The Skull as a Mask and Horror Films.

18/5/12 – Work in progress paper: Masks from the Day of the Dead

My work in progress presentation will feature comparisons between the face painting from the Day of the Dead Festival and contemporary horror films, which also feature grotesque masks.

According to Marge DeMello, the Day of the Dead festival also replicates the image of the skull through popular activities, such as face painting. DeMello argues that the face paints initiate a closer connection between the living and the dead. One could argue that the skull becomes a mask, which conceals the face with the representation of death.

DeMello also explains that celebration features actual masks also known as “Calacas”, which are used to celebrate the connection with the deceased. Demello also suggests that the mask features different spiritual, religious or historical contexts in different cultures. One could compare the masks from the Day of the Dead to Horror films and Thomas M. Sipos emphasises the “Keyhole mask”, which is used to frighten the audience.

Halloween (Michael Myers) John Carpenter 1978

These particular masks provide the viewer with the murderer’s perspective and Sipos also uses the film Halloween as an example. The very first sequence is a very memorable part of the film, which features the perspective of disturbed Micheal Myers wearing a “clowns mask”.

The opening scene exposes the main protagonist continuously stabbing his sibling to death. One could argue that this particular perspective or camera angle is rather unsettling, which also creates a high level of anxiety from the viewer.Sipos suggests that the mask features two different categories and elements such as the ‘prop or the costumes’ or the camera angle. According to Sipos the mask modifies the perspective of the scene, which may deliver a different interpretation.

It could be argued that, perspective of the murderer within the horror film intensifies the scene, which may create a different emotional response from the spectator. While the Day of the Dead masks embrace the connection between the living and the dead, the horror masks may signify danger or violence, which intentionally shock the viewer.

These particular theories will assist with the visual project, which will combine elements from the Mexican day of the Dead with characteristics from modern horror films.

DeMello, Margo. Faces around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face.  California ABC – CLIO, LLC, 2012 p.58-61

Sipos, Thomas M. Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear.  North Carolina McFarland & Company Inc., Publishers, 2010. p.94

John Carpenter. “Halloween.” 93 Minutes. USA: Dolby Digital, 1978.

Image Citations

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