Written by: Daniel Hadley
Director: Michael Aguiar
Cast: Floyd Adams, John Hardy, Jeffrey Jenkins
So, when this movie ended I was left in somewhat of a quandary. Was it good? Was it bad? After sitting through another movie, I finally got my answer, it’s actually both! And by that I don’t mean it’s mediocre, The Laughing Mask has one thing going for it, its killer and while The Laughing Mask himself is pretty cartoonish, down to his mannerisms and his comical laugh, I can’t deny it was enjoyable seeing him do his thing.
So the story of the Laughing Mask is a little confusing and when you really think about it, it doesn’t actually make any sense. But given the writer/director’s lack of experience it was understandable. There are some glaring plot holes laden throughout, but to put it simply after Jake’s wife and child are murdered by the Laughing Mask he sets out on a quest for vengeance with the help Kate, a hardnosed detective. It’s a basic plot and it’s kind of sloppily held together with a few third act reveals that really melt it down to an unrecognisable mess. But I suppose those plot holes could be brushed aside due to a certain character insanity but even that is a bit of a stretch. I must admit that when the credits began rolling I was a little confused as to who exactly the Laughing Mask was. When he is revealed the character in question did not suit his body type at all, and this could be down to some form of Tyler Durden like split personality, but it’s made very clear that the Laughing Mask and said other character have different goals and are in fact at times in two different places at the same time.
Lack of experience when it comes to story structure and a narrative through line can often be forgiven if the material is presented in an entertaining way, and The Laughing Mask is an entertaining movie. The titular character being responsible for most of that entertainment but I’ll get onto him later. Entertainment level aside there are a few big problems with this movie, the most obvious being the ability of its performers and while the acting aside from one minor character is never terrible, it ranges from just okay to pretty bad. Micro budget films such as this have never been laden with gold standard performances so I can forgive some bad acting, though when you couple bad acting with bad dialogue then it’s a whole new ball game. Some of the so called “banter” between the police officers is cringeworthy; comedy is a hard thing to get right, if you’re not good at it, well then it really shows. Watching a couple of investigators at a crime scene comment on the recently deceased tits just isn’t a good avenue for humour.
The biggest problem though comes down to the editing which is in some scenes down right amateurish, like low quality youtube levels of amateur. There are two fight scenes in the movie and while one of them is a passable, the latter one is awful, it’s a short scene but it’s laced with terrible edit points and they even sped up the footage to try and make the blows look more impactful, nah sorry it just looks cheap. There are also a few sound issues, but they were mostly forgivable and in all fairness, you’d only notice if you were really listening for them.
I should also point out a little pet peeve of mine which is characters spouting dialogue to themselves. You know when a movie character discovers something and for some reason says it out loud, or even worse just inanely speaking their mind when no one is around – it’s a movie trope that only exists because it’s easier than having a character emote through body language and facial expressions. I see it a lot in TV shows and it’s very prevalent here too; the only character who doesn’t do this is the Laughing Mask and I imagine that’s only because he doesn’t talk.
With all these complaints, you might think I hated this movie, well in fact I found it quite enjoyable. Its hokey dialogue grew on me over the course of the movie and the main draw of the movie was the Laughing Mask himself and he’s pretty great. Sure his mask looks like an old stretched out baseball and the canned laughter accompanying his cartoonish head movements didn’t always sync up, but he was a fun presence none the less. Kind of like a more eccentric, light hearted Rorschach with a better dress sense. He even has his own Jigsaw like lair where he tortures his victims with various forms of ironic torment; watching him gleefully dispatch his prey to the tune of various old 1950’s records is pretty fun to see. Like I said, he’s the main draw here and he doesn’t disappoint.
The effects are a bit of a mixed bag, the practical stuff looks pretty great though the editing lets it down a little. But some low grade CGI and another pet peeve of mine, very fake gun shots; you can’t fake recoil, waving a gun up and down as you add in gunshot sounds in post – just looks bad, plus I can always tell when the gun slide doesn’t move. Like I said, it’s a pet peeve but I see it enough that it really gets on my nerves. The Walking Dead is very guilty of this.
Mistakenly in my opinion it is revealed very early on into the movie that the Laughing Mask is in fact a vigilante and not a serial killer, which does two things: the first is that it obviously makes him more likeable which I’m not against, the second though, makes it pretty obvious that he is not a child killer which makes Jake’s quest to bring him down kind of pointless (though that whole story line falls apart on its own anyway).
This one is a tough one to recommend, as while I applaud the filmmakers’ efforts, their lack of experience and technical skills is very apparent and I know to some that will be reason enough to give this one a no-go. But then again its title character is very entertaining and leading up to the third act the movie did hold my attention, so I’d just advise you to judge for yourself. If the drawbacks are enough to keep away, that’s understandable, but if on the flipside the positives are enough to draw you in, then you’ll get no judgements from me.