Hey! It’s Friday the 13th! Wow! Yeah! Time to review something appropriately Jason Voorheesish! Yeah! Wow! Um. Well. I considered tackling a dodgy fan film, but my tolerance levels just weren’t up for it. Instead I went with Unmasked Part 25 — a film I had not even heard of until very recently coming across this review on Letterboxd. The review got me very excited. A British slasher parody filled with outrageous gore and a hockey-masked killer in the midst of an existential crisis? How on earth had I not heard of this?!
UNMASKED PART 25
aka: Hand of Death
UK, 1988, Anders Palm
After dispatching the entire party bar one with a variety of creative methods, Jackson turns his attention to his final victim, the blind Shelly (Fiona Evans), who is totally unaware of the massacre that’s taken place. But Shelly, rather poetically, mistakes Jackson for her blind date. The kindness she shows triggers an emotional awakening in Jackson, and a complicated relationship blossoms between the two. Our silent killer is now not so silent. He removes his mask to reveal his deformed face, expunging sad monologues about the stereotypical mass murdering life he’s been forced to live.
The humour of Unmasked Part 25 is not what you would expect from its synopsis. Instead of the slapstick of something like the Scary Movie franchise, we get an extraordinarily deadpan approach — a dry humour that emphasises the tragedy of its central killer character. Its approach, weirdly enough, reminded me a lot of Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik 2 (1991) where it is quietly absurd, deeply funny, and rather sad all at once.
Gregory Cox gives a perfectly pitched performance as Jackson. His comic timing is brilliant, and his gentle Colin Firth-esque delivery is fabulously in contrast to his violent behaviour. Fiona Evans is also subtly great as Shelly. When her penchant for S&M is revealed, we get a hysterical sequence illustrating the talents of the two actors as Jackson consults the “S&M Handbook” and nervously reads out aggressive dominating catchphrases to the moaning Shelly.
Unmasked Part 25 not only features a clever script and great performances, it also offers great visuals despite its obvious low budget. Director Anders Palm and cinematographer John de Borman (who went on to bigger things like The Full Monty and, more recently, If I Stay) capture scenes in long takes and distorted wides. The lighting is hazy and moody. The grimy scenes set in Jackson’s filthy lair are particularly effective. Bonus kudos to Max Gottlieb for the claustrophobic production design.
Unmasked Part 25 also kindly caters to its blood-loving audience with some solid and gooey effect work. While it pokes fun at the slasher genre, some of its gore effects are far more audacious and entertaining than the average death scene from the film’s it parodies. Eyeballs explode in slow-motion, couples are impaled during standing-up sex, a lamp acts as a skewer — it’s gory and ridiculous.
Unmasked Part 25 needs to be dredged out of its pit of obscurity and worshipped as a cult classic. From its chaotic and bloody opening to its sombre and depressing ending, this is an utterly mad but oddly intelligent film unlike anything I’ve seen. The humour is genuinely funny, but even if you don’t dig its satire, there’s gore to distract you. I say this a lot, but I really mean it this time: this is a legitimate must see, so see it!
Annoyingly, Unmasked Part 25 is pretty hard to come by. It had a UK DVD release from Midnite Movies, which is now out of print. You may have better luck seeking out a VHS.