Art dealers Daniel (Austin Nichols, Walker, The Walking Dead) and Olivia (Mircea Monroe, Tekken, Houndz From Hell) are at a masquerade party. Their eleven year old daughter Casey (Alyvia Alyn Lind, The Young and the Restless, Dark Skies) is home with her babysitter Sofia (Joana Metrass, We Die Young) But she’s about to have visitors.
A masked couple, Patrick (Michael Proctor, Boris and the Bomb) and his companion identified only as Woman (Skyler Samuels, The Stepfather, Scream Queens) break in to steal the priceless artwork hanging on their walls. A hammer to the skull takes care of Sofia, leaving Casey to fend for herself. Her parents are on their way home, that is if Rose (Bella Thorne, The Babysitter, Assassination Nation) the suspiciously helpful bartender can be trusted.
Masquerade caught my attention because it got considerable press from the likes of Dread Central, Fangoria, etc. calling it a horror film despite the trailer looking like a heist film. So I went into it expecting something along the lines of Babysitter Must Die or Becky. The film’s first kill certainly seemed to confirm that, the masked killer repeatedly bludgeoning the skull of their victim while telling their shocked partner that the plans have changed.
Unfortunately, Masquerade gets very tame after that with lots of scenes of paintings being carefully removed from frames, conversations in the car between Daniel, Olivia and Rose and Casey hiding in various parts of the house. It’s not until the halfway mark that things start to pick up again. When they do though, Masquerade feels very much like a crime thriller, the kind where everyone’s got a secret. And you need to figure out what they are and who’s planning to double cross who.
The problem is, there’s a lot of very dull wandering around in the dark to get through before Masquerade gets to the point. Even after the parents get home it takes its time getting to the point. It’s supposed to be suspenseful, since anyone could walk into the wrong person at the wrong time. But it’s all so leisurely paced I was left wondering how big the house was that they weren’t running into each other. Or why the thieves didn’t take what they had and run, rather than keep slowly cutting paintings free.
Writer/director Shane Dax Taylor should have a better handle on this, he co-wrote the excellent Scott Adkins vehicle Close Range. He also co-wrote as well as directed Isolation, which was an acceptable thriller. Unfortunately, without the help of co-writer Chad Law he seems unable to generate much in the way of tension leaving much of Masquerade feeling like an extended game of hide and seek.
While they are ruthless, the intruders aren’t particularly bright or even competent. Even worse, they’re dull and uninteresting. And once again to make the plot work we have villains pulling a high-stakes job and none of them are carrying a gun.
Finally, in the last few minutes, Masquerade hits us with its shocking secret and lurches back into what could be called horror territory. Unfortunately, in delivering the film’s one actual shock, it nullifies much of that reveal. Taylor suddenly wants us to feel for the home invaders, but there’s no justifying what they’ve done. The fact that he thinks it can be is maybe the most shocking thing about this whole mess.
Masquerade ends up being seventy minutes of boredom capped off by ten minutes that want to be shocking and edgy but merely feel cynical. It’s not even worth checking out when it ends up on Tubi. And if you’re intending to watch it because of Thorne, be warned, she’s barely in it until the end.
Masquerade will be available from Shout! Studios On Digital, On Demand & In Select Theaters July 30th, 2021. You can check their Facebook page for details.