Thursday, March 31, 2011


Unlike most of my horror comrades, I wasn't alive for the glory days of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger.  I'm not even old enough to legally drink (less than 2 months to go!), and the slasher that reigned my childhood is the latest of the so-called "slasher franchise canon" to tip-toe their way into the limelight.

In the 1990's, the horror genre was cursed with a bit of a mainstream drought, so to speak.  While the horror films that were released underground lead to countless cult followings and praise, the ones the average movie-goer were exposed to were less than stellar examples.  This isn't to say there weren't fabulous films from the 1990's (Army of Darkness, Candy Man, Cemetery Man, Silence of the Lambs, Sixth Sense, etc. etc.), but the obsession with slasher films from the 1970's and 1980's had gone from horrifying to pathetic.  I'm sorry, but it is preposterous to even have an accidental thought that the fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer or the antagonist from Urban Legend could ever even attempt hold a candle to Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees.  It was in 1996 when horror god Wes Craven came to the aide of the slasher depraved grunge children of the 90's and delivered us Ghostface. 

While there have been five different actors to don the Edvard Munch inspired mask and cloak, Ghostface has always been voiced by Roger L. Jackson. (Yes, the same guy who voiced Mojo JoJo on The Powerpuff Girls).  Like many slashers, Ghostface is always human but the person behind the mask often exhibist extreme durability against physical harm, super-human strength,  and exudes an almost supernatural level of stealthiness.  While the character beneath the mask may change, they all have the same motive.  Kill Sidney Prescott.  Craven created Scream with the intention of almost parodying the world it was living in by exposing the "rules" of the slasher genre.  With that mindset, Sidney Prescott is almost 100% on par with Laurie Strode of the Halloween series, with Ghostface as her Michael Myers.  In each film, the Ghostface killer(s) often murder people close to Sidney and taunt her by use of the phone with threats and intimate knowledge of her life, or the murder of her mother.  Basically, if you ever meet Sidney Prescott. RUN.  Also like Halloween's later insallments, the Ghostface costume is not unique.  The world of Sidney and Ghostface is the world we live in now, and the Ghostface costume is easy to purchase and wear for fun.  I've always found this to be an interesting twist in that anyone could be Ghostface, regardless of location.

Ghostface was created as a mute character, only speaking when using the telephone or as the voice-changer for whoever was wearing the costume.  When speaking to his victims, he doesn't pop out immediate hatred but instead attempts to reel them in by flirting or complimenting.  Wes Craven considers Jackson's voice performance as Ghostface to have "evil sophistication".  I couldn't agree more.  Ghostface does seem to make grunting/groaning noises when injured, which always gives away the human underneath the mask.  Because Ghostface is different people, his characteristics often change depending on who is underneath it.  Some of the killers were seen as "clumsy" and would fall over objects when running, giving their victim a chance to get away.  However, anyone that used the Ghostface costume immediately shared the trait of screwing with their victims and prolonging a kill when they appear to have an advantage. For example, the Billy Loomis/Stu Macher Ghostface would almost always gut their victims after killing them with the exception of Tatum Riley who was killed while trying to squeeze through a doggy door built into a moving, mechanical garage door.  
 I will never forget the first time I ever laid eyes on the Ghostface killer's mask.  I was barely six years old and I had once again stayed up all night watching scary movies while my parents thought I was safely tucked away in bed.  It was during a commercial break for one of the films Svengoolie was showing that night when a very blonde Drew Barrymoore picked up the phone to hear the infamous question, "Do You Like Scary Movies?"  I peeked my head around the couch and stared in vain as my brown Bettie Page bangs struggled to cover my eyes.  That's when I saw the mask.  Without even thinking, I screamed as loud as I could and ran down the hallway into my room, slammed the door, and locked it.  I didn't sleep that night, and I wouldn't until after the commercials stopped running. The sight of Ghostface is one of the first memories I have as a child of being genuinely scared. To this day, I'm more than a little uneasy around the masks during Halloween time because the six year old inside of me wants to run away.  While the Scary Movie franchise turned him into a joke, he was a very scary creature for anyone who grew up in the 1990's, and deserves his due.  

7 comment(s):

Spike Ghost said...

Ghostface is also one of the first horror villains to truly scare me, i had never seen the movie but every time i saw that mask while zapping on tv or on pictures i would be uncomfortable.

DrunkethWizerd said...

I may be ten years older than you are, but even when Scream came out I did nothing but Love the shit out of it! Afterwards, a lot of people claimed that it RUINED EVERYTHING for the horror genre, but I don't think so. Yeah, it let some more useless teeny-bopper bullshit come through, but it wasn't all bad. Scream is a classic! And I'm saying that as an old ass mofo. I was sixteen when it came out and man, I just wanted to go around gutting and stalking.

People may talk shit, but have fun watching some of the horrid crap out there and then diss on Scream. Yeah, ok. Slap upside the head. Part 2 (was kinda ok) and 3, uhg. I'm hoping, and looking at the cast, fingering that it's going to be a good show old boy, top drawer and play me off with some hubba-hubba wink nudge.

Shona said...

The sight of that mask always makes me jolt. Like you, I can remember being utterly terrified the first time I saw Scream. It took a second viewing years later, when I wasn't a kid any more, to realise that a lot of the movie was supposed to be light!

Doug G. said...

WHen I saw this movie I fell in love with Neve Campbell most of all but the entire cast are stellar people and talented too. I dont have high hopes for Scream 4 but if its better than I imagine it would be then I will leave the theater happy. Just saying, part 4 looks kinda stupid from the previews I saw but who knows it might surprise me.

William Malmborg said...

This is a great post. I first saw Scream while in middle school and remember being blown away by how good and scary it was. A few years later I was old enough to see Scream 3 in theaters and loved it. Since then I have been a huge fan of the series and could never understand why so many horror fans thought ill of it.

The Mike said...

This is really good stuff, ma'am. I've undervalued Scream for a while, but each year it seems a little more groundbreaking as I look back. Can definitely see where it would affect the younger generation like it did you.

kindertrauma said...

"Scream" is great but I truly do think it poisoned the horror crops for a spell. For someone weaned on TCM and Halloween, the pummeling of slick teen crap that followed Scream felt like my equivalent to having a new "Twilight" released every weekend! (Sorry, I didn't mean to put such a horrifying notion in your head.)

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