A group of people wearing masks is never a good sign. Maybe it's the anonymity, the obvious Uncanny Valley
, or decades of horror movies ingraining a deep sense of distrust about someone wearing a mask outside of a Masquerade Ball
(or even in one, if it's sufficiently creepy). It's because of this dehumanizing aspect that masks are often used by villains, their Gas Mask Mooks
, and other Faceless Goons
. Though some heroes do go about wearing masks, they tend to be Anti Heroes
, or at least a little edgy.
This varies by mask:
- Cowls and Hoods: Not exactly a mask, but used commonly enough to merit mention. A simple bag or cloth over the head, may be creepy (Scarecrow from Batman, The Orphanage, Jason Voorhees' original Friday the 13th appearance) or may be worn by an altogether nice Super Hero.
- A Domino Mask, one that covers only the eyes, is a traditionally heroic mask. The Ghost Who Walks and The Spirit being two classic examples. However, it may also be worn by comedy criminals, such as the Beagle Boys.
- Ski masks worn anywhere other than on the slopes in winter are often associated with criminals or terrorists. Masks that cover everything except the eyes are also associated with Ninjas, and can be either good or evil.
- If the mask covers the top half of the face, it emphasizes the mouth, aka gluttony: Never a good sign. Unless of course, it's to show a Lantern Jaw of Justice instead.
- If it covers a symmetric side of the face (left or right) then it's fairly neutral... except for the part where it is likely hiding a decidedly nasty scar. See The Phantom of the Opera (well, its adaptations). The same thing can be done with Peek-A-Bangs.
- Masks that cover the lower half of the face are likelier to be worn by the cannibalistic, or someone whose lower face is likely very damaged (as in, no jaw). They're also frequently worn by bandits in the Old West (possibly to keep out dust), as well as by ninjas who don't do full masks.
A full face mask is perhaps the most ominous of the lot, varying by type:
- Abstract Mask: Similar to the Uncanny Valley mask below, the abstract mask is a haunting, unidentifiable mess meant solely to frighten and distract the victim from their oncoming demise. See Scream.
- Animal Mask: The kind you would see in a kid's birthday party. When worn by an adult (or several of them) it brings to mind not animal cuteness, but savagery.
- Clown Mask: As pictured above, nothing says "evil" like a clown, add in the faux cheerful mask and it gets ratcheted to another level.
- Mardi Gras/Venetian: Nothing says "you're going to die violently" quite like the festive and cheery masks worn in Mardi Gras or a Venetian carnival.
- Monster face: Usually used by the cult and members of the Secret Circle of Secrets, in homage to their dark masters.
- Plain and featureless: A blank, featureless mask emphasizes the anonymity it grants the wearer... which usually means they mean to do harm, don't want you to know who they are, and want you to freak out because they know you know this.
- Rage Helm: Designed to make a soldier or warrior look more fearsome. The soldier actually wearing the helm may or may not be as mean as the helmet makes him look.
- Uncanny Valley: Almost human masks are usually worn by criminals, be they kidnappers or Serial Killers. It may be to establish a Stepford Smiler like connection to "personality as a mask". See The Strangers.
- Last but not least... the Nixon Mask! Almost exclusively associated with bank robbers out to make a political statement. Expect a witty pun along the lines of "I am not a crook!"
See also Faceless Goons
, Gas Mask Mooks
and Scary Shiny Glasses
. White Mask of Doom
is a common subtrope. Compare Cool Mask
and Coat, Hat, Mask
. When combined with the classic Black Cloak
, it's the uniform of a Secret Circle of Secrets
. When the mask itself
is malevolent, that's Evil Mask
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Anime and Manga
- See also Henohenomoheji
- The Mask of Ice and his underlings in Pokémon Special
- Hollow masks
- A group of people Vandenreich members, to be exact, invaded Yamamoto's office. They were so heavily masked and clothed it was impossible to tell even gender. They definitely weren't there to discuss tea ceremony lessons.
- Shirley's nightmare in Code Geass has everyone wearing masks, laughing creepily. Also the mask worn by the Anti-Hero Zero.
- The intro of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni had Rika wearing a Kitsune mask.
- A few characters in Naruto wore masks, including Tobi and Kakuzu. Orochimaru sometimes pulled off the face he wore like it was just a second skin to reveal a different face behind it. Sometimes, the second skin actually was someone's skin...
- Recent chapters have revealed the probable reason for Tobi's mask. He's not Madara like he claimed, just the person to inherit Madara's plan.
- The Leaf's ANBU wear animal-themed masks that completely cover their faces. Mist ANBU and hunter-nin wear white masks with patterns resembling flowing water painted on them.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion had the Angel Sachiel wearing something that looked a lot like a mask. Arguably, Lilith also qualifies.
- The Iron Mask Marauder from Pokémon 4Ever.
- Friend from 20th Century Boys has his signature eye-finger symbol mask, but earlier wore a cartoony monkey mask. And it made him no less awesome.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Battle City arc has villains of the week Luna and Umbra.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, one of Aoshi's Elite Mooks, code-named hannya, wears the eponymous mask as his mask (his unmasked face isn't that much more pleasant looking).
- Gein wears a black and white cloth with an abstract skull on it over his face.
- Char Aznable of Mobile Suit Gundam. Probably the most famous masked villain in anime.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the villainous Mysterious Protector.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has Kagetarou wearing an abstract mask. In addition, several of Fate's minions seem to wear masks.
- The Knights of Paris in Noir.
- In Dorohedoro there's a whole city of them (Everyone get their mask as part of a contract with daemons). Most of them are malevolent, or worse, but with the Black and Grey Morality of the setting you can never be really sure.
- CP9 in One Piece before The Reveal of their identities.
- Hei, from Darker Than Black, wears an Uncanny Valley White Mask of Doom which looks like the child of V's mask and Jigsaw's. While we know him as an Anti-Hero, most of the rest of the cast would see him as at worst a terrorist and assassin and at best very scary.
- Darcia from Wolf's Rain has two. The first is a blank mask with a built-in Eyepatch of Power, but the second is a smiling White Mask of Doom with an eye hole to expose his wolf's eye.
- Masquerade from Bakugan Battle Brawlers and his Expy Spectra from Bakugan: New Vestroia
- Boris from Beyblade.
- Turkey from Axis Powers Hetalia is a subversion, and more often than not Played for Laughs. Yes, he was VERY unpleasant in the past to many nations (young Greece, young Hungary, the Italies, Spain), but after having gone from the personification of the Ottoman Empire to the one of the Republic of Turkey, he's portrayed as a Hot Blooded Jerk with a Heart of Gold who's actually rather fun to hang out with. Unless you're the now grown up Greece.
- Hellstar Remina: The black cloak and hood-wearing cultists who want to sacrifice Remina.
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Lord Gargoyle and Neo Atlan members wear these at all times. Besides slight resemblance to his voiceactor, Lord Gargoyle's face is completely unremarkable.
- Mixed with Bandaged Face in a Detective Conan case, where a man who kept his HEAVILY scarred face under bandages commits suicide... and his Smug Snake brother in law uses it to fuel his Evil Plan.
- Also, the Villain Protagonist in Yusaku Kudo's books is the Night Baron, a high-class thief with a mask. More than once, someone has dressed up as the Night Baron. And once, with fatal consequences.
- In Holyland, Ryuu puts a mask on after his first fight with Yuu, for no obvious reason though.
- The titular Order of Beasts wear full face animal masks in the Batman Elseworlds book Batman: The Order of Beasts.
- The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E. in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol wear abstract insectoid masks.
- V from V for Vendetta wears a grinning Guy Fawkes mask. Self-identifies as a villain.
- In Watchmen, Rorschach has the abstract/featureless version.
- As does Hooded Justice. Both he and Rorschach are very protective of their "real" identities; the Comedian also has a full-face mask, but seems to have adopted it to hide his facial disfigurement rather than to protect his face from view.
- Also, like a Mardi Gras mask, the hedonistic overtones of a gimp mask promise ultraviolence. It also matches his belief that "the joke" is that people aren't better than animals and lets him shove that in people's faces by looking like a violent pervert in service of the government.
- Mazikeen the demon from The Sandman wears a half-mask to cover the left side of her face, which is missing the skin, cheek, and part of the jaw.
- Both the protagonist and villain in a 28 Days Later comic book use a riot mask and a hockey mask, respectively.
- The Mask, natch. In Real Life, people wearing masks often report feeling uninhibited. In its original form, this work turns it Up to Eleven with the complete suppression of the inhibitions of the wearer, essentially a possession by the Id. The titular Mask is also a Mask of Power. The result is an ultraviolent Anti-Hero.
- In The Movement, Those who side with the Movement wear abstract metallic masks◊ that hide their entire face.
- Death Eaters in Harry Potter.
- Scipio from The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke wears a Venetian carnival mask.
- The Phantom of the Opera.
- In Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon saga, the evil and deranged people of Granbretan wear elaborate animal masks all the time, and would rather be seen naked than unmasked.
- The Watraii in Star Trek Vulcans Soul. They're introduced as a band of masked aggressors threatening Romulan colonies; their masks are noted as making them particularly sinister. This isn't why they wear them (the actual reason is more to do with their own feelings than installing fear in others), but their blatantly threatening manner and concealment of identity are clearly linked.
- Martin Lake, a character in Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris collection City of Saints and Madmen, is invited to a very grim event and met there by three men. One wears a raven mask, one a heron, and the last an owl. Lake is afraid of birds to begin with. He's also dressed as a frog, who could be eaten by any one of them.
- The cultists in Diario De Un Zombi wear formless wax masks. These actually serve a purpose as they confuse zombies and makes recognizing them as humans difficult for them.
- In the Belgariad, the Grolim priesthood wears steel masks when they want to be intimidating, such as in combat or when attending their religious duties. They wear these in imitation of their god, whose mask covers his maimed face.
- Claquesous from Les Misérables. Most adaptations forget this, though.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who has a group of clockwork robots who try to pose as eighteenth-century French humans by wearing creepy white masks.
- Torchwood Miracle Day has a cult, all wearing white masks and marching in the streets. Since they were never even slightly relevant to the plot in any way at all ever, it's likely that this trope was invoked just to have an epic freaky cult marching in the streets for the trailers.
- The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode called "The Tale Of The Twisted Claw" had a group of older kids wearing masks of some kind and bullying these two trick-or-treaters.
- Also, "The Tale Of The Many Faces" was all about people wearing masks, and asked the question "Is it our masks (faces) that define who we are?" The villain in the episode stole girls faces and wore them to keep herself young. The girls faces she stole, were left with fish lips and white eyes, so they were given masks to cover up their ugliness.
- The Prisoner final episode Fall Out. The rows of Village members wearing white/black masks as well as Number One wearing a white/black mask ''and'' a gorilla mask. And maybe, maybe not, a Number Six mask.
- The pilot episode of Ghost Writer had as its antagonists a group of backpack-snatching kids in goblins masks.
- The Twilight Zone episode "The Masks," involved a dying old man wearing a death mask and forcing his greedy family to wear masks that reflected their personalities. Unfortunately, when the old man finally dies, the family members' faces change to resemble their masks.
- In FlashForward, mooks working for the show's big conspiracy wear clown masks.
- Luther has Cameron Pell, who commits brutal murders while wearing a Punch mask, in order to create a striking and memorable image as well as hiding his identity.
- Sqweegel on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation-not only a mask but a whole body suit.
- CSI NY had an episode with clown masks being used in a bank robbery. An explosion caused an outline of a mask to get seared into one guy's face.
- In Chinese Paladin, the Lunar Sect Cult devotees wear full-face masks with a subtle animal motif to emphasize their brainwashed, dehumanized position.
- The Guardians of the Veil, of Mage The Awakening, are often viewed as at least creepy and people you shouldn't get involved with (if not viewed as outright malevolent), and much of their symbology revolves around masks such as these. In particular, the Interfector (read: executioner) wears a blank masks with only eyeslits, and bloodstained gloves, whenever appearing in the capacity of Interfector.
- In the BattleTech universe, Clan warriors are issued full face animal masks reflecting their Clan's totem to wear for ceremonial purposes. Further, the mercenary known as The Bounty Hunter is also only ever seen masked
- The Fiend Folio, another Monster Manual of the 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons, introduces the Ethergaunts, coldly rational and atheistic aberrations from the Ethereal Plane who are color-coded for your convenience and also sport featureless masks over their faces... which is fortunate since their faces are truly horrifying.
- The Assassins from Dishonored wear masks. The masks are those of the Whalers, and are in no short supply in the city of Dunwall
- The Splicers from BioShock often wear Mardi Gras-ish masks. Possibly justified, as it's stated in Audio-Logs that everything really went to hell in Rapture on New Year's Day.
- The Legend of Zelda has a boss and some mooks which you must remove a mask from before you can hit them. Lots of different masks appear in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the Happy Mask Shop in Hyrule Castle Market. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask game is all about masks. There are three masks that can change you into a Zora, Goron, and a Deku Shrub, as well as a whole inventory of masks that you collect and you can wear them, using some of the powers that the masks have. Also at the Carnival Of Time, all the townspeople wear masks as part of a tradition. Then there's the evil Majora's Mask that you must defeat.
- The Pigmasks in Mother 3. Their general is also specifically known as the Masked Man, but his isn't a pig mask.
- The Protagonist of Hotline Miami wears a variety of creepy animal masks before each mission. These masks gives perks such as making unarmed punches lethal, walk faster, or start already equipped with a weapon. Later on you find out there's an organization of the animal masked killers...
- Thanatos of Secret of Mana - for a 16-bit pixellated fellow he's shockingly eerie, too.
- His energy-sapped fanboys wear freaky full-faced masks too. NPCs comment on this, too, along the lines of: 'What's with all those masked weirdoes in the ruins?"
- Thanatos's mask is echoed by the one worn by Hakuoro of Utawarerumono, incidentally. It really is the exact same mask writ animated, complete with the quirky little mark at the top of it.
- Considering Thanatos was in dire need of a new host, plus his true nature as a lich, it may very well be that he isn't wearing a mask at all...
- Each shadow in Persona 3 wears a mask that IDs it with one of the major Arcana.
- The Power Ranger-esque Phoenix Ranger Featherman R masks, first seen in Persona 2. It is also in this game that they are significant to the plot.
- And, of course, the word persona itself literally means "mask." Aside from the Shadows, several character-specific Personas from throughout the series wear additional masks to hide their own inhuman facial features.
- The Testaments of Xenosaga wear concealing robes, hoods, gloves, and blank face masks; in fact, before each individual Reveal, they're simply referred to by the color of their mask and robes (Black Testament, Red Testament, etc) — this being the only way to tell them apart, other than their voices. At first, not so much malevolent as really, really mysterious, but later in the series they're definitely antagonists. Except for Albedo. He's a Reverse Mole.
- More than one Sith Lord in Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. Darth Malak wears not exactly a mask, but a metal prosthetic plate thingy covering his lack of a jaw. Darth Revan wore an abstract/blank mask that emphasizes his mysterious anonymity. Darth Nihilus has a creepy, vaguely skull-like mask that gives him an inhuman look.
- Which is befitting of Nihilus' nature, as he really isn't human anymore. He is, more or less, a living black hole in The Force whose life essence is bound to his mask.
- Dead Rising has the Raincoat Cult. Aside from the obvious, they all go around in Green Goblin-esque masks.
- Relius Clover of BlazBlue. A man who sought perfection in everything, a man who turned his family except his son to automatons without conscience, and a man who likes opera very much.
- Several of the Assassins Creed Brotherhood multiplayer characters wear masks, such as the Executioner, the Doctor and the Harlequin.
- The protagonists in Army of Two both wear masks◊ - ostensibly this is to offer head protection, but the designs (a snarling skull and a blank face with no features) are pure Rule Of Cool. Incidentally, there are airsoft masks based on the left-hand, blank design and people can attest to the discomforting effect felt when faced with a featureless face and no visible eyes.
- Fallout New Vegas The White Glove Society. wear masks that cover the lower part of their face. Their leader believes the masks give them a "mysterious allure" but all it does is make them creepier in the eyes of others.
- The bank robbers of PAYDAY: The Heist all wear creepy clown masks.
- The Masked Man, Big Bad of Rune Factory Oceans, well... wears a mask. Obviously.
- Oscar from Brink Of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome is a malevolent masked Magnificent Bastard.
- From Syndicate (2012), apart from all the Faceless Goons, there's Agent Ramon, the Twins, and Miles yourself From a Certain Point of View.
- The Masked Gentleman from Professor Layton And The Miracle Mask. His sole intent is to destroy the city of Monte d'Or, using all the supernatural abilities the Mask of Chaos gives him. The mask is a fake, his abilities are fake, but the malevolence is real and a fake mask is still a mask, so he still counts.
- The Armada from Pirate101 all wear white Venetian style mask. The higher ranked ones have black and gold trim except for Deacon, he wears a solid white Batu. Since they are all clockworks, there is nothing underneath but machinery.
- Marble Hornets has one in J's stalker. No, he's not Slender Man.
- Survival of the Fittest has Blood Boy, who wears a smiley face mask to hide his mutilated face.
- One Hundred Yard Stare has one mysterious masked man. His gas mask is rather intimidating. Season two adds some more.
- Lazarus of the Lazarus Mirage projectnote always wears a mask which is an abstract drawing of a schematic human face. Subverted, as the character isn't supposed to be malevolent at all, although he looks a bit creepy.
- Avatar The Last Airbender:
- Koh the Face Stealer had a centipede body and was able to steal people's faces if they showed any type of emotion on their face when they were around him. If he stole their faces he would wear any of them at his choosing like they were merely masks. Several of these faces were based on traditional Noh masks.
- Zuko's Blue Spirit mask.
- Many of the Fire Nation soldiers, especially in the first season, have helmets that double as masks.
- The Equalists from The Legend of Korra are Gas Mask Mooks, and their leader Amon wears a White Mask of Doom.
- Scooby-Doo. Every episode. Subverted, inverted, played straight, whatever you can think of.
- Teen Titans has Slade and Red-X.
- Belphegor◊, from the series of the same name, wears a gold-coloured plain and featureless variety, combined with a hood and a black cloak, making his appearance somewhat similar to the Grim Reaper.
- His mooks all wear the cloth mask variety, with two eye holes but without mouth hole. Except his two most trusted underlings who surprisingly are unmasked and unnamed.
- The Ku Klux Klan.
- Cuirassiers (armoured heavy cavalry) of the early 1600s wore helmets with intimidating faces◊ to rattle their opponents and gain confidence.
- The band Slipknot may or may not be malevolent, but their masks are definitely menacing.
- Averted with Hollywood Undead. Their masks are not at all menacing, and their Wangsty, Emo/Pretty Fly For A White Guy songs are even less so.
- The men in the Nick Berg video and other beheading videos. The executioners wear balaclavas and kaffiyeh, so we do not know their real identities.
- The identical "X Face" masks worn by the band Mushroomhead.
- Australian industrial death-grind band, The Berserker fits this trope.
- The teacher in the video for The Birthday Massacre's song Looking Glass was a Malevolent Masked Man.
- They are Anonymous. They are legion. They do not forgive. They do not forget. They are coming...in the online equivalent of a Malevolent Mask, the know-how to mask one's presence online. Their logo (seen on the page linked above) and their name are definitely meant to be evocative of a group that wants to instill fear by pressing into their targets the impression that they know you don't know who they are. For now, they've shifted their style appropriately in Real Life to protest the actions of The Church of Scientology. They wear Guy Fawkes masks to protect themselves from lawsuits and the Church's goons (not that kind), and actually make a point of having a lot of fun in the process.
- They are also just about defunct.
- Project chanology mask wearers are only a tiny fraction of Anonymous' real bulk, most of which seem to treat the chanology protesters like a drunken cousin dragged around town, singing obnoxiously. 7chan in particular now bans anyone referring to the Chanology incidents and treats them like pariahs. This said 7chan has possibly one of the most toxic group dynamics known to mankind (assuming that heading even applies anymore)and it tends to crash more often than Polish Presidential flights.
- For centuries, nearly the entire population of Venice wore masks nine months of the year, like people of other nations wore hats. Only during the hottest summer months they left them home. During the Carnival they dug out the extra-special decorated masks so popular today. According to foreign visitors, they felt either themselves completely surrounded people of this trope, or being in a city of ghosts.
- GWAR's full-face monster masks, bristling with teeth and Spikes of Villainy. Subverted by stage acts so over the top with menace that it wraps around to Campiness.
- Uncaught serial killers the Zodiac and the Phantom both wore creepy homemade masks during some of their attacks.
- The Visors on some ceremonial cavalry helmets used by troopers in the Roman army certainly had an intimidating effect.
- Dance group The Jabbawockeez, wear full-face, white masks that also shadow their eyes, hats and hoodies, and dance with relatively dark lighting. Why? In their own words, they're meant to be 'A figment of your imagination' (as well as to avoid any one dancer standing out above the rest in a performance). And with their choreography and occasionally ghostly performances, it really does look pretty cool.