We often wonder why Michael Myers hides his face on Halloween. Here at Ready, Fire, Aim, we do our best to address that question from as many angles as we can.
When it comes to slasher films, the appearance of the killer is a cliched cliché. Most horror movie aficionados would probably agree that Jason, Clown Face, and Leatherface are the best serial killers for teenagers and that their most recognizable feature is their masks.
One masked murderer, Michael Myers of the enormously successful Halloween series, tries to blend the two extremes by wearing a mask that looks like a regular, albeit pale, human face but yet manages to be immediately recognized. It’s puzzling that Michael would bother to wear a mask at all, but he very well may have good reasons to do so, both in the Halloween universe and in the real world. The world is waiting for us to discover it.
Why does Michael Myers wear a mask?
First of all, it’s important to remember that Michael Myers kills his sister on Halloween night while wearing a Halloween mask. A typical clown mask, the sort many children wear on Halloween, is removed from his face by his shocked parents in the opening scene, revealing his true identity to the viewers. Unmasking Michael here demonstrates the horror of the previous events for the audience and the other characters, despite an excessively extended take in which nothing appears to happen. After being locked up in a sanatorium for 15 years, Michael’s first inclination, after murdering everyone, seems to be to find another disguise.
Michael Myers stalks Laurie on Halloween night as the events of the first Halloween unfold. Several scenes take place throughout the day, and Michael may be seen strolling about Haddonfield. Michael has just escaped from an asylum, and Donald Pleasance is hot on his trail; without a mask, he would be easily identifiable to the authorities; with a mask, his true identity would be hidden from view; and since it is Halloween, people might not give him a second glance if they think he is just dressed up for the holiday. This is another story-related explanation for why Michael Myers might want to hide his identity in the film.
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Michael Myers takes Judith’s gravestone from the cemetery, suggesting he has some kind of scheme in mind for inflicting awful retribution on the villagers. If Michael is, as Dr. Loomis claims, “pure evil,” then the unsettling mask he wears will further heighten the dread of his victims. Michael seems to have calculated that he will have more control over his victims if he wears a mask that will increase their fear of him.
So, it appears that the screenplay’s internal logic would have always mandated that Michael Myers, or “the shape” as he was first called, would always wear a mask of some type to hide his identity, enabling him to operate more readily on Halloween and create greater horror in his victims. In 1978, when the first slasher films were released, there was no definitive guide to the genre. Why, therefore, did Carpenter and Hill settle on a mask, and why did they choose one with such an unusual design? Now, as for the mask itself, it comes with a fair amount of paper trail.
First of all, we need to keep in mind that the picture was made on a tight budget, so everything from the script to the casting to the marketing had to be managed with precision. After the success of Assault on Precinct 13, a novice Carpenter was given the job. He agreed to help Irwin Yablans and Mustapha Akkad make a horror film, but only provided he was given complete freedom to express his own vision for the project.
Obviously, they were given this, and so were Carpenter and Hill. In order to make the most of the limited resources at his disposal, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace was instructed to create a frightening but humanoid mask for Michael to wear.
At some point, Wallace would purchase the mask for less than $2 from a Hollywood costume store, then he would enlarge the eye openings and spray paint the mask white with a bluish tint. The mask, which was initially a William Shatner mask and was used as a cost-cutting measure, became instantly recognizable and became a hallmark of the series. It seems that from a creative and production aspect, Michael Myers has always had to hide his identity.