Ghostface, an intimidating disguise for the film series' antagonists-in-hiding.
|First appearance||Film: |
"The Deadfast Club" (2019)
|Last appearance||Film: |
Scream 4 (2011)
|Created by||Wes Craven|
|Voiced by||Roger L. Jackson|
The Icon of Halloween
|Signature weapon||Buck Knife|
|M.O.||Taunting victims by phone, stabbing, throat slitting, disemboweling (gutting)|
Windsor College, Ohio
|Part of a series on|
Ghostface (alternatively stylized as Ghost Face or GhostFace) is a fictional identity adopted by several characters of the Scream series. The figure is primarily mute in person but voiced over the phone by Roger L. Jackson, regardless of who is behind the mask. Ghostface first appeared in Scream (1996) as a disguise used by teenagers Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard), during their killing spree in the fictional town of Woodsboro. Ghostface was created by Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson. The mask is inspired by The Scream painting by Edvard Munch and was created and designed by Fun World costume company employee Brigitte Sleiertin as a Halloween costume, prior to being discovered by Marianne Maddalena and Craven for the film. The identity is used primarily as a disguise for each of the antagonists of each film to conceal their identity, while conducting serial murders and as such has been portrayed by several actors.
In Scream, the identity is temporarily adopted by the killers' target, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), using it against them. In the Scream universe, the costume is not unique and is easily obtainable, allowing others to wear a similar outfit. Ghostface often calls its targets to taunt or threaten them while using a voice changer that hides its true identity. In Scream 3, this is taken further by Roman Bridger (Scott Foley) who uses a device that enables him to sound like several other characters, in order to manipulate targets. The changing identity of the person beneath the mask means that Ghostface has no definite motivation, ranging from revenge and seeking fame to "peer pressure". However, each killer shares the common goal of killing Sidney due to a chain of events indirectly caused by her mother Maureen Prescott (Lynn McRee).
Initially, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) created the identity with Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard) in order to kill Sidney because of her mother's affair with Billy's father. The Ghostface persona remains the same throughout the Scream series, featuring a black hood and cloak with a jagged base and a white rubber-mask resembling a ghost with a screaming expression. Though each iteration of Ghostface is human, they often exhibit extreme durability against physical harm, high levels of physical strength, and an almost supernatural stealth ability; able to appear and disappear in seemingly impossible situations. The character has often appeared in popular culture since its inception, referenced in film and television as well as spawning a series of action figures and merchandise.
In the anthology television series Scream, two different characters are similar to Ghostface, named the Lakewood Slasher, who appeared in the series for the first two seasons and the Shallow Grove Slasher, who appeared in the Halloween special episodes of the second season, both are voiced by Mike Vaughn. On September 18, 2017, it was announced that Ghostface would make an appearance in the third season. On October 10, 2017, Keke Palmer confirmed in an interview that Roger L. Jackson, who voiced Ghostface in the film series, would return for the third season, replacing Vaughn. The third season premiered on July 8, 2019.
Ghostface first appears in the opening scene of Scream (1996). The character, voiced by Roger L. Jackson, calls and taunts teenager Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) with horror clichés and trivia questions, eventually murdering her boyfriend Steve Orth (Kevin Patrick Walls) in front of her before she herself is killed. The identity has been adopted by the primary antagonists of each successive film to conceal their identity, prior to being revealed in each film's final act.
In the original Scream, the identity is used by a killer stalking the fictional town of Woodsboro, California. After the murder spree begins, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) begins receiving taunting and threatening phone calls from Ghostface, who claims knowledge of her mother Maureen Prescott (Lynn McRee)'s brutal murder, one year prior to the events of the film, a murder that was blamed on Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber). The Ghostface disguise allows suspicion to fall on many people, including Sidney's boyfriend, Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich), her father, Neil Prescott (Lawrence Hecht), her friend, Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), and her schoolmate, Stu Macher (Matthew Lillard). Ghostface is revealed in the finale as both Billy and Stu, who reveal that they murdered Sidney's mother and framed Cotton. Billy cites his motivation as abandonment by his mother (Laurie Metcalf), brought about by his father's affair with Maureen, while Stu cites "peer pressure". Sidney is able to gain an advantage against Billy and Stu, temporarily adopting the Ghostface persona herself to taunt them before killing Stu. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) shoots Billy to stop him from killing Sidney, who then finishes Billy off with a bullet to the head, citing the fact that "They ALWAYS get back up," a common horror cliche, and now her catchphrase. This is most likely one of the many tropes taught to her by Randy Meeks, who is obsessed with horror, and openly lists these cliches earlier in the film, during a party.
Ghostface's second appearance was in Scream 2 (1997) where it was again used as a disguise by the main antagonists. A series of murders occur at Windsor College, Sidney's current location, with the initial victims sharing names with Billy and Stu's victims from Scream. The killers again taunt Sidney and attempt to kill her and later kill Randy. The Ghostface disguise allows suspicion to fall on several characters, including Cotton, again, and Sidney's boyfriend Derek (Jerry O'Connell). However, Mickey (Timothy Olyphant), a friend of Derek, reveals himself as the killer, seeking fame for his prolific exploits. Mickey's accomplice is revealed to be Billy's mother, under the alias Debbie Salt, who is seeking revenge against Sidney for her son's death. Mrs. Loomis shoots Mickey, claiming to have indulged his desire for fame only to enlist his help in enacting her revenge, and tries to kill Sidney. With help from the exonerated Cotton, Sidney survives and Mrs. Loomis is killed. Seconds later, Mickey springs to his feet screaming, but is quickly shot to death by Gale and Sidney.
The story continues in Scream 3 (2000) where the identity of Ghostface is used to murder Cotton and his girlfriend Christine, in an attempt to discover the now-hidden Sidney's location. The killer leaves images of Maureen at the crime scenes to draw Sidney out of seclusion while murdering the cast of "Stab 3", the film within a film based on Sidney and her experiences with Ghostface. Ghostface is revealed as Sidney's half-brother Roman Bridger (Scott Foley), born to their mother Maureen during a two-year period when she moved to Hollywood to become an actress under the name Rina Reynolds. After being gang-raped and impregnated at a party, she gave Roman up for adoption who sought her out years later, only to be rejected, denying she had ever been Rina. Roman began stalking Maureen and filming her relationships with other men including Hank Loomis. He used this footage to reveal to Billy why his mother had "abandoned" him before convincing him to kill Maureen, sparking the chain of events in Scream and Scream 2. With Sidney's help, her friend Dewey Riley (David Arquette) manages to kill Roman, ending the series of murders based on his revenge against Maureen.
In Scream 4 (2011), another Ghostface killer emerges in Woodsboro on the 15th anniversary of the massacre conducted by Billy and Stu; the new killer recreates events from the incident, but also films the murders to create a snuff film. Ghostface kills several teenagers and police officers before being unmasked as Sidney's cousin Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts) and her friend Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin) who intend to kill Sidney, frame Jill's ex-boyfriend Trevor Shelton (Nico Tortorella) and become the current generation's "Sidney" and "Randy Meeks", with the accompanying fame of being the "survivors" of the massacre. Jill betrays Charlie and stabs him through the heart and then seemingly kills Sidney, before purposely injuring and stabbing herself to make herself appear a victim of Ghostface. After being taken to the hospital, Dewey informs her that Sidney has survived. Jill attempts to end her life but is stalled by Dewey, Gale and Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) long enough for Sidney to shoot her through the heart, killing her.
Ghostface made an appearance in the third season of the anthology television slasher series Scream. The season, titled Scream: Resurrection, premiered on VH1 on July 8, 2019. In this season, the killers are revealed in the episode "Endgame": Beth (Giorgia Whigham) and Jamal "Jay" Elliot (Tyga).
Ghostface appears as a downloadable character in the asymmetrical multiplayer survival horror game, Dead by Daylight, alongside other horror icons such as Michael Myers from Halloween, Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, Amanda from SAW, and others. In the video game, Ghostface's real identity is Danny Johnson, known by the pseudonym Jed Olsen, a freelancer newspaper journalist in the fictional town of Roseville, Florida who covers the Ghostface murders by day and commits them by night. This version of Ghostface is not technically associated with the Scream films (due to the mask and films being entirely separate in copyright because the films used a pre-existing mask) but is instead an original character simply donning the Ghostface attire, making it the game’s own version of the killer.
Concept and creation
The Ghostface costume is the outfit worn by the main antagonists of the Scream franchise, consisting of a rubber white mask with black eyes, nose and mouth and a black, cloth-like material, hooded-robe with faux-tatters draping from the arms and a spiked-trim to the base of the outfit. In the movie, the costume is considered common and easily purchasable making identifying the buyers difficult and creating the possibility for anyone to be the killer.
The Ghostface mask was first developed for novelty stores during the Halloween season between 1991 and 1992 by Fun World employee Brigitte Sleiertin as part of a series entitled "Fantastic Faces", the mask itself known as "The Peanut-Eyed Ghost". The final design was approved by Fun World vice-President Allan Geller. Craven claimed to have originally found the mask but later clarified that he had misremembered the event and that it was producer Marianne Maddalena who discovered it. She found it while inside a house during location scouting for the film and brought it to the attention of Craven, who set about trying to obtain the rights to use it. Fun World Licensing Director R.J. Torbert joined Fun World in 1996 and was given the task of naming the mask prior to its film debut, deciding on "GhostFace" with the blessing of Fun World owners Stanley and Allan Geller. Torbert felt it looked like a "ghost in pain", believing it to be a unique design. The Ghostface design and title are owned by Fun World.
The design of the mask bears reference to Edvard Munch's painting The Scream, one of the characters on the cover of the Pink Floyd album The Wall and the ghostly characters that appeared in the 1930s Betty Boop cartoon. The mask is stark white and depicts a caricature of someone screaming and crying at the same time. Designer Sleiertin stated that the mask displayed different emotions, "It's a horrible look, it's a sorry look, it's a frantic look". Since the appearance of Ghostface in Scream, the costume has become the most worn and sold costume for Halloween in the United States.
The initial script labeled the main antagonist as "masked killer" with no specifications to their appearance, forcing Craven and his staff to produce the costume eventually worn by Ghostface as they were shooting. Craven asked Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger of design company KNB Effects to produce a mask specifically for the film based on the Fun World design but did not like the final result. After Fun World and Dimension Films were able to complete an agreement for the use of the Ghostface mask, Craven was able to use the original design as he wanted. The custom mask made by KNB Effects still appears in the scenes involving the murder of Casey Becker and Principal Himbry as filming of these scenes completed prior to the finalization of the deal between Fun World and Dimension Films.
— Brigitte Sleiertin on choosing the final design for what became Ghostface
The 1991–92 "Fantastic Faces" edition of the mask used in Scream is made of thin, white rubber with blackened eyes, nose and mouth. Despite being portrayed by Ulrich and Lillard, the costume is mostly worn by stuntman Dane Farwell who gave the character many of its mannerisms including the ritualistic cleaning of the knife blade following a kill. In the first film, Craven wore the costume during the opening murder scene where the character is struck by a phone and by Ulrich only once during a finale scene where the character prepares to murder Randy. Despite Stu wearing the costume in the film, actor Lillard never actually wore the outfit. Scream 2 features a slightly redesigned version of the mask from the "Fearsome Faces" line, possessing slightly-altered eyes and an indented chin. Following Scream 2, the Ghostface mask became part of the "Ghostface" line of masks featuring several variations of the design including glow-in-the-dark models. The plain, white version of the Ghostface line mask is used in Scream 3 by Bridger. Another edition of the mask was developed, dubbed "The Deluxe Edition Mask" for use by Ghostface in Scream 4, again similar to the original Ghostface design but constructed of thicker rubber with a pearlescent finish.
Following the description in Williamson's script of a "ghost mask", Craven and designers had originally intended to use a white-motif, creating a white cloak and hood for the killer's costume. It was the intervention of Maddalena who felt that the cloak would be scarier if it was black, that resulted in the dark costume shown on screen. The cloak itself had to be custom-made for the film as the "Father Death" outfit identified in Scream as that of the killers did not really exist, as the Fun World mask was sold only as a stand-alone item. The cloak entered into retail markets only following the release of Scream. Each cloak was estimated to cost $700 to hand-produce by a seamstress and was made of a heavy, thick, black material with reflective threads woven throughout, creating a subtle glimmer. The cloak was created to help conceal the identity of the killers by covering most of their visible body, as it was believed that otherwise audiences would be able to guess which character was involved by their clothing and body-shape.
The knife used by Ghostface in the films is a custom prop knife based on the Buck 120 Hunting Knife that has since been discontinued by Buck. The knife blades are made of aluminium or chrome-paint-coated plastic with a rubber handle depending on the scenario for which they are needed. The handle is black with a silver, metal-appearance for the tip. The Buck 120 knife was chosen as the model for the Ghostface weapon because of the large blade it features, though the Buck 120 itself was discontinued due to customer complaints that the blade length was deemed "too big" for gutting animals.
Ghostface is rarely depicted as speaking while physically on screen, in order to aid in concealing the identity of the character behind the mask. Exceptions to this are grunts and groans when injured, which are dubbed into the film during the editing phase by Jackson. Ghostface only speaks physically on screen on two occasions in the series; on those two occasions, it is just before his true identity is revealed. The voice given to the character, provided by Jackson, is used when talking to another character over the phone or to display the use of the voice changer when the killer reveals himself. Despite being portrayed by different characters in each film, Ghostface displays similar personality and physical attributes regardless of who is wearing the costume or speaking to a target, such as taunting his victims over the telephone, the ritualistic cleaning of his knife after a kill, slashing the throat of his victims before killing them by stabbing, almost superhuman strength and durability, and grunts and groans when injured.
Ghostface is never referred to by their name until Scream 4, simply called "The Killer" and "Father Death" in the original Scream, while being credited as "The Voice" in the credits. The name originates from one character Tatum Riley played by Rose McGowan who called a disguised Billy Loomis "Mr. Ghostface" in the first movie prior to her death, in a sarcastic manner.
— Wes Craven on returning to Scream 4
Ghostface is often shown to taunt his targets, initially representing himself as charming and even flirtatious when speaking. His conversations turn confrontational and intimidating, using his knowledge of other characters or graphically describing his intentions before appearing to the target physically. Craven considers Jackson's voice performance as Ghostface to have "evil sophistication". When confronting his intended victim, Ghostface is portrayed in varying ways, sometimes quick and efficient and other times clumsy, falling, or colliding with objects that hinder his pursuit, a characteristic that varies based upon who is wearing the costume. All of the characters that use the Ghostface disguise share the trait of taunting their victims and prolonging a kill when they appear to have an advantage. The Billy/Stu Ghostface would gut their victims after killing them; this was not performed on Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) who was killed in a mechanical garage door. This Ghostface in particular would ask their victim questions about horror films and employ the tropes of the genre in their attacks, displaying a detachment from their reality and aligned with the same self-awareness of the film itself which toys with the expectations of the horror genre. The second Ghostface, created by Mickey and Mrs. Loomis, would simply stab their victim to death but often in a public place or with witnesses. The third Ghostface, created by Roman, used theatricality and movie props to attack his victims, using a voice changer that allowed him to sound like many other people, casting suspicion and doubt on other characters. In addition, he would use images and the synthesized voice of Maureen to specifically taunt Sidney, even shrouding himself in a bloodied, crime scene cover, alluding to the murder of Maureen, to fool Sidney into believing that she was losing her sanity. The fourth Ghostface, created by Jill and Charlie, filmed each murder on web cameras hidden around the environment and spy cameras in their masks. They mostly stabbed their victims to death but would go further and gut them if they wanted. They also made some of the murders public to gain the attention of the world press.
The motivations for Ghostface's killing vary in each film and are respective to each killer wearing the costume. Billy claimed to have been driven to insanity by his mother's abandonment, an incident he blamed on Maureen, and after taking his revenge on her chose to continue his spree, leading towards her daughter Sidney, while Stu Macher lists peer pressure as his motivation. In Scream 2, Mrs. Loomis cites her motivation as simple revenge against the person she holds responsible for her son's death, while Mickey desires the fame that his involvement in the killings will garner when he is caught. Scream 3 antagonist Roman seeks revenge for what he sees as his mother's rejection and abandonment by engineering Maureen's death and trying to kill Sidney, seeing her as having the family-life he was denied. In Scream 4, Jill, jealous of Sidney, wished to obtain similar fame as the sole survivor of a new massacre, while Charlie aided her both for those reasons and his love for Jill.
In costume, the Ghostfaces share a ritualistic mannerism of gripping the blade of their knife between thumb and forefinger and wiping it clean of any blood following a murder by drawing their hand from handle to the tip of the knife. This characteristic was given to the character by stuntman Dane Farwell who wore the costume for many of its scenes in Scream. Each killer is depicted as possessing effective physical abilities, such as the capabilities of nearly flawless stealth, prowling without being detected, moving silently, and efficiently vanishing from their targets' defense. Additionally, the killer tends to display sufficient strength that allows them to overpower victims, such as in Scream 2, in regards to defeating two trained detectives single-handedly. Ghostface is shown to be able to sustain and even ignore severe levels of physical damage, surviving blunt trauma, stabbing wounds and gunshots. Billy, Mickey, Roman, and Jill all had to be shot through the head or multiple times to the chest to be killed, despite having sustained severe injuries prior.
McFarlane Toys produced a 6-inch figurine of Ghostface in 1999 for the "Movie Maniacs II" series of horror and science fiction inspired line of character models. A series of figures were produced by NECA for Scream 4 featuring the standard mask and black cowl plus variations such as "Zombie Ghostface" with a decayed appearance on the mask and "Scarecrow Ghostface" with brown, burlap material used for the mask and clothing.
Ghostface has been parodied and referenced numerous times in media following his appearance in the Scream franchise, most prominently in the parody film Scary Movie (2000) where a killer dressed as Ghostface commits a series of murders and is later revealed to be several people as in Scream; this parodic version of Ghostface later appears in the June 1, 2016 Erma comic strip, named "Prank Call", wherein the character is making prank calls whilst quoting Scream, alongside the series' titular character. In the parody film Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the 13th (2000), a killer wearing a Jason Voorhees-style hockey mask is set on fire, his mask melting to resemble that of Ghostface. The film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) features Ghostface, as Shannen Doherty and Craven provide cameos as themselves making the then non-existent Scream 4, but Doherty objects when Ghostface turns out to be played by the orangutan, Suzann.
As in film, Ghostface has been referenced repeatedly in various television programs and commercials. In the same year as the release of Scream 3, the mask made an appearance on Beverly Hills, 90210 and the Nickelodeon series Cousin Skeeter. It was also used as an ornament in the bedroom of the character Dawson in Dawson's Creek, a show created by Scream writer, Williamson. The character appears in a 1999 episode of Celebrity Deathmatch entitled "The Unknown Murderer", where he threatens to kill a scream queen every round, murdering Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jennifer Love Hewitt before planting his cell phone on a platypus to frame him, causing Campbell and Sarah Michelle Gellar to fight it. The mask was later used in The Sopranos episode "Fortunate Son" (2001) where it is worn by the character Christopher to commit a robbery.
The costume is referenced in an episode of the television series Boomtown entitled "All Hallow's Eve" (2002) where a police officer uses the costume to frighten a bully who has been terrorizing other kids. In the Japanese anime FLCL episode "Marquis de Cabras" (2003), protagonist Naota's face changes to resemble that of Ghostface frequently during a scene where he and his family are eating spicy curry. The character makes a cameo appearance in Tripping the Rift in the episode "The Devil and a Guy Named Webster" (2004) as the judge when Chode sells his soul to the devil and finds a way to sue him. He also appears in a 2004 advert for Trivial Pursuit: '90s edition; representing iconic characters of the 1990s alongside Dennis Rodman and the character Rose from the 1997 film Titanic. A parody of Ghostface appears in the television series All Grown Up! episode "Interview with a Campfire" (2004) where Lil DeVille is taunted by phone and stalked by a character wearing an Easter Bunny mask.
The character appears briefly in The Simpsons episode "Home Away from Homer" (2005) where Homer Simpson suggests him as a babysitter for his daughter Maggie Simpson. Roger L. Jackson lends his voice to Ghostface in the Robot Chicken episode "That Hurts Me" (2005) alongside other famous film killers in a show that parodies Big Brother, launching a prank war against Pinhead and Freddy Krueger before giving a speech to save himself from elimination from the show. He is referenced by Kenny Powers, the main character of Eastbound & Down who requests to wear the mask while having sex. In Scream XXX: A porn parody, a new Ghostface (wearing a clown variant of the Father Death mask) begins murdering the cast and crew of an in-production pornographic parody of the Stab series.
In his book Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, Adam Rockoff opined that Ghostface's mask was a "striking, surreal and downright terrifying presence". Calling the mask a "hyperbolic rendering" of Edvard Munch's The Scream, Rockoff wrote that the face is "twisted in an exaggerated, almost mocking grin, as if reflecting the look of terror and surprise on his victims' faces." Tony Magistrale also discussed the similarities between Ghostface's mask and The Scream in his book Abject Terrors: Surveying the Modern and Postmodern Horror Film, stating that the painting, "an apt representation of the degree of alienation from other people, inspires the killers' murderous agenda".
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