DreadWorld Review: 'The Laughing Mask' (2014/16)

Mixing motifs is nothing new to the horror genre. Whether it's the Scream-initiated horror/comedy, or the Alien inspired sci-fi/ horror film, as a general rule horror tends to blend seamlessly with other types of film. One of the tried and true horror blender creations is the melding of horror with the police procedural. Whether on the big screen in recent film's like Saw, Silence of the Lambs or Kiss the Girls, or on television via shows like the CSI franchise, "Criminal Minds" or the classic "Dexter", the police procedural and horror go together like two peas in a pod.

Writer/Director Michael Aguiar throws his hat into the police procedural/horror mash up world with his latest feature, The Laughing Mask. A blend of the revenge slasher and the classic "who done it" procedural with a dash of 40's inspired noir thrown in, The Laughing Mask excels when presenting the slasher parts of its buffet, but fails miserable when the actors are forced to convey the more meaty, procedural parts of the script.

There is a lot going on this film so I am going to attempt to set the scene...but bear with me because it's rather dense. Detective Katherine O'Malley (Sheyenne Rivers) has been on medical leave/vacation since the events of her job caused her to have a breakdown. While she's been gone street gang The Rancors have wrestled control of the city from the rather inept police department. While the city descends into lawlessness, a vigilante appears in the form of a masked serial killer taking vengeance on those who have done wrong, including many members of  The Rancors. O'Malley is called back into duty to not only stop the rise of The Rancors but to unravel the mystery of The Laughing Mask vigilante.

I mentioned above how the film has two specific moieties, one - the part chronicling the exploits of Laughing Mask is excellent. The other, Aguiar's attempt to build an interesting police procedural narrative, is deeply flawed - and that's putting it very kindly. It is painfully obvious that as a writer and a director Aguilar is much more comfortable with the chaos and mayhem his lead character can dispatch. When it comes to dialogue and especially the execution of said dialogue, the film is almost comical in it's ineptness. The Laughing Mask is not helped by some of the worst editing ever seen in a film.

When The Laughing Mask is good, it's very good. Laughing Mask is an interesting killer. He's got a style,a motif and a justifiable motivation. Aguiar's choice to pair his look, feel, and sound with that of the classic 20's and 30's is truly inspired. It's a shame that there is 50 minutes or so of terrible acting and awful dialogue spread throughout the film instead of more Laughing Mask exploits.

For those looking for a different voice and feel in the slasher genre, Aguiar certainly brings something different to the table. His creation, Laughing Mask is the seed of something brilliant. The kills in the film, while not groundbreaking or anything that will make you wretch up your lunch are certainly satisfactory and should appease most gore hounds and fans of the slasher genre.

The Laughing Mask is a promising, yet uneven film, dragged down to substandard levels by a laughable script and acting that would make most community theater troupes blush. Check it out on VOD now.

** stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "Enjoy every sandwich."

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