Masque of the Red Death 1989 Review
Masque of the Red Death1989
Directed by: Alan Birkinshaw
Starring: Frank Stallone, Brenda Vaccaro, Christine Lundé
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is an update of my IMDB review from January 2005. I wanted to post it here, so last night I watched the film again. I must be the one of the few people alive who has seen this ‘classic’ more than once. (The rest were probably crew members) If there’s anyone else that has achieved this feat, I take my hat off to you…
Alan Birkinshaw’s Masque of the Red Death was one of two movies released in the same year that attempted to give a classic Edgar Allan Poe tale the full slasher makeover. Gerard Kikoine’s abysmal Buried Alive was the second of the pair to secure a worldwide release, but both efforts were heavily panned and didn’t take too long to vanish into obscurity. Buried Alive was notable mainly for two cast-related reasons. Firstly, it was the last screen role for horror vet John Carradine before his untimely death in 1988. Secondly it is perhaps most curiously remembered for an awful performance from the usually reliable Donald Pleasance.
At first glance I hoped that Masque’s intriguing premise would be enough to make it the better of the efforts. It boasts an interesting ensemble of prolific B-movie faces and also a killer’s disguise to rival the hilarity of the costumes featured in both Girl’s Nite Out and Killer Party.
Eccentric millionaire Ludwig (Herbert Lom) is hosting a masked ball at his huge 18th-century castle in honour of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. The party-goers are all rich and famous celebrities that owe a majority of their fortune to the mysterious bachelor. All except Rebecca Stephens (Michelle Hoey) who is nothing but an ambitious journalist that has forged a dodgy invitation to get a story on the conceited actress, Elaina Hart (Brenda Vaccaro). During the eighties, not many fancy dress parties commenced without someone ending up splattered (think – Hack-O-Lantern, Terror Train, Small Town Massacre, Killer Party etc) – and this one certainly isn’t looking to break the mould in that respect either. Before long a maniac wearing a disguise that’s hilariously similar to that of a Star Wars Imperial Guard begins hacking his way through the guest list using various imaginative methods. So who is this maniacal intruder and what are his motives for murder?
Wow! The fromage is spread thick and fast throughout this goofy slasher like lunchtime at a mall-cafeteria after a weekend’s famine. As soon as I saw a typical mid-eighties soft rawwwwwk group turn up with an entourage of female dancers that sported hair higher than the Ronettes’ beehives, I knew that I was in for something that a straight vodka would most definitely help with. Or perhaps two. Or three…?
The story is ‘interestingly’ structured so that victims wander off to their doom in the most hilarious of ways. At midnight for example, the revellers are invited to partake in ‘King Ludwig’s great Easter egg hunt’. This of course means that they can split up to stroll around the castle whilst sporting fashions that even The Village People would flee from. They are finally rescued from further humiliation by the blade of the maniac, whose ‘scary’ killer-guise is one of my favourite of the genre. When the guests finally realise that there is a psycho roaming the stone corridors, Ludwig has the ingenious idea of locking everyone inside for six hours for reasons that remain unexplained. He’s not even the murderous psycho? This leads to perhaps the biggest laugh-out-loud moment of the bunch when Frank Stallone is confronted by the assassin and decides to grab a sword and square-up for a fencing contest. I guess I shouldn’t really have to tell you that he gets exactly what he deserves.
Now for an ancient castle, I do have to admit that Ludwig’s abode was incredibly high-tech. He had fitted alongside the usual couches and bed linen an impressive bundle of gadgets, which included video surveillance and electronic gates that a billion chainsaws couldn’t cut through. All that security, but no space for a phone, radio or any such appliance to make contact with the outside world? Ummm okey…
If you’ve stumbled upon my website, then I’m guessing that you’re a genre regular and by now must have seen a cheesy eighties slasher movie and are fully prepared to take-on the wealth of ‘underwhelming’ performances. Frank Stallone manages the only two emotions he can muster: cheesy and mega cheesy, whilst the rest of the cast look to be comfortably going through the motions. I did however like watching Christine Lundé, who suspicious accent aside, at least made the most of her ‘a tad more than eye candy’ role, Look out for the laughable final scene that sees the heroine and the unmasked killer scrap like junior kids in a school playground – truly a spectacle fit for the ‘King’ Ludwig. I am sure that he was really impressed. Or was he dead by then? Darn I don’t remember…
Thankfully some of the murders were quite imaginative and even go as far as to include a couple of ‘death traps’. Birkinshaw, a name that you should have seen by now after his work on Ten Little Indians, Killer’s Moon (not a slasher) and Don’t Open ’til Christmas, shows that he knows a thing or two about horror. I liked the scene that saw an unfortunate female get chained beneath a swinging axe-like pendulum that was motorised by a huge clock. As the seconds tick away, the blade drops an inch closer to her throat and if the minute hand reaches twelve, then it’s adiós from her. He builds a nice slice of suspense with the set-up, especially as we see Rebecca struggling desperately to free the victim from certain demise. There are also a couple of other fairly gruesome moments that I won’t spoil for you, but I have to say that when the killer is finally revealed, it does somewhat leave you scratching your head in confusion at how he managed to orchestrate such mayhem.
On the plus side, Scott Wheeler’s tacky gore-lite effects are good fun and there’s a fair few of them for you to feast on. Also, fans of trashola will be in heaven, because as I have eluded to throughout, there’s more corniness here than at a Unicorn’s Acorn convention in Cornwall.
I finished my initial review of this with the line: There’s really nothing solid here to recommend and Masque fails on almost every level. Now I want to update that with, This is complete eighties trash and if you haven’t seen it, your life will never be complete.
Killer Guise: √√√√√
Final Girl: √√
Posted on October 20, 2012, in Pure Eighties Cheese, Slasher and tagged cheesy wotsit, Hot Chicas, masked killer, Masque of the Red Death, Rare Slasher, slasher in the house. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.