On Tuesday night, a television reboot of the cult favorite horror movie Scream made its debut on MTV. Fans of anonymous killers hunting down misbehaving teens won't be disappointed, although they will have to say goodbye to the original film's iconic mask.
In Entertainment Weekly, the producers explain that they decided to ditch the all-too-recognizable "Ghostface" to give their story a fresh beginning. Instead, they adopted a new look that, while unmistakably familiar, exudes a new brand of creepiness that's all its own.
"It’s sort of a reinvention while also paying homage," explains executive producer Jill Blotevogel to EW.
Scary movies and scary masks go together like retractable knives and corn syrup blood. A concealed face is not only the perfect plot device to advance a mystery, but proof that even the goriest special effects can't beat the terrors invented by our imaginations.
Let's revisit the origin stories behind the unforgettable masks from Scream and five more horror classics.
Ghostface – Scream
In the screenplay for Scream, writer Kevin Williamson (who would later create Dawson's Creek) specified only that the killer would wear a "ghostly white" mask. Producer Marianne Maddalena spotted what would become the franchise's infamous Ghostface hanging on a wall in an abandoned house she was scouting as a possible location for the film. Spooky, right?
The mask was created by the Fun World company in the early '90s — designer Brigitte Sleierten was partly inspired by Edvard Munch's painting The Scream — and sold in stores under the name "The Peanut-Eyed Ghost."
To director Wes Craven, the mask's commercial availability was key to its appeal: anyone could buy it anywhere, which perfectly suited the mysterious, shifting identity of the film's antagonist. When the first of four Scream movies hit theaters in 1996, Ghostface quickly became the country's go-to Halloween costume, and made a memorable appearance in the 2000 spoof Scary Movie. (Fun fact: the original title of Scream was Scary Movie.)
Some Ghostface masks have become highly prized collector's items, with the very first models now valued at more than $200. Fun World later licensed novelty scarecrow and zombie editions, as well as a particularly traumatizing bleeding version of the Ghostface mask.
Michael Myers – Halloween
In John Carpenter's seminal 1978 slasher movie, a homicidal escaped mental patient returns to his hometown on Halloween night to stalk a babysitter (Jamie Lee Curtis, then 19, as horror's original final girl). To create Michael Myers' chillingly blank visage, the crew — working on a budget — altered a cheap Captain Kirk Star Trek mask by mussing up the hair, painting the face white, and cutting wider holes for the eyes.
After the film's release, William Shatner bought one of these masks and took his daughters trick-or-treating wearing his own face. Seriously.
Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Leatherface (originally played by Gunnar Hansen) is the mute, intellectually disabled, chainsaw-wielding puppet of his inbred family of cannibals. In Tobe Hooper's 1974 film — the franchise has since expanded to a total of seven movies — he's never seen without his masks of human skin. He cycles through several in the movie, known on set as the "Killing Mask," "Old Lady," and "Pretty Woman." Hansen later described the masks as a kind of performance for Leatherface, who is otherwise incapable of expressing himself.
"Everything was in the mask, and beneath it there really was nothing at all," the actor writes in Chain Saw Confidential.
This character is based on the ghoulish Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, who fashioned the corpses of his victims not only into masks, but clothing, a wastebasket, a lampshade, and bowls. (Please, learn from my mistakes: do not Google any of this.) Gein also served as the inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.
Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th
The slasher franchise's notorious hockey goalie mask didn't appear until 1982's Friday the 13th Part III. Mass murderer Jason Voorhees appears in Part II wearing a burlap sack with a single eyehole, although the killer's presumable lack of depth perception doesn't hamper his handiness with a machete. (To explain why we're not mentioning Jason's costuming in the first Friday the 13th movie would be to spoil the first Friday the 13th movie.)
When Jason's look for the next sequel was still undecided, Martin Sadoff, the movie's 3D effects supervisor and a hockey fan, lent the crew a goalie mask he happened to have with him for a makeup test. Director Steve Miner loved the look, and so horror history was made.
In Part III, Jason puts on the mask after murdering its original owner. It became a character trademark through the next nine Friday the 13th films, and will no doubt stick around for the inevitable reboot of the reboot.
Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs
If you've seen The Silence of the Lambs, you've probably had at least one nightmare starring the bite mask worn by Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a cannibalistic psychiatrist turned FBI consultant. This was the handiwork of Ed Cubberly, a celebrated designer of custom goalie masks for the NHL. (What is it about horror movies and hockey?)
Although Cubberly never had the chance to meet the actor, the studio sent him a cast of Hopkins' face, which he's kept as a souvenir. The artist was paid just $400 for the mask, but has earned a steady stream of licensing revenue now that it's become a Halloween staple.
(In the movie, Lecter can also be seen in the wire mask at the top right of the GIFset above, although he wears it pushed down to the height of his nose — director Jonathan Demme probably wanted to keep Hopkins' eyes uncovered for maximum creepiness.)
The Phantom – The Phantom of the Opera
Forget everything you learned from Andrew Lloyd Webber. The 1925 Phantom of the Opera isn't a musical; it's a bona fide horror movie, one of Hollywood's first forays into the genre. The title character's entire face is deformed, unlike the stage version, in which the handsome side of the Phantom's face is conveniently unobscured by his half-mask.
The silent film is best remembered not for the Phantom's mask, but for what was hidden beneath it. Star Lon Chaney was allowed to design his own makeup for the role, as he'd done previously for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His corpse-like appearance required black face paint, a set of sharp false teeth, and a strip of translucent fish skin to alter the appearance of his nose.
As legend holds, some early viewers fainted at the sight of the Phantom's grotesque features. It's said that even Chaney's costar Mary Philbin didn't know what to expect until the moment she unmasked him on camera.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.