Though its USP is an unstoppable supernatural serial killer cutting a gory swathe through a succession of random folks in Sao Paolo, there’s a lot going on in Skull. Several sinister factions are out to exploit a pre-Columbian magic artifact for evil ends, a cop struggles to overcome her compromised reputation, disappeared kids raise social issues of a South American kind, a servant of the church has to take on a dangerous legacy, and viewers have to sort out a pantheon of demonic nasties. The main menace is the Mask of Anhangá, executioner of Tahawatinsupay — though it’s not clear whether Anhangá was employed by Tahawatinsupay as an executioner or was responsible for executing Tahawatinsupay.
In a Hellboy-type 1944 prologue, one set of villains get hold of the Mask — a gore-bedecked horned skull, perhaps distantly related to the masks of The Mask (1961) and The Mask (1994). The the sacrificial ritual goes awry and carnage ensues. Many years later, the damned thing is dug up again by archaeologist Galvani Volta (Guta Ruiz), who is beholden to creepy businessman Tack Waelder (Ivo Muller), CEO of a sinister Chinese enterprise. Lilah (Greta Antoine), Galvani’s goth girlfriend, makes another hash of the invocation ritual.
For a while, the animate skull acts a little like a super-strength version of the title object from Freddie Francis’s The Skull with a few licks from The Thing, floating about, chewing people, sprouting killer tentacles, and getting along very nicely on its own. Then it gets stuck on a hulking guy (Rurik Jr) who struts about killing like Jason (or, in some over-the-top splat scenes, the Toxic Avenger) and is much less interesting than the disembodied skull was.
Detective Obdias (Natalia Rodrigues), who allegedly once took part in a massacre, is on the murder case, with Waelder using his influence to get her to ignore the trivial matter of all these dead people in order to concentrate on the important thing (getting the mask back). Obdias is also supposed to be looking for some missing kids, who happen to be in Waelder’s basement – prepped for yet another stab at that ritual of ascent to ultimate power. Manco (Wilton Andrade), a near-derelict, has been charged with combatting the evil by the church – and shows up with a flame-thrower, which doesn’t always work.
Skull has a lot of good things in the mix, but assembles the pieces haphazardly – it’s the work of two writer-directors (Armando Fonseca, Kapel Furman), and has the feel of a collaboration between one guy who wants to make a supernaturally-tinged policier with a social conscience and another who’d love to be on the cover of Fangora circa 1989.