There is more than meets the eye to writer & director Shane Dax Taylor’s fourth film “Masquerade” (*** OUT OF ****), an implausible pastiche of suspense and horror movie tropes toplining Bella Thorne. This unrated, slow-burn, 77-minute charade starts out like a home invasion thriller and then ends up being all about revenge.

If you love to talk back to your movies, you may find yourself doing a lot of talking back to “Masquerade.” Initially, certain things don’t appear to add up. Actually, they do not add up! If the deceptive narrative dupes you, you may be offering foolish advice to some characters.

For example, you’ll want to warn the little girl to “watch out” when she need not. Later, when the married couple enter their home, secluded in the wilderness, they concentrate on finding flashlights and checking circuit breaker fuse boxes.

You’d think they would check up on their daughter first? Observant viewers will spot these inconsistencies and realize “Masquerade” amounts to more than a straightforward, low-budget, crime thriller. Shane Dax Taylor isn’t opposed to dazzling us with an occasional surprise before the astonishing revelation at fadeout.

Some will scratch their heads in bewilderment, while others will snap their fingers because they put everything together. This entertaining, low-wattage thriller suffers from its ponderous pace.

Rome was built faster than our pint-sized heroine can thumb cartridges into a six-shot, snub-nosed revolver, with the cylinder hanging out of the frame on a hinge. Taylor knows how to get mileage out of the smallest actions. Shrewdly, he doesn’t take on more than he can handle, and “Masquerade” boasts an unforgettable finale. Nevertheless, “Masquerade” still seems infuriatingly slow at times.

Basically, “Masquerade” crosscuts between two stories. Moreover, these stories aren’t concurrent as some may believe. In storyline # 1, we have a successful, upscale, thirtysomething, married couple–art brokers Daniel (Austin Nichols of “The Iron Orchard”) and Olivia (Mircea Monroe of “Cellular”)–who have thrown a masquerade party for charity at a liquor distillery.

Appropriately, the guests all wore masks. Afterward, Daniel and Olivia were sloshed enough to realize somebody else must take them home. One of their event servers, Rose (Bella Thorne of “Assassination Nation”), offers them a lift. Like an Uber driver, she requests to be compensated for her efforts.

She learns the couple live thirty minutes from the distillery. Meantime, in storyline # 2, a pair of burglars break into a sprawling estate somewhere in the boondocks. A high fence surrounds the house, and a home security system monitors the premises.

Before they cut the power to the house, the intruders disable the security alarm system. The male thief dismantles the valuable paintings, rolls them up, and stashes them in separate tubes.

His female accomplice has trouble catching a reluctant 11-year-old girl, Casey (Alyvia Alyn Lind of “Mockingbird”), who keeps outsmarting her. One big surprise in “Masquerade” is that Casey cannot outsmart destiny.

Not only does she sprain her ankle when she plunges through the ceiling from the attic, but she is also shot once in the belly with her own revolver! Of course, women sprain their ankles all the time in movies.

Not as many have their guns confiscated and then wounded with their own hardware. This brave little darling teeters on a tightrope between life and death. “Masquerade” wins brownie points for making everything a hurdle for our heroine.

No sooner have the burglars broken into Casey’s house than they murder our heroine’s harmless babysitter. “Masquerade” indulges itself in blood and gore. The only thing comparable occurs when Casey shoots a woman in the eye and blood doesn’t splatter everything.

These burglars wear sinister black outfits with gloves. Fencing helmets hide their facial features, and voice converters make them sound like Darth Vader. The pugnacious male burglar kills Sophia (newcomer Ana Rodas) with a ball hammer.

Afterward, he keeps on beating her brains out. Predictably, Taylor provides only a glimpse or two of this horrific violence. Later, another man is stabbed repeatedly in the belly, and he drools blood with little prospect of surviving the night.

This is about as violent as things get, and it happens quickly as well as in the dark. Thrillers like “Masquerade” add a twist to virtually everything, and this makes them such diverting fare. Furthermore, this kind of movie is like a mystery.

Once you know what has happened, you can go back and figure out what you might have missed the first time. Any movie that gets you to watch it more than once qualifies as above average or a movie whose arabesques must be fathomed to appreciate its artistry. If you enjoy cinematic head games, “Masquerade” was made for you.


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