Etched In Our Nightmares: The Scariest Horror Movie Mask

By  · Published on October 9th, 2013

Naturally, Showgirls is the scariest movie of all time, but there are no masks involved. Which means that trying to come up with the scariest horror movie mask feels a bit neutered. Still, there’s no denying the pants-wetting power of 1) hiding your face 2) sometimes with someone else’s face.

To determine the worst of the best, we turned to FSR writers to nominate their favorites and fight for them with words. Oddly enough, no one chose Ghostface from Scream (where I stole that awesome Showgirls joke from), so if it terrifies you the most, please feel free to tell us how dumb we are in the comments section.

Now, who’s facial seams reign supreme?

Kevin Carr

I’m throwing my two cents at Leatherface (and then running away), for the same reason why the movie itself is so grisly and disturbing. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre worked so well because it was unapologetically terrifying. It pulled no punches, even though it was shot with little on-screen blood for potential televisions broadcast.

Unlike other iconic horror masks like the hockey mask on Jason Voorhees or the painted Shatner mask for Michael Myers, Leatherface’s mask was his deformity on display for all to see. Beneath it, he’s no Casanova. He hides behind it, and you have to wonder how horrifying he is if he uses that to hide behind. Where Jason and Michael wear masks to cover the monster, Leatherface’s monster emerges as part of the mask.

And it’s made of flesh, which is just creepy as hell.

I’m also throwing out what I think is the worst horror movie mask ever: Urban Legends. It’s a coat. It’s the most conspicuous mask ever, and the killer looks like it walked off the set of The Thing. In the middle of summer. Give me a break. Coats aren’t scary.

Adam Charles

It’s a tie between the Leatherface and Michael Myers masks. Both are perfect reflections of the killers that wear them and both are frightening for very different reasons. The Myers mask embodies the myth of the boogeyman, so you feel like a scared child in its presence. The Leatherface mask embodies the most disturbed kind of human being and makes you scared of adults who are only as mentally developed as children.

Nathan Adams

While the masks from Halloween or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be the most correct answers to this question, and the hockey mask from Friday the 13th is probably the most obvious, even though it’s just a simple hockey mask and didn’t appear in the series until a few entries in, I’ll take a left turn and go with the bandage wraps and goggles from the original The Invisible Man.

Somehow Claude Rains took a concept that isn’t inherently scary and made it terrifying due to the mania he was able to project. And somehow he took this mask setup that existed solely as a simple explanation for how the audience would still be able to see an invisible man and was able to emote through it in a relatable way.

The Invisible Man mask probably shouldn’t be one of the best horror movie masks, but it is because of how effectively it was used in that 1933 film. It also remains a totally radical and completely recognizable Halloween costume to this day.

Christopher Campbell

I have to keep it short and simple. Jason’s hockey mask is the best of all time because it is both so basic and so iconic. I haven’t looked at a goalie mask in 30 years without thinking about the Friday the 13th movies.

Whereas when I look at William Shatner or human skin cut from the body and sewn to look like a face, I don’t immediately or always think about Myers or Leatherface.

Daniel Walber

The mask that the little boy in The Orphanage wears is absolutely terrifying. On the one hand, it looks like the kind of gross rag that a kid, too young to entirely understand the problem with germs, would put on his head while playing a game of make believe. Simultaneously, its distorted features make it look as if poor creepy Tomás’s face has started melting off.

We end up both unsettled by him and scared for him, the latter of which makes us uncomfortable and more vulnerable to the film’s mighty handful of jump scares. Also, burlap is the most unpleasant of fabrics and no one should ever wear it on their face.

Rob Hunter

I’m going to definitively declare that Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th Part 2 (also revisited in the 2009 remake and seen originally in The Town That Dreaded Sundown) is the most frightening and effective horror movie mask of all time. Others are flashier and “cooler” of course, but the simple burlap sack feels the most legitimate and powerful.

A hockey mask is iconic, but it’s neither scary nor believable. A mask made of human skin is gross, but it’s far from practical. But a cloth sack? It means the killer’s focus is on slowly disemboweling you while you writhe in unbearable pain instead of wasting time on superficial costume details.

Scott Beggs

The true icons have been covered here alongside a few new classics (although I still think You’re Next’s animal masks were a welcome addition to the pantheon), and since I have little regard for my own poll parameters, I’ve picked a mask that’s not from a horror movie at all. Although I’m also more than willing to hear arguments as to why Brazil is actually a horror film.

But, yes, the baby mask worn by Michael Palin? Nope. Get it out of here. Perma-frightening.

Forget that he’s wearing it in preparation to torture Sam Lowry. Someone with that baby mask could be doing their taxes. Or washing a car. Or selling vegetables door-to-door. There is no benign or mundane task that this mask wouldn’t convert into a nightmare machine. I feel terrible even including the picture here.

What’s your pick for scariest horror movie mask?

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.