Updated: Nov 14, 2020
An Artsy Ghoul Blog
In the midst of this pandemic we’ve had to get used to wearing masks, with the intention of protecting each other from the real-life horrors of COVID-19. While our masks only cover half our faces, our favorite masked characters in the horror genre have been wearing full masks for a much darker reason: to hide their identities and creep out their victims (and audiences)! I love a good mask in my horror films and television, so I thought now, in a world where we all have to mask up, would be the perfect time to discuss some of my personal favorite masks in the horror genre. Let’s dive right in!
The horror-obsessed teenage best friends Sadie Cunningham and McKayla Hooper in Tyler MacIntyre’s 2017 horror-comedy Tragedy Girls steal the screen with two awesome masks in the film’s biggest moment. Now, y’all know I’m a sucker for a neon aesthetic in any horror film, so I must say that I was in love with these masks the second I saw them. Sadie rocks a neon green mask with large oval shaped black eyes with cute eyelashes and a stitched up mouth. McKayla’s mask is neon pink, with large X’s for eyes and femme shaped lips. The designs are very simplistic, yet so visually striking and memorable, making them iconic horror masks on their own. In this comedic horror film, Sadie and McKayla’s masks fit their fun, energized personas as online influencers perfectly. I couldn’t imagine a better pair of masks for this passionate duo to proudly wear through the grand finale of all the chaos they’ve orchestrated. As the tagline of the film says, “friends who slay together, stay together”.
Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, and Man in the Mask from the home invasion film The Strangers (2008) and its slasher sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018) have three of the most memorable masks in recent horror. This terrifying trio has creeped out audiences with their mysterious methods, quiet stalking, and disturbing kills. Arguably the most popular stranger, Dollface, wears an adorable porcelain doll face mask, rosy cheeks and all. Though, there is actually nothing adorable about Dollface’s actions at all, and that’s what makes this mask truly unsettling. Next, my personal favorite, Pin-Up Girl. Her mask, as the name suggests, resembles a 50s pin-up model with curled bangs and heavy makeup with bright red lipstick. Again, we have a mask that’s supposed to be beautiful, turned dark and ominous by the character who wears it.
Lastly, we have Man in the Mask, aka Bag-Head. This simplistic sack head look is reminiscent of masks we’ve seen before in horror, like the hooded Phantom Killer in The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Jason Voorhees’ mask in Friday the 13th: Part 2 (1981). However, Man in the Mask has a sack that feels much grittier, and is obviously something that the character took the time to stylize for himself. The eye holes are cut out perfectly and a black line is spray-painted on for a mouth. This, paired with his brown suit and tie attire, makes his sack head stand out among all the others of the genre. These “strangers” aren’t trying to look scary, they are simply just trying to have fun. They prey on and kill people for sport, and they’ve decided they can be fashionable while they do it!
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
Now, The Purge franchise is filled with tons of creative and fun masks that are eerie as hell, but one mask that has always jumped out at me is teenage Kimmy’s “Kiss Me” mask in The Purge: Election Year (2016). The Purge has been a great franchise for black representation in horror, and I remember being so excited when Kimmy’s character showed up in Election Year. Seeing a young black girl be so scary and powerful while leading a scene in a horror film was so important to me. The mask that Kimmy wears is clearly homemade, and it looks incredibly scary. It is white and looks like it was crafted with wax, a few hardened drips stretching over the eye holes like a melting candle. A large jagged mouth is carved into it like a pumpkin, and on the mask’s forehead “KISS ME” is written in what could be red lipstick. However, Kimmy had murdered her parents earlier on purge night, so those words very well could have been written in their blood. It doesn’t get any more disturbing than that. Just give this girl her damn candy bar already.
Amanda Young from the Saw franchise has become an iconic face of horror through her unforgettable role as the reverse bear trap victim in the first Saw film, but even more notably her introduction as the Pig Head in Saw III (2006). Now serving as Jigsaw’s apprentice, Amanda is being put to the test by Jigsaw to see if she’d be a good replacement to carry on his twisted legacy. Amanda becomes a horror villain who sports a latex pig head mask with a long snout and bloody stains when abducting her victims. Attached to the pig head is a mess of wavy black hair that adds a human touch to the look.
This look has become so well known, making recurring appearances throughout the Saw franchise. Even video games like Dead by Daylight have popularized the character and the mask even more in mainstream horror. I think this mask is great for someone like Amanda, a complex character whose intentions are far more aggressive and animalistic than Jigsaw’s. For many people Billy the Puppet is the star figure of the franchise, however, the pig head mask is still the first thing I think of when someone mentions Saw. It’s gritty and disgusting, but at the same time it’s so badass that I want one of my own to put on display, or even wear for a future Halloween costume!
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT
Lastly, I have to take a moment to appreciate some horror television. Although Cult is my least favorite season of the American Horror Story anthology series, I cannot ignore the fact that the different clown-inspired masks the members of the cult wear throughout the show are some of the most insanely frightening masks I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. The two masks that stand out to me as the freakiest are Beverly Hope’s and Kai Anderson’s.
Now first, let’s talk about news reporter Beverly’s mask. It’s a pale, demonic face with decomposing skin; a large, bloody pentagram is carved into it’s skin; and two contorted hands are reaching out the top of the head like antlers!!! What?!? This is what nightmares are made of, and the image of this mask will be burned in my brain for eternity. It makes sense that Beverly’s mask would look the most horrifying out of everyone else’s, because she is the one member of the cult who doesn’t let emotions hold her back. She takes the actions of the cult very seriously, becoming an evil force of her own who is hungry for blood and sweet revenge. I must also add again how exciting it is to see black women characters be creepy as hell and wear awesome masks like this in horror. Give me more!!!
Finally, Kai Anderson, the leader of the crazy cult, wears a mask of a triple faced demon-like clown with dramatic facial expressions that kind of resemble Sock and Buskin comedy/tragedy masks. The three faces also have bushy white eyebrows and red Pinocchio-style noses stretching out of it. This is definitely the most bizarre mask in the show, and it sure does a great job at symbolizing Kai’s sinister and chaotic behavior. As a cult leader, he is a man of many faces, changing his personality when needed in order to manipulate the people around him. This large mask also adds so many dark layers to an already intimidating presence. I mean, if I saw anyone wearing this mask in person I’d be gone in a flash, no games are being played, peace out! Oftentimes I would say simple is better, but I would absolutely love to see more over-the-top masks like what we see in Cult in the horror future.
There are countless other horror masks that I love, but I wanted to start out with a few that I’ve been thinking about very often this past year. So, what do you think? Do we share any of the same favorite horror masks? Tweet me (@artsy_ghoul) and let me know! And don’t forget: stay safe and mask up!
Want one of the masks above for yourself? Here are some links where you can buy:
Man in the Mask
The Purge “KISS ME”
SAW Pig Head
American Horror Story: Cult