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Fear of the Unknown: The Masks That Make Them
Fear of the Unknown: The Masks That Made Them
We fear the unknown. While the most terrifying unknowns may be the monsters behind our favorite horror films, it’s their masks that are the real symbols of terror, and each comes with its own story.
In 1925, Lon Chaney played the Phantom of the Opera. His mask scared audiences, but when his character removed it during the movie’s premiere, viewers literally fainted in the theater.
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In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leatherface’s mask of human flesh was actually three separate masks, identified as the personas ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘Old Lady,’ and ‘Killer.’ The late actor behind the chainsaw, Gunnar Hansen, said, “He changes faces depending on what he’s trying to do.” Hansen found it difficult to manage under the heavy latex, and once knocked himself out cold when walking into a door frame on set.
John Carpenter was forced to make Halloween on a $325k budget, and his killer’s costume choice reflected the need for cheap props. The art director for Halloween found a William Shatner mask in a magic shop in Hollywood. Carpenter painted it white, widened the eye holes, and Michael Myers was born.
Though we all know Jason as the hockey-masked machete man, the iconic mask didn’t come about until the third movie in the series. In an effort to avoid endless hours of makeup for their jumpsuited slasher, 3D supervisor Martin Sadoff joked that Voorhees could wear a hockey mask, which Sadoff happened to have with him at the time.
In Happy Death Day the killer’s mask is an oversized baby face with wide eyes and a single tooth. Director Christopher Landon explains, “I was expecting my first son. I don’t know if I just had babies on the brain, or if I was subconsciously scared to become a father, but that baby image was floating around in my head. Tony [Gardner, the creator of the mask] made us a pig mask, too, but when I wore the baby mask in the office, I scared a co-worker, and we thought…yeah, this is it. This is the one.”
The script for Scream described its slasher as ‘ghost mask killer,’ though no one knew exactly what that would look like. While scouting for locations for the film, producer Marianne Maddalena stumbled on the mask in an abandoned house. The mass-produced mask was originally named ‘Peanut-Eyed Ghost,’ but with the outrageous success of the Scream franchise, it would forever become known as ‘Ghostface.’