The horror genre is full of iconic masks: Michael Myers’ blank-faced HALLOWEEN mask, Jason Voorhees’s hockey mask, Ghostface’s pale visage… You’d think the genre would have run out of ideas by now, but modern films are still creating immensely terrifying masks, even if they haven’t had the time to become icons yet. Here are some of the best and creepiest.
Smiley in SMILEY (2012)
I can’t say I’ve ever seen this YouTube-based horror flick, but I’ve seen enough screenshots to have this particular mask haunt me. It’s a fleshlike material carved into a violent, bloody smile that makes me anything but happy.
Chromeskull in LAID TO REST (2009)
Maybe this one is more “awesome” than “scary,” but you can’t go wrong with a mask like Chromeskull’s. It’s a chrome skull, which is really pretty self-explanatory, but it’s such a fun, clever look in a film that’s vastly underseen.
The Animals in YOU’RE NEXT (2013)
The trio of killers in Adam Wingard’s YOU’RE NEXT wear the masks of three different animals. The first is a tiger, the second is a fox, but the third is a true perversion of innocence: a docile lamb. Seeing these blank-faced creatures bring visceral death and carnage to an old country home is even more powerful because of that third heat.
The Strangers in THE STRANGERS (2008)
Home invasions are terrible things to begin with, but they’re made even worse by the utterly terrifying masks donned by the titular Strangers in Bryan Bertino’s 2008 flick. I can’t even begin to choose which one freaks me out the most, but there’s something truly uncanny about the woman on the left, whose mask cuts off too soon at the forehead, giving her face an incomplete look that’s just jarring.
Owen in LET ME IN (2010)
This mask in LET ME IN never sees action. It just appears in an early scene where the main character Owen is playacting in his room, but it’s a shame the clear monstrosity doesn’t get more screentime. There’s something creepy about actually being able to see the face behind the mask, except for the fact that it’s eerily distorted.
The Killer in HUSH (2016)
Blank faces are a staple of horror movie masks, from Michael Myers to the aforementioned YOU’RE NEXT animals, but HUSH takes the model one step further by smoothing out the facial features to the barest suggestion of a face. Though it happens in a narratively satisfying way, it’s a shame this cool mask is removed from the film far too soon.
Babyface in THE HILLS RUN RED (2009)
What is it about modern masks looking like they’re made of actual rent flesh? This mask is like TOURIST TRAP meets Leatherface meets a Pinocchio fever dream. Babyface’s visage is definitely one of the best of the decade.
The Purgers in THE PURGE (2013)
The PURGE franchise is full of incredible masks, but you just can’t beat the original. The wicked glee on these blank-eyed masks is exactly what you don’t want to see outside your peephole in the middle of the night.