Death Mask

Death Mask (1998)
MTI Home Video
Cast: James Best, Linnea Quigley
Extras: Featurette, Trailer, Bios, Deleted Scene, Outtakes, Previews, Trivia Game

So, I’m looking at the box for the ’Death Mask’ DVD and I see the name James Best on it about five different places. And I’m thinking to myself, ’James Best. Where do I know that name from? Did I go to school with him?’ Well, I pop in the DVD and the answer comes to me immediately. Go ahead and close that ’Where are they now?’ file, because James Best is Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from ’The Dukes of Hazzard.’ Yes, Sheriff Roscoe went from Hazzard County to straight-to-video land. And not only does he star in ’Death Mask’, he’s also the screenwriter and executive producer. In ’Death Mask’, Best plays Wilbur Johnson, a carnival worker who was abused and disfigured as a child, who harbors insane thoughts and seeks revenge on the world. He becomes friends with Angel (Linnea Quigley), a dancer in the carnival sideshow. After hearing Wilbur’s story, Angel takes him to the swamp, where he meets a witch (Brigitte Hill). The witch gives Wilbur the titular ’Death Mask’, which causes a violent and painful death to Wilbur’s enemies when he dons the mask. So, Wilbur goes on a killing spree and it’s up to Angel to try and convince him to stop.

’Death Mask’ was directed by Steve Latshaw, who also directed the mega-stinker, ’Jack-O.’ But, if you’re like me, and grew up watching 80’s slasher films, then you may find that ’Death Mask’ has a certain charm. Sure, the story is stupid, the acting is horrible, and the low-budget shows at every turn, but there is plenty of violence and some nudity, that proves that they just don’t make them like they used to. James Best hams it up in every scene and Linnea Quigley proves that she’s still willing to take her clothes off whenever necessary. The film doesn’t aim to be anything more than campy fun, and on that point, it delivers. ’Death Mask’ is by no means a good movie, but it does fill a certain niche in the horror genre.
’Death Mask’ is presented full-frame on its DVD debut. The film image is clear, but somewhat grainy at times. Also, the image gets a little blurry during certain scenes. There is a small amount of noise on the image, and some defects are obvious in the source print. The digital transfer does render the colors in the film quite nicely. The garrish hues of the carnival come across as very rich and true.

The audio on the ’Death Mask’ DVD is a digital mono. There is some noticeable hissing on the soundtrack at times, but otherwise the dialogue is clear and audible.

The ’Death Mask’ DVD has several special features. There’s a ’making of’ segment which runs about five minutes. This featurette offers interviews with Best, Quigley, and Latshaw, as they discuss the origins of the film and how it was made. The DVD also includes the trailer for the film, which is presented full-frame. (Notice that although the ’Death Mask’ logo appears, the voice-over calls the film ’Mask of Death’.) There are several outtakes, and one deleted scene, which features a great deal of ad-libbing by James Best. There are bios for James Best and Linnea Quigley. The DVD also features trailers for two other MTI releases, ’West New York’ and ’Motel Blue’. The strangest extra feature is a trivia game, which asks questions about the movie. (I didn’t know that I was going to have to watch the film that closely.) I can only recommend ’Death Mask’ to hardcore horror fans. Now, if Enos and Boss Hogg had been in the film, then that would be a different story.