I’ve seen a lot of updates about Charles Christman’s MASKS on Instagram, and I’ve even discussed the movie with one of its lead actors, Roberto Lombardi. I’m pleased to say this title has finally entered the film festival circuit and was even nominated for four awards at the Terror Film Festival. I’m even more pleased to have received a screener so I can check it out myself. MASKS is an anthology of sorts; comprised of an introductory short and three segments that are heavily themed with real life horror. Back 2 Ninety 9 Productions and Charles Christman III created an anthology that was gory, unpredictable, relate-able and teeming with violence. It has a central villain, one who I think audiences are going to go for, that exists in one form or another in each short, but ultimately leads the plot in a mass violence or serial killer route instead of a straight-up slasher. Still, think of the villain as Chromeskull from the 2009 and 2011 movies from Robert Green Hall and picture him as a vigilante of sorts with a killer voice. All he wants to do is remove the MASKS of society.
MASKS starts with a very effective opening sequence involving the central villain gutting a lonely man in the woods. From there, the audience is treated to three short segments of various lengths that feature two longtime friends coming home from the bar and the wild and deadly end their night comes to; two business partners discussing how other cultures mourn death; and a mom with two kids playing outside while a violent altercation happens in an alleyway nearby. I have to say, the opening sequence was my favorite and I wish the rest of MASKS stayed like that. I also feel that the order of the shorts are somewhat disjointed. As a viewer and reviewer, I think MASKS would be more effective if the placement of each mini-movie was switched up. I think short #2 (Facade) should have come first, followed by short #3 (Exordium), then short #1 (Sentient) coming next and ending the whole thing with the opening sequence. That’s just my opinion, though. MASKS was a huge collaboration between talents on both sides of the camera with Charles Christman III leading as writer/director. Obviously he had his reasons in mind for why the movie should read as it does.
Charles Christman III also served as producer along with Roberto Lombardi, John McBride, Wendell Raulston Jr., Scott Perloff and Anthony Horton. Andrew R. Berchick served as co-writer on certain shorts as did Roberto Lombardi. MASKS was edited by Scott Perloff and Julian Rodriguez with Wendell Raulston handling cinematography. Robert Lombardi, Anthony Horton, Walter DeShields, W. Keigh Sgrillo, Charles Christman, Jesus M. Villanueva, Christian Chase, Brooke Storms, Hanna Kathryn Young, Robert Trost and Isabella Trost comprise the lead and supporting cast of MASKS. As a production, I have to say that MASKS is going to get equal levels of praise and constructive criticism. I’ll start with the negatives because this review has been fairly positive so far. There are some audio problems in the first segment that subtract from the overall quality of the movie. It’s a little too independent sounding for a film that’s actually quite polished and professional. Also, the camera quality jumps around a bit, giving the impression that two different cameras were used during principal photography. I’m a big fan of cohesiveness, so I like all parts of the movies I watch to look the same.
On the plus side, all of the actors and casting directors did a superb job here. The interactions between characters were all so realistic and it’s hard to find that type of chemistry in this day and age. Fantastic actors who work and exist well together? I’ll take it. I liked that MASKS is a fully cinematic and thematic journey, taking you into the depths of the wicked human mind in a believable way that perhaps some of us have seen or thought about in real life. Drug addition, gun violence, identity theft, and hopelessness are all explored in this movie from Charles Christman III. I always appreciate a film with themes and values over shock-and-awe scare tactics. MASKS is a very talkative movie, but there’s depth to those words and they usher the stories and character development along in an organic way. Well done, writers. Finally, this anthology is full of palpable suspense and surprise twists and turns. It’s gory in the right places, hypnotic when it needs to reel the viewer in closer, and an unexpected romp into real life terror. Look for MASKS at a film festival near you in 2017, 2018 and beyond. Final Score: 7 out of 10.