After the release of The Editor on Blu-ray last year and with the remake of Susperia in the works, it would seem that there is a slow revival of the Giallo film. For those unaware of the term or style, it’s basically a horror/ mystery film that tended to have slasher elements that emerged out of Italy. These were beautiful and stylish films that directors like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci were the ambassadors of. While The Editor was more of a spoof of the genre, though well done, it is Masks that has really gotten my attention. Though it comes out of Germany, the love and attention to detail in adding so many of the familiar hallmarks of the Giallo film makes Masks more than just a simple homage, but it’s so well executed I could have believed this was a lost Dario Argento film. So many people have gotten wrapped up in trying to emulate the grindhouse and found-footage genre that to see someone attempt to pull off a Giallo is simply refreshing. For those of you out there looking for a horror film that is a step above the standard slasher, Masks is the film I hope to see people rally around.
The story follows Stella (Susen Ermich), a drama student who seems to have talent but just isn’t good enough to be accepted by any of the major schools. At one of her auditions one of the judges sees her and recommends a school for her that can help her take her talents to the next level. Upon her arrival to the school there are talks about some mysterious things occurring to some of the students. I’ll go ahead and say it; the plot sounds a heck of a lot like Susperia, only the teachers are not witches, but for fans of the Italian classic I’m sure the similarities will simply jump out at you.
From the steadycam shots that move through the corridors of the school to the perspective shots from the killer’s POV, or a weapon’s POV, there is plenty of nostalgia to appreciate right out of the gate. Even the overall look of the film looks like one of the old Italian films, and what’s all the more impressive is that it was all shot on digital.
While so much of the film I can appreciate, it’s the actual mythic antagonist that left me somewhat disappointed. You see, at the school they used to teach a very unique and immersive style of acting that involved the students taking hallucinogens and being put under extreme mental stress. While this doesn’t reveal the killer exactly, what bothers me is that it becomes all too obvious that the teachers know more than they are letting on, and there just simply isn’t any true mystery here. Thankfully as the film progresses they decide to toy with us by posing the question about what is real. This is what saves the film from being a disappointment despite it having some truly beautifully shot sequences and some great practical effects for its kills.
Masks is presented in the aspect ratio 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 20 mbps. The film has a very soft look at times and has a slight bit of grain, but this I believe was an intentional choice to continue with the authentic look of the old Giallo pictures of the past. Other times we have scenes where we see heavy greens, reds, and blues which again go along with the look of the old Italian films. By having the colors become overpowering in some sequences there is some slight detail that is lost, but it stays true to what the overall goal was in the presentation of the film. While this may not be deemed a perfect Blu-ray presentation, this is an excellent rendering of a lost Giallo film.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is unfortunately in German, and there is no English dubbed track, though it does come with English subtitles. First I have to applaud the beautiful score by Sebastian Levermann. He nails the mood and scores of previous Giallo films so well; if not for this excellent score the film, I believe, would not have come off so well. This is a well-mixed track as we have numerous sequences of voices and music being heard from other rooms and off screen, and it hits all the creepy notes as needed.
Behind The Scenes: (15:02) I have to admit this is the first time in a while where we’ve gotten to see a true behind-the-scenes feature that focuses all the attention on the making of the film. We see a variety of clips where they are setting up and rehearsing various sequences of the film. This is a bonus that shows about as up-close as you can get to how a film is really made on set.
Deleted Scenes: Here we have four scenes that were cut from the film. They don’t affect the plot in any way; if they remained in the film it wouldn’t have helped or hurt the film any.
A Bonus CD with the films score.
I really enjoyed this one; I went in not knowing what to expect, and this was a really fun film. If you want to impress your friends and show them something other than the standard Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th during your stay-at-home movie marathon, this is the kind of film that is just waiting to be experienced by the masses. With great kills and one of the best horror scores in a while, this is one of the few new must-watches this Halloween season.