Stars: Sheyenne Rivers, John Hardy, Floyd Adams, Arisia Aguiar, Jade Aguiar, Bill Asbury, Laura Bush, Liz M. Day, Manny Dortanieves, Anthony Giovanni Elias, Flavia Falquetti, Matt Ganey, Jeffrey Gwyn Jenkins | Written and Directed by Michael Aguiar
Now, I love a good slasher flick as much as the next horror fan, so The Laughing Mask looked like it had potential in the opening credits which saw a blade-wielding masked killer laughing maniacally while apparent victims were tied to chairs before him. This, intercut with black and white classic skeletal animation and music to match was an interesting and attention grabbing start.
The plot of the film surrounds a man named Jake Johnson whose wife and daughter were brutally murdered by a psychotic and demented killer known only as “The Laughing Mask”. The police search for clues all the while more and more gory murder scenes crop up. Johnson takes things to a new level in order to find the cackling creep who snuffed out his family.
The plot is simplistic in many way but in this case that’s a good thing. Over complicating matters in films that are essentially cat-and-mouse slasher flicks can be a catastrophe. I enjoyed the story here, and found the twists and turns to be fun and gripping. It held my attention for it’s running time and when the final moments arrived I was pretty happy with how things ended. This was director Michael Aguiar’s debut feature and while it shows at times, it is also pretty accomplished filmmaking at times too. The glossy sheen on the film was a little off-putting at first. I did feel like a little more grit could have been implemented. As things went on though, I accepted that the gloss and sheen works due to the police case going on in the background. It feels like part slasher film and part crime thriller, and so the clean and non-grimy feel to much of the presentation wasn’t too bad in the end.
Performance wise, it was what I expected. There were some iffy and wooden jobs done by some of the assembled cast, but there were some decent efforts here too. The rapport between Sheyenne Rivers’ (Dark Woods) character Kate and Jake, played by John Hardy (Treasure) works well, and the story itself, as well as the well designed and intriguing villain of the piece, means that the acting doesn’t spoil things too much, and even at it’s worst, it isn’t completely dire.
I thought the practical effects were nicely done, and I have to speak again about The Laughing Mask himself. The design of the killer is really inspired and offers a new and interesting design for a maniac on screen.
At times it felt like a serial killer thriller and at other times it felt like a hack and slash horror flick like My Bloody Valentine, but regardless it did what it set out to do and offered a cool killer and some nicely realised twists along the way as it told it’s tale. Sure, the acting leaves much to be desired, there are moments when the dialogue makes even the most rough-and-tumble b-movie fan cringe, and the glossy feel was a bit off-putting, but there is also some really interesting ideas going on here, and a masked creep with a crimson knife who should appeal to many of those bloodthirsty horror-hounds out there.
The Laughing Mask is out now on DVD and VOD from Leomark Studios.