Thursday, July 29, 2021

[Review] ‘Masquerade’ Sleepwalks Through Home Invasion Thriller

Masquerade is defined as a false pretense or pretending to be someone or something else. Writer/Director Shane Dax Taylor opens his home invasion thriller to a masquerade fundraiser as a misdirect, instead of hoping to make something more meaningful out of his title by the end credits. But Masquerade sticks too closely to the formula for too long, unable to muster any suspense along the way until a confusing third act.

Art brokers and married couple Olivia (Mircea Monroe) and Daniel (Austin Nichols) enjoy a night out at a masquerade fundraiser event. Meanwhile, their pre-teen daughter Casey (Alyvia Alyn Lind) falls asleep on the couch watching suspense movies with her babysitter, Sofia (Joana Metrass), in the family’s upscale home. That’s when Man (Michael Proctor) and Woman (Skyler Samuels), donning facial and voice obscuring gear, break into the house to steal valuable artwork. As Man gets way more violent than Woman would like, caterer Rose (Bella Thorne) keeps a very close eye on Olivia and Daniel, even going as far as to offer the tipsy pair a ride home.

The main focus falls on Casey’s attempts to escape the home invaders, who’ve inexplicably decided to spend their attention on her rather than the quick grab. Taylor toggles back and forth between locations, ever so slowly setting the home invasion and the unaware couple on a divergent path. Man’s sudden switch to violence, escalating the situation tenfold, is a transparent contrivance that doesn’t make much sense. Nor does it inject any tension; this home invasion thriller is devoid of any thrills.

Much of the film rests on Lind’s shoulders, but there’s not enough there for her to rise to the occasion. She’s relegated to damsel in a fetal position, hovering in crawlspaces and attics for much of it. Man and Woman bicker about how to retrieve her. At this early point of the runtime, the story stalls out and stays there for far too long. Similarly, Rose’s tabs on the increasingly inebriated couple goes no where for long stretches as well. The plot ultimately goes nowhere until its clunky finale.

The third act brings some muddled revelations that make it clear that everything that came before was meant to build up the impact, but it’s so messily handled that it takes many retracing steps to connect the dots. We don’t actively care about any of these characters, making this late-game exposition feel rushed and clunky. It’s an ultimately forgettable affair in a crowded subgenre without visual or narrative interest and an extremely barebones plot.

By the end, it’s clear that Taylor saved his energy and most interesting ideas for the end. So much effort gets spent on the hook that everything that came before lacks any life. Instead of retroactively casting preceding plot details in a more enriching light, it just winds up a rushed, perplexing punchline in a formulaic home invasion thriller. With lifeless performances, a distinct lack of suspense or scares, and a by-the-numbers plot, Masquerade does ironic live up to its definition. This home invasion thriller pretends to be far less tedious than it really is.

Masquerade releases in limited theaters and VOD on July 30, 2021.


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