By: Anthony Francis
Shane Dax Taylor directed one of the most undervalued films of its decade, 2010’s soulful character piece “Bloodworth” that found Kris Kristofferson as a country singer who returns home to his hometown and the broken family he left behind.
The film was a small and moving film rich in character and place and was one of the finest of its year.
Proving he could do a small (but emotionally big) film of deep characterization; Taylor now turns his camera to the thriller genre with his new film “Masquerade”.
This film stars a quite good Bella Thorne as part of a group of home invaders who break into the home of a wealthy couple to steal priceless art.
The plan immediately goes south, as the robbers planned to do it while the couple was out for the evening. What they did not expect was their young daughter Casey (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and her babysitter were still awake.
The night becomes a bloody, violent, and tense fight for survival for both Casey and the intruders.
It is difficult to make a memorable thriller these days. Hollywood has forgotten how to make them interesting and the On Demand and streaming services are littered with many low budget wannabe nail-biters. The home invasion plotline has definitely been done to death.
Films ranging from Bryan Bertino’s “The Strangers” to William Fruet’s “Death Weekend” to Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece “Straw Dogs” are all strong examples of films that use home invasions to keep audiences on the edge of their seats and sometimes (especially in Peckinpah’s film) to make a statement.
Taylor’s latest film is out to entertain its audience and perhaps induce some nail biting and popcorn chomping moments and it succeeds quite well!
While Casey hides in the attic as the thieves desperately search the house for her, the director achieves some good moments of tension. As she tries to elude the invaders, Thorne’s character is driving the parents back home, trying to stall them while her accomplices are inside the house trying to complete their now “fubar”-tainted mission.
Composer Ben Lovett’s score is as aurally nefarious as the film’s villains. His electronic compositions flow almost constantly through the film, never allowing the audience a reprieve from the tension. The continuous use of Lovett’s work successfully draws comparisons to the way John Carpenter’s score for 1987’s “Prince of Darkness” was a nonstop character of its own and elevated the film’s unease and suspenseful moments. Lovett’s score is always there, surrounding us in the dark and is quite effective.
Mark Rutledge’s cinematography makes proper use of the dark house and its shadows, as the once safety of the home becomes a maze of danger. There are many places to hide while there is nowhere to run.
This film never lets up on the tension and does so without hammering the audience over the head with unnecessary plot points or tired jump scares. Taylor does not need to resort to trickery nor gimmick. His screenplay lays out its succinct plot and puts us inside that house of danger for an hour and twenty minutes of palpable suspense.
“Masquerade” is an exceptionally good film populated by solid performances, tight and suspenseful direction, and a clever finale that gives the whole piece a bit of gravitas.