Skull: The Mask (Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá) (2020)

Skull: The Mask first published by

Skull: The Mask (Skull: A Máscara de Anhangá) begins with a portentous ancient prayer text about “the dirt in the world summoning Anhangá”.  The pejorative phrase ‘dirt in the world’ is used of those arrogant individuals who seek to have incarnated in themselves the power of the pre-Columbian chthonic deity Tahawantinsupay – and their attempt to gain such power is said to “move the Earth bowels”, a colourful if obscure phrase suggestive of the shit that will be stirred up by such hubristic acts. 

This second feature from writers/directors Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman (Uptake Fear, 2016) does not make us wait long to see to what this means in practice. For in a 1944-set prologue – part Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), part Hellboy (2004) –  Nazis steal the ancient mask of Anhangá from an Allied archaeological site in the Amazon forest to perform their own horrific sacrificial ritual that will end very bloodily for those involved.

Cut to 2019, and Tack Walder (Ivo Müller), ruthless representative of a Chinese conglomerate, will stop at nothing to gain possession of the artefact – but the mask has a life of its own, and has soon attached itself to a man’s body, and heads into São Paulo in search of enough human hearts and entrails to resurrect Tahawantinsupay. On the trail of this supernatural serial killer (Rurik JR) are a conflicted police detective (Natallia Rodrigues), an urban Shaman (Wilton Andrade), a faithless priest (Ricardo Gelli) and Walder’s righthand man (Tristan Aronovich), even as an apocalypse approaches that threatens to return the world to “being chaotic and dark”.

Skull: The Mask offers all the gory kills and practical effects of an Eighties slasher, while subverting the genre’s norms by situating its evil less in a relentless, mute murderer than in the transformative mask that an innocent party wears. There is an allegorical subtext here too, implied by that opening text: for this holy slaughterer both opposes and embodies those colonial, military and corporate interests that wish to exploit Brazil’s indigenous history and natural resources for their own selfish empowerment.  The moral crux which faces the compromised policewoman Beatriz Obdias, caught as she is between serving the people or her own corrupted ambitions, might even be regarded as a national dilemma in the age of Bolsonaro.

Strap: Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman bring bloody body-count bedlam (and an allegory of national rapine) to the streets of contemporary São Paulo 

Anton Bitel