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When It Comes to Killer Masks, Keep It Simple

Blogger Stacie Ponder’s horror columns appear every Wednesday.

Raise your hand if you’re super-excited to see The Strangers when it opens this Friday! Gasp — me too! I’ve been waiting to see it since I saw a preview panel at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. (Okay, you can put your hand down now — frankly, you look a bit silly staring at your computer with one arm raised.) Everyone’s all abuzz regarding how scary The Strangers looks; I’ve got my fingers, toes and eyes crossed that it’ll live up to the promise of the trailer. The secret to the buzz, I think, are those damn masks the killers are wearing: Simply put, they’re friggin’ terrifying. In horror movies, a killer’s mask can make you take to your fainting couch with either a case of the frighties… or stomach cramps from laughing so much. In other words, the mask makes the man.

Bag Masks
The Strangers gets it right by keeping things simple. The masks are virtually expressionless, and one of them appears to be some sort of bag. I haven’t yet seen it, but, regardless, this bag mask means the filmmakers are well aware of horror movie rule number 77: Bag head masks are always scary. Always! I don’t care if it’s worn a grotesque serial killer or sweet old Mrs. Macabee from next door; if someone’s got a bag on their head, I’m guaranteed to be wringing my hands and dancing back and forth in fright… who knows, maybe even peeing. 

Everyone’s got his or her favorite incarnation of Jason, and I’ve talked about him before right here on Monsterfest. For the record, let me reiterate: Part 2 , in which Jason models the pillowcase, is wicked scary. That shot of his one eye peering out from the sack, darting about? Please. I can’t deal with it.

Ditto with The Orphanage , which I recently saw for the first time. When the weirdo kid showed up in the gunny sack looking like a cracked-out, deranged Raggedy Ann, I could feel myself sinking lower and lower into the couch, until I was practically on the floor.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a little-seen film from 1976 that’s based on a real-life string of murders that occurred 30 years prior in Texarkana. The killer sports a crude mask fashioned from a white pillowcase similar to Jason’s. The fact that this is based on a true story regarding unsolved crimes is really not cool if you ask me: The killer could still be out there, wandering around in a pillowcase! Sure, if he’s still alive he’s probably, like, 80-years-old, but it’s like I said about sweet, old Mrs Macabee: I don’t care who’s wearing the bag — it’s still scary.

Face Masks
Michael Myers might not wear a pillowcase on
his head, but come on, his mask rocks, despite the fact that the
original is just William Shatner in extreme whiteface. Over the course
of the sequels, the mask evolved slowly and almost imperceptibly, until
Myers began to resemble a pasty-faced troll doll. There was too much
hair, too little definition in the face… I guess once William Shatner
masks fell out of vogue the effects crew had to improvise? Who knows.
Though I kind of wanted to jam flaming pokers in my eyes whilst
watching Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween (somehow, it seemed
as if the pokers would be less painful than watching the rest of the
movie), I will give props where props are due: He got the Myers mask
right, and once again The Shape was menacing.

I don’t know about you, but I loves me some Scream .
I don’t necessarily love all the imitators it brought about, or the
trend toward ironic horror, but I think the original film of the
trilogy is great. When Ghost Face first appears, terrorizing Drew
Barrymore as she makes popcorn, it was the first time in a long time I
was actually frightened by the way a killer looked. When Scream
rolled around in ’96, horror had been pretty much dormant for a while.
That white mask twisted into a macabre parody of the famous Munch
painting revived an entire genre of film.

Barring any unforeseen issues, by this time next week I’ll have finally seen The Strangers.
As I said, all my… uh, parts are crossed in the hopes it’ll rock my
face off. Even if it stinks, though, those masks are spot-on perfect.
And spot-on perfect masks are half the battle!

sp.jpgA fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules.  She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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