Imagine this: You’re feeling trapped inside...
...The obnoxious and half-hearted sounds of your neighbors screwing are leaking through the walls from the apartment next door. There’s nothing good on TV. And you want a moment of fresh air. So, you step outside. And as soon as you walk out into the warm, welcoming sun, some asshole not wearing a mask runs by and coughs in your face.
Back in the day before this pandemic, that would’ve been annoying. Now, it’s straight up horrifying.
Especially if you, also, are not wearing a mask.
Despite 120,000 dead Americans and an ever-rising number of cases, (great job, America, we’re #1 at something), what seems like 50% of this country, if not more, are STILL not wearing masks when they go out in public. Some claim the government is trying to control us, (you know, like how they control us by saying we should exercise and eat healthy. How dare those scientists say what’s good for us). Others say it’s uncomfortable. And still more are just ignorant about it.
But horror fans shouldn’t be. Why? Because horror movies have been showing us the dangers of not wearing a mask for decades!
For as long as horror has been around, the genre has been our parent. Our babysitter. Our mentor. It teaches us the facts of life. Horror taught me about sex, drugs, and why I shouldn’t go outside when I hear a strange noise. We just haven’t been paying attention to some of the lessons, like proper mask-wearing.
Take Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. What happens? Ole Jason is just minding his business, slashing his way through promiscuous teens, when BAM! Trish (Kimberly Beck), knocks his mask off, exposing his handsome, rotting face…a face which then gets a machete planted through it. Bye, bye, Jason. We wouldn’t see him again until Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, when Jason officially became a zombie.
Think of Jason as you, and Trish and Tommy (Corey Feldman) as angry little Covid-19 cells, just waiting for that mask to come off. Jason being unmasked in that crucial moment is a sign of vulnerability. The same way you’re vulnerable when you don’t wear a mask during a goddamn pandemic. He, just like you, is exposed to the outside elements. While wearing the mask, Jason is unstoppable. Immovable. A killing machine. Without the mask? Jason gets his ass kicked by a teenage girl and her little brother.
In fact, every Friday the 13th film that sees Jason unmasked immediately has him being defeated afterward. Coincidence? I think not! And Jason’s not the only example.
What happens to Michael Myers after he’s briefly unmasked in Halloween?
BOOM! Shot six times. John Carpenter even said he wanted Michael to be handsome underneath the mask. To look angelic. Vulnerable. The moment that mask comes off, Michael is taken down by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance), albeit briefly. Michael is only unmasked for a second, but that's all it takes for Covid-bullets to blast right down your throat and into your body.
The same concept of masks and death once they’re removed exists all throughout horror cinema.
Once the masks come off in Scream? Billy (Skeet Ulrich) gets a bullet to the head. Stu (Matthew Lillard) gets a TV smashed over his face. Both of them experiencing some sort of head trauma. Should’ve kept wearing that Ghostface protection. Instead, they took the masks off, revealing their identities and exposing themselves, allowing a Sydney (Neve Campbell) Covid cell to fuck them up. And that TV to the face? You’re probably going to feel like Stu in that moment if you don’t wear that mask and stay safe.
The masks which horror villains wear are like Achilles’ heel. You know, the Greek legend who was dipped in a lake that made him invulnerable, but was held by his ankle, making it the only part of him that was weak? Masks in horror are the strength of the villains, and without them, they're weak. In some metaphorical, horror film way, masks give them power. They give them the identity of someone who is un-killable. A symbol which frightens people. The face they shudder to think of.
We don’t tremble when we think of Michael Myers’ pretty face. We tremble when we think of that abominable, inside-out William Shatner mask.
One of the exceptions might be something like the Predator (he’s one ugly motherfucker), but even the Predator is defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger once he foolishly removes his mask, taking away many of his advantages. Overconfident, the Predator believes a puny (compared to the massive alien) Arnold cannot defeat him. Kind of like how many of us think screw it, if I get sick, I’ll be fine. But as the Predator learns, and as we’ve seen so many times throughout this pandemic, that overconfidence often leads to destruction.
You could even argue villains are wearing these masks to avoid the germs of the STD-ridden teens they're hunting. I sure as hell wouldn't want to get my face too close to them!
But Matt, those horror villains never actually died. They always came back, you may be saying. And that’s true. But, and I hate to spoil this for you, you don’t have regenerative powers. You’re not the embodiment of evil (I hope). And it’s pretty damn unlikely that you have a friend on standby to jam a lightning rod in your body during a powerful storm, and even then, the chances of lightning striking and bringing you back from the dead are about zero.
So, for whatever reason, if you’re still walking around in public not wearing a mask, remember the horror villains you love, and what got them killed. You can feel like an imposing monster incapable of being taken down by a microscopic bunch of cells, but that’s probably how these villains all felt going up against doped up teens before they realized they lost all power without their masks.
If you’re wondering why I would even take the time to write this silly piece, it’s because I care about all of you. And if we’re not going to listen to scientists or politicians (can’t blame you with the politicians), then let’s listen to what our favorite horror films have been saying all along. Don’t make yourselves vulnerable. Wear a mask, screwheads!
You can even buy fun horror themed ones like the one I'm wearing in the photo below at robsheridan.threadless.com, which has a ton of great selections. Not only will you look and feel cool, but most importantly, you won’t look like a walking petri-dish.
By Matt Konopka