October 17, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Shane Dax Taylor
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “Masquerade” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: While her parents are away from home, an 11-year-old girl is menaced by masked intruders.
Culture Audience: “Masquerade” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching badly made horror movies that have stupid and gimmicky plot twists.
“Masquerade” is a trashy film with a gimmicky twist ending that tries to put a different spin on “home invasion” horror movie stereotypes. However, the movie’s conclusion misses the mark because it’s a half-baked and sloppily executed idea. Until viewers get to the ending (assuming that viewers make it that far in watching this terrible movie), “Masquerade” is a tedious slog about home invaders who inflict terror on an 11-year-old girl who’s trapped in the house. Meanwhile, there’s a simultaneous storyline of a married couple being driven home by a party catering employee who has sinister intentions for them.
Written and directed by Shane Dax Taylor, “Masquerade” begins with an upscale fundraising party at a restaurant in an unnamed U.S. city. (“Masquerade” was actually filmed in the Kentucky cities of Louisville, Prospect and Goshen.) The party guests are encouraged to wear masquerade-type masks. The party hosts are happily married couple Daniel (played Austin Nichols) and Olivia (played by Mircea Monroe), who are in their late 30s or early 40s.
A server in her early 20s named Rose (played by Bella Thorne) has been closely observing Daniel and Olivia at the party. At one point, Olivia and Rose happen to be in the restroom at the same time. While they stand near the restroom mirror, Rose compliments Olivia by saying that Olivia has a “dream life. You actually remind me of my mom. She passed away several years ago.” Rose then says she’s sorry for making such a depressing comment at what’s supposed to be a festive occasion, but Olivia is gracious and tells Rose that it’s okay.
Meanwhile, two intruders are lurking in a wooded area as they prepare for a home invasion. These intruders, who are dressed entirely in black, aren’t wearing ordinary masks. They’re wearing helmets with meshed face coverings that are similar to what beekeepers would wear. The home invaders are also wearing devices that disguise their voices.
The intruders are a man (whose identity is later revealed) and a woman (played by Skyler Samuels), who are targeting a well-to-do family’s home that’s near the woods. Inside the home are an 11-year-old girl named Casey (played by Alyvia Alyn Lind) and her babysitter Sophia (played by Joana Metrass), who are watching a horror movie before Casey goes to bed. The burglars are there to steal some valuable art. Most of the movie is about what happens when the intruders break into the home.
Meanwhile, it’s shown early on that Rose is up to no good. During the party, Rose sneaks into a back room of the restaurant to make a secretive phone call, where she tells the person on the other line to disable a house’s security system by cutting the power line. When the party ends, Rose offers Daniel and Olivia a car ride back to the couple’s home because Rose says she needs the money. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Rose is setting up this couple for some type of crime.
When “Masquerade” isn’t showing what happens with Casey trapped inside the house, it shows what’s going on with Rose and her attempts to delay bringing Daniel and Olivia back to their home, in order give her accomplices more time. Rose gets text messages from her cronies asking her to keep stalling Daniel and Olivia. The movie makes it obvious early on that Rose is involved in planning a home burglary. But, without giving away any spoiler information, it’s enough to say that all is not what it first appears to be in “Masquerade.”
Some ridiculous things happen, such as the idiotic burglars deciding to take too much time inside the house to mess around with the art that they’re supposed to be stealing. Instead of finding the art, stealing it, and getting out of the house as soon as possible, they increase their chances of getting caught by overstaying in the house. And of course, things get complicated when the burglars find out that Casey is a witness. The fact that these burglars didn’t make sure ahead of time that no one was in the house before they broke in is all you need to know about how stupid these criminals are.
All of the characters in this movie are very hollow and written with generic and often-insipid dialogue. Lind makes some effort to bring some suspense as the terrified Casey. But so much of “Masquerade” is just bland horror cliché after bland horror cliché. The most intriguing character is supposed to be Rose, but Thorne isn’t a good-enough actress to convincingly portray a mysterious person. Instead of depicting someone who’s enigmatic, she comes across as lethargic.
Most viewers are really going to hate the ending of this movie. When secrets are revealed, it will feel like 95% of the movie was a just a poorly conceived manipulation. Casey isn’t the only person who will feel trapped in this “Masquerade” fiasco. This entire movie holds viewers hostage with its dull and substandard filmmaking. It’s a horror film that ultimately fails at the most basic thing that a horror movie is supposed to do: Be scary.
Shout! Studios released “Masquerade” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 30, 2021.