The Laughing Mask follows an author who has had everyone he loves taken away from him by a serial killer. The laughing mask killer is, naturally, characterized by the grotesque mask he dons, which takes on the rather comical appearance of the kind used in theater.
‘Serial killer’ is a term that is used lightly here because, even though The Laughing Mask tries to give the viewer the hard sell, the killer himself is an incoherent mess who tries too hard to be, well, a psychotic killer. The movie begins with a cringe-worthy sequence involving the laughing mask killer tormenting a woman, who is screaming for her life while tied to a chair. Ignoring her (terribly unconvincing) cries, the killer appears, wearing his trademark mask that seems like it’s made of leather, but the stitching has the unfortunate effect of making him look like an overgrown baseball. Additionally, he is wearing a tailored suit, and shown to be suggestively caressing a knife before plunging it into the woman’s shoulder, all while the sounds of 1940s jazz plays on the radio.
This introduction is so silly, it’s as if the laughing mask killer was created by someone who has absolutely no clue what makes a serial killer tick.
The movie then begins proper with one of the worst depictions of police work I’ve ever seen. The so-called ‘police’, who are extremely unprofessional and disrespectful to each other–especially in male to female interactions–discuss the laughing mask killer as though he is just beginning his career, yet he has taken three victims in three months.
Some of the worst acting accompanies the scenes showing the aftermath of the crimes. Here, it’s when the laughing mask’s victims are being ‘investigated.’ Although it can be difficult to accurately portray police work and the methods of an officer of the law, there are so many obvious gaffs that simply cannot be overlooked in The Laughing Mask.
The audience witnesses police characters handling evidence without gloves, sees pictures of the bodies being taken with smartphones (a lot of departments still use Polaroid-style cameras to prevent accusations of tampering), and a general disrespect for a victim who was, let’s not forget, viciously murdered by the so-called ‘serial killer.’ Furthermore, even though the laughing mask killer can be over the top to the point of not being scary, he is at least trying to fulfill his role. However, the actors playing police officers don’t even try to be convincing. There is a point where this much blatant disregard to the real people who protect our streets and neighbors stops being comical and starts becoming infuriating.
The Laughing Mask starts with a decent concept, that is squandered with too much of everything and not enough of anything. For instance, the laughing mask killer is quite animated considering he doesn’t talk and basically makes the scenes he is in, but when the viewer is shown the inside of his lair, things being to make even less sense.
Without going into too much detail, while The Laughing Mask shows the killer as being an indiscriminate maniac, his lair gives off a Saw meets Jeffrey Dahmer vibe. It is so intricate that the timeline of him being a killer for three months doesn’t make any sense. Also, he constantly changes his M.O. from knives, to torture, to shooting people, which begs the question: How are the police even recognizing that all the victims belong to the same person?
The author also constantly discusses his wife and daughter being ripped away from him and even writes a book on the subject, but besides their deaths, the viewer knows absolutely nothing about them. He reminisces about his daughter, but her name only comes up a handful of times, even though he is supposed to be tormented by her memory.
Overall, The Laughing Mask is an incoherent mess that is filled with pointless dialogue, terrible acting, oddly shot scenes, and a killer who doesn’t even know how to be a killer. Just because he plays old music and doesn’t speak (but laughs a lot) doesn’t make him creepy, scary, or even worthy of being compared to the real-life monsters on which he is based.
The only credit I can really give to The Laughing Mask is that it did a good job hiding the identity of the killer, and the killer himself was mildly entertaining, which broke up the strange story that is hard to follow at its best and utterly incoherent at its worst. The film is on VOD beginning June 24th.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): Michael Aguiar
Writer(s): Michael Aguiar
Stars: Floyd Adams, Arisia Aguiar, Jade Aguiar
Release: June 24, 2016
Studio/ Production Co: Bravestarr Pictures
Length: 101 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Horror, Thriller, Crime