Can we confess that one of the things that excites us most about The Town is its poster? No, not because it’s a beautiful poster, but because it gives us a bunch of bank robbers in nun outfits and creepy masks. And we’re kind of suckers for weird masks! So, in honor of the film’s release, we’ve dug through film history’s horrific costume closet to come up with our twelve favorite creepy movie masks. Enjoy. And cringe.
Whatever one thinks of Stanley Kubrick’s final film, it’s hard to deny its effectively discomfiting use of masks in the central orgy sequence, where wild acts of carnality are enacted with stone-cold, expressionless, artificial faces. Ironically, the most expressionless of them all is the mask worn by the film’s tormented protagonist (Tom Cruise). If you like the movie, it’s a symbol of the false faces we wear in our lives. If you don’t like the movie, it’s probably just a symbol of Cruise’s vacant performance.
The great Terry Gilliam knows a thing or two about the grotesque, and he sent his dystopian sci-fi masterpiece into surreal overdrive when he had Michael Palin, as the film’s chummy state torturer, don this bizarre baby mask.
Is it just us, or does the exterminator mask that Sean Connery’s character is wearing at the beginning of John Boorman’s tripped-out sci-fi epic look like Karl Marx crossed with the Cowardly Lion? (The tight red shorts add something as well.) We’re not sure what it means, but it certainly starts this cult movie off on the right crazy note. Added bonus: It’s not even the nuttiest thing Connery wears in the film. No, that would be the wedding dress.
Yes, this Buttonface look from Clive Barker’s surreal horror film is terrifying, but it’s even scarier when you consider the fact that the guy wearing it is one David Cronenberg.
In Wes Craven’s loving homage to, and exploitation of, horror-movie clichés, no trope was more effective than the de rigeur mask worn by the film’s slash-happy villain(s). Ordinarily, such masks tend to be basic items (think of Jason’s hockey mask or the Scarecrow’s sack), but this time out, it’s awfully particular: a mask designed after the central screaming figure in Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Oh, and the damn thing is still terrifying. Now available in fine Halloween costume stores everywhere.
As worn by the mysterious killer in this harrowing 1976 cult classic, this ensemble — translucent mask and yellow raincoat — is strangely bone-chilling, and perfectly in keeping with the film’s themes of adolescence and guilt.
The movies have given us plenty of Nixon masks over the years (think Point Break), but we’d like to argue that its most chilling use was when Christina Ricci wore it during her awkward sexual encounter with Elijah Wood in Ang Lee’s drama about love and despair in the Connecticut suburbs.
The Joker’s actual face is a lot creepier than the mask that he wears during the film’s monumental opening bank robbery, but these angry clown masks are also effectively freaky in and of themselves.
Richard Kelly’s iconic cult film has a lot on its mind, and its use of the mysterious Frank, the protagonist’s seemingly supernatural, time-and-space-bending, rabbit-headed special friend, is especially savvy: Frank is so creepy, so strange, that we cannot help but buy all his various proclamations and revelations, which drive the plot forward.
The three psychotics who torment the young couple in 2008’s surprisingly effective, black-hearted horror film could have come out of any average slasher film. But their masks add something new: The “faces” have just enough expression that we are led to suspect that they might have emotions hidden under there, somewhere. But, of course, they don’t.
Georges Franju wasn’t the first to utilize the horrific potential of masks in the thriller genre, but it could still be argued that he pioneered the concept in this poetic and chilling classic. He plays up the expressionless, blank nature of this mask, worn by the disfigured daughter of the brilliant surgeon who tries to graft unsuspecting young women’s faces on her.
You may not have heard of this made-for-TV horror flick from the early eighties, but we assure you, it’s one of the scariest things we’ve ever seen. (And hey, it’s coming out on DVD in a couple of weeks!
) The scarecrow in question is a retarded man named Bubba who exacts revenge on the good old boys who killed him, after he was wrongfully blamed for the death of a young girl. It’s like Of Mice and Men rewritten as a Clint Eastwood movie from the seventies. But with a scary, scary sack.