The Laughing Mask | Review

Torturous revenge horror is now being served on VOD from the peeps at Leomark Studios. Kernel Fi gets her horror on and reviews THE LAUGHING MASK from director, Michael Aguilar.  They sent us a copy and while it looked horrendously B-Grade Fi appears to have enjoyed it more than I was expecting. While not officially rated in Australia I would rate this an MA15+ score and the movie runs for 101mins. Enjoy Fi’s thoughts……..all the best…….JK.


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Directed by Michael Aguiar and starring Sheyenne Rivers, John Hardy and Gabriel Lee THE LAUGHING MASK is more thriller than horror. The mask itself, a leather affair with laces, reminded me a little of THE MASK a la Jim Carrey. Perhaps this had more to do with the fact that the Laughing Mask Killer has a penchant for 1940’s/50’s music that he plays as he hacks up his victims, interspersing the carnage with sadistic laughter. The music certainly adds a macabre quality to the bloodletting.

Jack Johnson is a writer with a vendetta. His wife, Jaycee (no not the Messiah) was murdered by the Laughing Mask some years ago and now his daughter, Barbara has been kidnapped by the same monster. In a bid to lure the Laughing Mask Killer to him, he sets about writing a  provocative manuscript (thrashed out on an ancient manual typewriter) about the killer in a bid to draw him in.

Head of the police investigation into a seemingly endless spate of murders is Detective Kate O’Malley. A fiery red head she is a part-time mother and a bit of a sex fiend. Aguiar has her dressed in button-popping shirts and low-slung jeans and doesn’t miss an opportunity to flash her breasts at the camera. Kate’s colleagues are a couple of misogynistic jocks who insist on commenting on a victim’s boobs and making sexually inappropriate jokes with Kate. There is no respect for the dead with this team or women in general. Aguiar gets around the possibility of degenerating into rampant sexism by casting Kate as the crusader able to give as good as she gets.


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Like a lot of movies in the horror genre, the acting is questionable. Some of the exchanges at police head-quarters sound as if the actors are part of a high school play and are reading directly off the script. The delivery of lines is stilted and wooden and at times it really feels like Amateur Hour.

There is also a lack of authenticity in the strip club known as The Barn. The pole dancer in her mismatching underwear looks as if she has never encountered a pole in her life and the E-bay obsessive who maniacally buys and sells is so unbelievable in his role that I was almost cheering when the Laughing Mask showed up to silence him.

Bizarrely, an interesting stand out was a pimp character whose acting prowess far out stripped that of his co-stars. In comparison to his victim, a snivelling, wailing prostitute, the pimp’s performance was noteworthy.


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Perhaps the eerie soundtrack including hits such as Boogie Woogie Man by The Brian Sisters, It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie by Ruth Etting and Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin is a nod at director Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION and RESERVOIR DOGS. Whatever the case, it works and elevates the movie from schlock to a firm B grade. The gory scenes are fairly tempered in that Aguiar tends to present viewers with an idea of butchery, a splash of blood then either fades to black or pans away from extended guts and savagery.


Attempts have been made to layer the plot so there are various branches of the one story occurring and some red herrings to boot. In this respect there is a moderately complex mystery at the heart of the movie. The avoidance of any supernatural elements is also a plus, with the bad guys being humans rather than creatures. This is Aguilar’s directing debut and perhaps given time and a slightly better cast, he might make a better quality movie. B grade bad but not terrible.


2 and a Half Pops




Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then. You can catch her and her tweets at @FionaJayneFyfe1

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.