The Phantom in 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925)
The Phantom is so ashamed of his own face that he wears the mask to cover his disfigurement. The brilliance of the mask was that it built up the tension and suspense until the final reveal of what the Phantom was actually hiding. Legend has it that when the film originally came out, the revealing of the Phantom's face caused some people to literally faint in the theater.
Christiane Génessier in 'Eyes Without a Face' (1960)
It took three hours to apply this mask on actress Edith Scob and she was not able to take it off all day during filming. The actress was forced to eat her meals through a straw and was often left feeling isolated from the rest of the film cast and crew due to the fact that she struggled to speak through the mask. After Christiane is involved in a vicious car accident, she's forced to wear this mask that shows no expression or emotion. 1960 was a great year for horror with this contribution along with some other film by a relatively unknown director named Alfred Hitchcock. Something about a boy and his mother?
Leatherface in 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' (1974)
The brilliance of the mask isn't always recognized. Tobe Hooper's design for this legendary look shows a character who is hiding behind an actual face. The mask represents who Leatherface really is. In the original TCM there are three masks worn by Gunnar Hansen. "Pretty Woman", "Old Lady" & "Killer". The reason for the different looks is to develop the idea that Leatherface has no true identity. Given the abusive upbringing he endured due to his disfigured look, it's no wonder he can't be his own person. There is a story of Hansen actually knocking himself out walking into a door frame on set while filming. Oh, how great it would have been to have had camera phones back then!
Michael Myers in 'Halloween' (1978)
John Carpenter had basically no money to spare when creating this future masterpiece. So as far as a mask was concerned, cheap was the key word. Not only that, to have a mask or look that would demand prep time before shoots was also out of the question. While trying to figure out his monster's look, the art director of the film stumbled across the emotionless, featureless Captain Kirk mask in Bert Wheeler's Magic Shop. The art director also picked up a clown mask to provide options. Carpenter loved the idea of an emotionless face so much, he even decided to paint the mask white to enhance the effect. The rest is history.
Jason Voorhees in 'Friday the 13th Part III' (1982)
As most people learned from Drew Barrymore, Jason wasn't even the killer in the original Friday the 13th. It wasn't until the third film of the franchise that our favorite goalie donned his iconic look. Richard Brooker, an advisor on set and huge hockey fan suggested that to save time and money, Jason should just wear a goalie mask rather than spend hours on makeup every day. Brooker was such a big fan of the sport, he even had a mask on him when he made the suggestion. He put the mask on and since then Jason has rarely taken it off. Initial tests were so positive that a mere suggestion completely changed a franchise and the horror genre forever.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter in 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991)
Another iconic mask influenced by hockey, Hannibal Lecter's look is one that almost anyone can identify. While searching for the right look for the cannibal, the film's production crew was referred to Ed Cubberly, a man who designed some of the most notable NHL masks at the time. They simply asked him to design something that "a schizophrenic who goes around biting people" would have to wear. They didn't want to hide Lecter's eyes as Hopkins was really able to create so much of the character through the way he looked at people. So the mask was designed to cover the bottom half of his face and have the bars over his mouth, his second best weapon. Perhaps Cubberly's best contribution to the mask was suggesting that the crew leave the rusted, gritty deteriorated finish to truly enhance the prison feel.
Ghostface in 'Scream' (1996)
Scream was a game changer and completely revived a struggling slasher genre in the mid '90s. It was EP Marianne Maddalena who discovered the mask while scouting an abandoned building for a shoot. She showed it to Craven who instantly fell in love with the look. The problem was that the rights to the mask were owned by a costume company called "Fun World". Craven's love for the mask proved true when an unspecified amount of money was thrown at the costume company along with the rights to produce the mask itself post-production. Craven's unrelenting passion for his film left us with one of the most well known villains in horror history.
Tiger, Lamb & Fox in 'You're Next' (2011)
This awesome, under-appreciated slasher film brings nostalgia to most horror fans and delivers it with unrelenting kills and blood. The director's motives behind the three masks are to promote the idea of a look that anyone could wear. Not only for slaughtering a family, but a mask that someone could be wearing at a party, a play, a child's birthday, etc. Next time you watch the movie (hopefully sometime soon given the Halloween season!) try to focus on what character is wearing which mask. A lot of their actions reflect the persona of such mask.