RANKED! The Greatest Horror Films Featuring a Creepy Masked Killer (Like That’s What We Need To Watch Right Now)
Masks weren’t always a paragon of safety from dangerous things (we’re looking at you COVID-19). In the annals of cinematic history (and in unfortunate gas stations, banks, and other places dealing in cash), if you see someone/something wearing a mask, it usually isn’t a good sign. If you want to scare someone, put a monster in their closet, if that monster comes out, make sure they’re wearing a mask. The creepiest masked figures often wield knives, axes, chainsaws, and “body” unsuspecting characters like it’s going out of style, but it never does. We love/hate that which is dangerous and mysterious. With that in mind, here are the greatest horror films featuring a masked killer because, this Halloween, that’s just what you need to see.
Cover Photo: Paramount Pictures
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12. 'Happy Death Day'
If you’re a perpetual man/woman child, then babies already scare you. In the black comedy/slasher Happy Death Day, the protagonist, Tree, is murdered on her birthday by a killer wearing a babyface mask within the film’s opening minutes. In a Groundhog Day-esque twist, she then wakes up to live the same day over again; each day (or rather the same day) she gathers more clues to prevent her death.
11. 'The Purge'
2013’s The Purge has launched a series of sub-par sequels and a television series. The concept, featuring an American government that sanctions an annual 12-hour period where all criminal activity is legal has captivated audiences, which is...disconcerting. It seems like every Halloween, people are seen wearing Purge masks in public, which is...startling. Believe it or not, "What day is the real-life purge?" is a frequently Googled question.
10. 'The Strangers'
The Strangers features one of the worst vacations ever depicted in a slasher. Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) think their weekend is going to be relaxing, but instead, it’s filled with murder and mayhem. This film’s masked torturers invade their family-vacation home and serve up some genuinely scary moments.
9. 'Alice, Sweet Alice'
Misunderstood and discarded upon its initial release, Alice, Sweet Alice is not regarded as a cult classic. It has accrued the type of acclaim that is often associated with films studied in an academic environment—which makes it even creepier. It explores the nature of Catholicism, the family unit, and child abuse all while making the viewer fear some psycho little girl in a weird mask and yellow raincoat. This film is quiet yet brutal.
8. 'You're Next'
You’re Next follows the wealthy yet estranged Davison family. One weekend, Aubrey and Paul decide to invite their children and their partners to come to stay in celebration of the couple’s wedding anniversary. During the family reunion, attackers with cross-bows and in animal masks crash the party, forcing the Davisons to band together and overcome their differences.
7. 'Trick 'r Treat'
Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology-style mashup of Halloween horror stories revolving around a strange trick-or-treater wearing a burlap sack. It's a skillfully crafted salute to classic films in the genre and it's creepy as fuck. It also has a killer soundtrack (pun intended).
6. 'Friday the 13th'
Any and every horror fan knows the story of Jason, the boy who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake. Naturally, Jason comes back to life and terrorizes campers (or inspires the terrorizing) for years to come. With a quintessential '70s appeal and an iconic hockey mask, Friday the 13th will forever live in infamy.
5. 'Blood and Black Lace'
Blood and Black Lace follows a masked man who kills models with his metal claws at a fashion salon. It arguably set the foundation for many American films that followed. Stylistically beautiful and unconventionally violent, this film made director Mario Bava a founding father of masked slashers.
Wes Craven’s Scream is part slasher, part whodunit that’s hilarious and (was) revolutionary for the horror genre. Even those who haven’t seen it recognize the Ghostface mask, that says it all.
3 'The Orphanage'
The Orphanage is easily the most depressing movie on this list, and that’s saying something. The film follows Laura (Belén Rueda) who returns to the orphanage she grew up in. With various twists and turns, The Orphanage is the rare film that terrifies without spilling copious amounts of blood. Oh yeah, and it’s filled with creepy children wearing a sack mask(s).
2. 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'
Due to the movie’s documentary-style camera work, this film is often assumed to be based on a true story, but it’s not. Some of the crimes committed by Ed Gein may have inspired the character of Leatherface, who wears a mask made of human skin, but the story of Sally and Franklin's encounter with a bunch of cannibals is pure fiction. This doesn’t make the story, or Leatherface, any less demented or creepy.
In John Carpenter’s Halloween, serial killer Mike Myers wears an old William Shatner mask/mold after escaping from a sanitarium. As creepy and visceral as horror movies come, Halloween, has served as the foundation for various slasher/horror tropes, scores, and is a premier example of art in a disreputable genre. All thanks to a mask.
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