Written and Directed by Jessica Barnthouse and Stacy Buchanan
Starring Kip Weeks, Tyler Bergeron, Theodus Crane
by Allison Yakulis
At one point in The Man in the Mask (2018) Kip Weeks attends a horror convention in Texas. It is his first. He asks the viewers (or more likely Jess Barnthouse or Stacy Buchanan, whomever was holding the camera at that moment) if people go to cons to meet the character or to meet the real person. I don’t know what the answer is, but if you’d like to know more about the man behind an iconic horror role, this is the way to do it.
Kip starred in The Strangers (2008) as one of three masked intruders that terrorize Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman in a remote cabin for one chilling reason (which is also the film’s tagline): “Because you were home”. Home invasion movies are always unsettling, but the randomness of The Strangers makes it that much more frightening.
Kip and his wife Cammie thought this would be his big break, and for a couple of weeks that seemed to be true. But then the calls stopped coming, his agent dropped him, and they had their newly arrived firstborn son to care for. It’s cliche but life had to go on.
The Man in the Mask follows Kip and Cammie living in Portland, Maine off and on over the course of 6 years. They eventually have 3 kids. They got a small but growing business started selling eco-conscious children’s art supplies (yes, really!). Neighbors and friends occasionally hear about Kip’s most famous role, and usually have to pry details out of him - he doesn’t appear to be one to brag.
It’s clear that being involved in film is a real passion for Kip, and it’s painful that he got a taste of it without ever solidly “making it”. It causes tension for him internally, and it strains his relationship with Cammie. It makes him resentful when a sequel is made and he and his co-stars aren’t approached to reprise their roles. It makes for a compelling documentary.
And yet Jess Barnthouse and Stacy Buchanan are very clearly not out to exploit their subject. They give Kip and Cammie plenty of room to explain their thought processes and motivations aloud to us. Everyone is likeable and relatable. It’s voyeuristic (as most documentaries are) without being mean about it. The tone stays compassionate and with a sense of humor.
Perhaps surprisingly, when Jess and Stacy first set out to make a documentary this was not what they envisioned. Jess participated in a Q&A at PUFF and explained that Stacy had an idea of making a documentary about horror icons in New England. But after several refusals for their interview requests, they were left mostly with footage from Kip Weeks and Skip Shea (who also shows up in Man In The Mask a little bit and might eventually be the subject of a second documentary). To make the proverbial lemonade, they narrowed their scope to Kip’s perspective and went deeper with him and his family, and I think it works.
It is unclear at this point whether The Man in the Mask will see distribution (perhaps it’ll pop up on one of the many streaming platforms now available - Shudder specifically focuses on horror and thriller films and documentaries and tends to support indie features), but it is scheduled to be screened at more upcoming film festivals:
Southbridge, MA - October 5th, 5:00 PM
The Shawna Shea Film Festival
(tickets - listed as “Day 4: Block 3 at the Starlight”)
Sanford, ME - October 18th, 7:00 PM
The Sanford International Film Festival
(tickets - it’s part of “Horror Friday”)
SIFF is also showing The Strangers right after!