shit, I’d say grabbing Masks is a no-brainer; it’s a definite step up and it’s always great to continue support for a Blu-ray distributor putting this much passion into their releases. For everyone else, Masks is hard to recommend; it’s an interesting movie, but it just doesn’t deliver in a way one would hope. For collectors who want to own unique films presented in stellar packages, Masks deserves a spot on your shelf.