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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Posted on August 9, 2020

Masks in Horror Cinema: Review & Interview

Guest Post

Masks are ubiquitous in horror films, to the point that they’re almost like oxygen – prevalent enough that we hardly think about them, but it is difficult to imagine horror without them. When we think of the laconic villains of horror, many of them come standard with mask. Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface are obvious examples, but further reflection reveals that masks are important to the persona of a number of other movie monsters: while we see Hannibal Lecter’s face frequently in Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) it’s hard to shake the image of him in the prison-assigned mask meant to restrain his cannibalistic tendencies.

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’s new book, Masks in Horror Cinema: Eyes without Faces (2020), discusses all of these films, and many more, offering the first book-length overview of masks in horror cinema. But the importance of the book lies not in its function as a survey text, but in its fascinating readings of the different uses and symbolic functions to which masks can be put. With this entry into University of Wales Press’s new Horror Studies series, Heller-Nicholas has made an important contribution to an overlooked area of horror. Throughout this monograph, Heller-Nicholas not only helps to point out how frequently masks are an integral part of horror narratives, but she also works to unpack the variety of functions they serve.

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