Believe it or not, there are relatively few horror movie killers that wear masks. Even though most conceptualize the typical horror slasher as “some guy in a mask,” many aren’t masked at all. The ones that are masked represent some of the most legendary killers in the genre, and a new addition comes in Scott Derrickson‘s latest film The Black Phone (now in theaters).
The film’s masked killer, The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) has already garnered a lot of praise from horror fans for Hawke’s horrifying performance. Plus, The Grabber’s surprisingly transformative mask is made by genre legend. Tom Savini and makes him even creepier. With time, The Grabber could craft a legacy that hits the same marks as other popular masked killers in the genre. For now, though, to celebrate the newest masked killer in the genre, it’s time to rank the legacies of other iconic masked killers in horror to see who’s really the most prolific.
Leslie Vernon (‘Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon’)
Part mockumentary, part homage to the slasher genre. Behind The Mask is a pure celebration of slashers featuring plenty of iconic actors and nods to the horror genre while introducing its own masked killer with the titular Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel).
Although Behind the Mask never made it past cult status, Leslie Vernon’s legacy in the genre has transcended for fans providing a meta look at slashers and the horror genre. Baesel’s performance as Leslie is immensely underrated and his killer design is equally underrated and unique.
The Man (‘Hush’)
The killer in Mike Flanagan‘s criminally underseen 2016 film Hushcalled The Man (John Gallagher Jr.), is pretty plain on paper and is mostly demasked in the film, but left a big impression on viewers.
As he terrorizes a deaf author in her home, The Man instantly instills chills with his plain, but creepy white face mask and only becomes more of terror when he demasks. The Man features one of the best unexpected actor reveals in recent time and Gallagher’s performance mixed with Flanagan’s direction makes him a horrifying threat throughout. Hush.
The Phantom Killer (‘The Town That Dreaded Sundown’)
Whether you’re watching the 1976 original or the surprisingly good 2014 requel, The Town That Dreaded Sundown provides one of the most simply designed, but terrifying killers with The Phantom Killer.
Loosely based on the actual killings of the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, both films bring the Phantom Killer to life and while his sack-headed design is not new for the genre, his grisly dark look makes him have a menacing presence and perfectly fits his setting. . The Phantom Killer is never going to be a household name, but he should not be forgotten either.
Shadyside Killers (‘Fear Street’)
Netflix‘s Fear Street provided not just one, but multiple masked killers to love and pay homage to classic killers in the genre.
From the Nightwing Killer being a nod to Friday the 13th: Part II‘s version of Jason to Skull Mask being a Halloween store version of Ghostface, these killers pay their respect to the past, but also chart their own path. After all, who could forget the horrifying look of The Grifter or the creepy innocence of child killer Billy Barker. It’s no wonder that fans are campaigning to see these killers return for more and maybe even have their stories lead a series or film.
The Miner / Harry Warden (‘My Bloody Valentine’)
My Bloody Valentine‘s central miner killer, named Harry Warden, is an often-forgotten killer in the horror genre, but really shouldn’t be because his look is iconic.
Try to say that seeing a killer dressed completely in a horrifying miner’s outfit wielding a pickaxe isn’t scary as hell, and his distinctive look instantly makes him stand out. My Bloody Valentine is a cult-classic slasher, and its miner killer deserves that same recognition.
The Masked Purgers (‘The Purge’)
The Purge The franchise would be nothing without its hordes of masked purgers that turn a night without laws into a real nightmare.
Although the first film simply saw its masked purgers wear simple, yet horrifying face masks to bring out their sadistic intentions, The Purge franchise has taken big creative leaps with every film in its depictions of purgers that range from embodying political controversy to looking creepy as hell. The purgers might not have a singular legacy like most characters on this list, but they continuously leave their mark.
Sam (‘Trick r Treat’)
It’s pretty rare to have a kid killer in a slasher movie, but Michael Dougherty‘s 2007 anthology film Trick r Treat introduced a fan-favorite with Sam.
Although Sam might look innocent and harmless with that adorable looking sack on his head, he is far from innocent with how he handles those who are not in the Halloween spirit. Sam has become a beloved entity in the genre for his efforts to keep spirits high for horror’s favorite holiday, and he’s even more horrifying when his mask comes off.
The Strangers (‘The Strangers’)
Of all the modern horror killers, there’s no trio that’s more daunting and terrifying than The Strangers as their sociopathic behavior and stalking make you think twice before answering the door.
Dollface, Man in the Mask, and Pin-Up Girl’s expressionless masks only add to their haunting allure, and they’re a big part to why. Bryan Bertino‘s directorial debut is one of the scariest home invasion films of all-time. Their presence is simply terrifying, and their lack of motives makes them even more disturbing.
Leatherface (‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’)
Aside from his chainsaw, Leatherface’s mask, which is generally the face of some poor soul he carved up is a defining trait of what makes him one of the scariest slashers in the genre.
There have been plenty of times throughout the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, especially in the 2003 remake, where Leatherface’s mask has elevated his deranged behavior and the cannibalistic behavior of his family. Leatherface has terrified audiences for decades through terrifying kills and a daunting presence that’s made him an iconic entity in the genre.
Michael Myers (‘Halloween’)
With his iconic white Shatner mask, Michael Myers has been a complete terror in the Halloween franchise racking up a serious body count and becoming one of the genre’s most iconic killers.
Although Michael Myers does not show a lot of personality or have the most inventive kills, he arguably the slasher that started it all and continues to terrify audiences with his expressionless behavior and sheer determination to kill.
Along with Freddy Krueger, Ghostface is one of Wes Craven‘s most notable creations not only for his iconic look, but also for the legacy he’s left for meta commentary in the horror genre through the Scream movies.
There’s no doubt that without Ghostface, there would not be as many meta stories within horror and although many people have worn Ghostface’s signature white mask, it is Roger L. Jackson‘s voice that makes the character a terrifying entity. Plus, it’s always fun to see Ghostface test people’s horror knowledge.
Jason Voorhees (‘Friday the 13th’)
Could anyone but Jason Voorhees really be the top pick in a list like this? After taking the mantle from his mother, Jason has led the Friday the 13th franchise to become one of the most notable and beloved franchises in horror.
Jason’s hockey mask has become a symbolic part of people envisioning the look of a slasher, and he’s a pop culture icon whose legacy stretches beyond just film. From hit video games to even comic books, Jason has become a legendary horror figure and hopefully fans’ dreams of seeing him return to the big screen, maybe for another crossover bout with Freddy Krueger, will happen soon.
KEEP READING: 10 Best Slashers That Aren’t ‘Halloween’ or ‘Friday the 13th’