Reflections On A Scream (Mask)

By Jonathan Crimmins 

Despite being a lifelong Halloween fanatic, it took me until my early teens to pick out masks that not only looked cool, but could also potentially be reused in Halloween displays. In fact, the idea first came to me when I saw a particularly interesting mask peering out one of the windows of a haunted house I was visiting. It was a white mask with a long, pointed chin and almost comma-looking eyes. I had occasionally seen the mask while shopping for costumes in the past, but it just didn't have the same impact on me as it did in the cob-web infested window.

It was at that precise moment that I knew I had to get it next Halloween.

As you've probably guessed from the title, the mask I'm talking about is the "Scream" mask. Loosely based on Edvard Munch's series of expressionist paintings entitled "The Scream," it didn't skyrocket in sales until it was used as the mask worn by the Ghostface killer in the Wes Craven film, "Scream." Not only did the film rejuvenate interest in the slasher genre, but it also marked the first time an American horror movie icon used a preexisting Halloween mask in their cinematic debut. No, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers don't count.

While it is true that Jason wears a hockey mask and that Myers' mask is actually a Captain Kirk mask, both masks underwent several modifications before making their appearances on the silver screen. Furthermore, Jason Voorhees didn't wear his infamous mask until the third installment of the "Friday the 13th" film series. Story goes that, during a lighting check, nobody felt like going through the extensive process it would take to apply the deformed "Jason" makeup onto the actor playing him.

One of the crew members was a hockey fan and decided to fish out a Detroit Red Wings goalie mask from his bag to use as a substitute. Although resulting look was a hit, it was decided that the mask was too small. To fix this problem, an enlarged mold of the mask was created. To make the mask more distinctive, red triangles and extra holes were added.

As for Myers, the script for "Halloween" only specified a white mask. Writer/director John Carpenter felt that a blank mask would take away the human qualities of the killer and act as a blank slate for the audiences to project their fears onto. The closest thing the person sent out to find such a mask could find was a Captain Kirk mask. Myers' trademark look was achieved by painting the mask white, enlarging the eye holes, removing the sideburns, and messing up the hair.

Similarly, Wes Craven chose the "Scream" mask while out looking for a mask to use for his then-latest project, which was still using the working title "Scary Movie." So not only did the mask provide a distinct (and memorable) look for the killer, but it also provided a new title for the film. However, this all happened after I had made my decision to wear the mask next Halloween.

I was less than pleased when I first saw ads for "Scream." Not only because the mask's price might go up since it was now a licensed property, but now people would think that I was just dressing up as the latest popular movie character instead of doing something creative. In spite of this, I still chose to get the mask and create my own look for the costume to go with the mask: black clothes, black gloves, and a cape.

Thankfully, nobody gave me any problems over the fact that I didn't have the "right" costume to go with the mask. Years later, I would even make good on my plans to reuse the mask by utilizing the mask in the construction of a crude dummy placed in front of the main window of my house. Looking back, it was rather silly of me to get annoyed over a movie using a mask I liked. I'm still a bit surprised that I still went ahead and bought it instead of picking out another mask. I guess it's just the mark of a good mask.