A big part of many successful horror films and horror film franchises is a mask that disguises the killer’s identity. The mask is often just as iconic as the killer. A good mask lends an extra layer of intrigue to the killer’s persona and gives him or her a sense of anonymity. The mask also serves to distance the killer from their victims and makes the maniac seem even less human. The mask makes it more difficult for the killer to emote, thereby making the character seem that much more mysterious. An effective mask makes a killer much more terrifying to audiences.
To celebrate some of the more memorable masks in horror cinema history, we've put together a list of eleven of the most iconic masks worn by on-screen psychopaths.
[Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead]
Mrs. Tredoni’s Mask from Alice, Sweet Alice
Mrs. Tredoni was so wicked in Alice, Sweet Alice and the translucent mask only added to her wretchedness. Alfred Sole’s 1976 American made giallo masterpiece brought audiences an epic killer, gory deaths, a haunting score, and a delightfully creepy translucent mask. Combined with a yellow raincoat and Mrs. Tredoni’s proclivity for murder, that mask has terrified audiences for over 35 years.
Michael Myers’ Mask from the Halloween Franchise
Who would have thought that a mask in the likeness of William Shatner would become so iconic? A coat of white paint made that captain Kirk mask one of the most recognizable masks in horror film history. The mask has undergone some transformations, including a CGI enhanced mask in Halloween: H20, but the Michael Myers mask remains a terrifying fan favorite to this day.
Jason's Mask from the Friday the 13th Films
There are few masks as iconic as Jason Voorhees’ goalie mask. He has slashed through countless teenagers in eight films (3-10), plus a face off with Fred Krueger and a remake in that hockey mask. The mask has gone so far as to become a staple of pop culture. We have Shelly of Friday the 13th Part 3 to thank for providing Jason with his now iconic hockey mask. There are several different stories regarding how the hockey mask came to be a part of the Friday the 13th franchise. Different cast and crewmembers seem to have different recollections. But, regardless of whom you speak to, one thing is indisputable: the mask was an epic addition to what has become an epic film franchise.
The Strangers' Masks
The masks worn by The Strangers aren’t anything groundbreaking. The bag-head mask is similar to the mask from The Town that Dreaded Sundown. The doll-face mask and the pinup girl mask were nothing to write home about. But, the characters were so brutal, so creepy, and so wicked that the masks became a personification of them, therefore making the masks much more imposing than they would have been on their own.
Leatherface's Mask from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Films
Loosely inspired by Ed Gein, Leatherface’s human skin mask is an indispensable staple of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. It is one of the creepiest masks in all of horror cinema history and rightfully so. It’s pretty difficult to beat a mask stitched together from pieces of human flesh. Though Leatherface has been played by a variety of actors, the character’s unforgettable mask is a big part of what makes the character what he is.
The Ghostface Mask from the Scream Series
The unusual thing about Ghostface is that unlike most mask-wearing maniacs, he/she is a variety of people. But, since every killer in the scream franchise has donned it, the mask has a definite familiarity to it. The mask has become somewhat iconic over the past decade and a half, and though the plotline of the franchise has become a bit threadbare, viewers still seem to be interested in the Ghostface Killer’s latest exploits. It will be interesting to see if we are treated to a fifth installment. That would certainly be preferable to an MTV television series.
(You can get more details on Ghostface and the Scream franchise in Ryan Turek’s documentary Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective.)
The Phantom Killer's Mask from The Town That Dreaded Sundown
The Phantom's bag-head mask from The Town That Dreaded Sundown is iconic, not just for striking fear in the hearts of viewers, but for quite possibly inspiring bag-head Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2 as well. The Town that Dreaded Sundown is also noteworthy for serving as inspiration for many films to come out during the slasher boom of the late seventies and early eighties. Though it is often overlooked in favor of films like Halloween and Black Christmas, it too provided inspiration to a developing subgenre. A meta-remake of this 1976 flick is currently in development.
The Collector’s Mask
The Collector’s mask is quite creepy and very different from the headgear worn by many of his contemporaries. It’s difficult to determine exactly what the mask is made of from watching the films, but a little research yielded that the mask is constructed of foam baked latex. The feel of the mask is supposed to be similar to a sponge. Regardless of its construction, the mask is creepy as hell and gives the Collector a decidedly sinister appearance.
The Babyface Mask from The Hills Run Red
The Hills Run Red is a film that never really got the publicity it deserved. It’s a fun flick and it brought some interesting ideas to the table. The Babyface Killer and his trademark mask are creepy and served up plenty of scares. The killer had actual dialogue in the film and that made him all the more frightening. We have grown accustomed to mask-wearing Neanderthal killers who often have nothing to say, so for the Babyface Killer to actually speak made him far scarier than silence ever could have.
The Pig Mask from the SAW Films
Throughout the franchise, we have learned that the mask is a reference to "The Year of the Pig," which is the year the Jigsaw Killer began his murderous exploits. Beyond its significance, the mask is straight up creepy. It is realistic in appearance and the sort of thing that would make me run the other way if I saw it in a dark alley - or even a well lit alley, for that matter. The mask didn’t get a ton of play in the franchise, but viewers saw enough of it to know that its appearance meant that nothing good was about to happen, and for that it's iconic in its own right.
The Scarecrow Mask from Dark Night of the Scarecrow
Ranked as one of the more frightening made-for-television horror films of the past 35 years, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is also a nostalgic fan favorite. The bag-head mask design is similar to those used in other titles on this list, but that didn’t stop it from being terribly frightening to an entre generation of youngsters.
Did we include all of your favorite iconic masks worn by horror killers? Let us know in the comments below.