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Murderous Mask

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A mask that through magical or mundane means, kills the person wearing it. The mask does this by smothering, strangling, suffocating, crushing, or poisoning its victim. Most of the time, it's both a Cruel and Unusual Death.

A Sub-Trope of Artifact of Death and possible Artifact of Doom. Related to Evil Mask, which is both sentient and malevolent. Contrast with Face Hugger which, unlike the Murderous Mask, is often sentient and able to apply to the unwilling victim's face all by itself.

See also Clingy Costume.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Inuyasha features a mask with a piece of the Mineral MacGuffin embedded in it. It latches onto people's faces to take over their bodies, which then quickly begin to rot.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Dio initially believed the Stone Mask was used for ritual sacrifices after seeing it sprout spikes when blood got splashed on it. It technically does kill people this way, but it also immediately revives them as superpowered vampires.
  • In Judge, a group of people are abducted and forced to wear animal masks with poison spikes on them. Whoever takes it off before the time allowed will get pricked and killed.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • One comic features an African tribal mask that, when donned, scratches the wearer with a needle coated with a drug. The drug drives the wearer into a berserker rage that eventually causes their heart to explode.
    • Roman Sionis, the villain better known as Black Mask, has been known to kill or disfigure his victims with toxic masks. His own mask might be one of these.
  • Doctor Fate, wears a helmet that forces its user to wear it for life, and then absorb their life force into it. The first volume of The Books of Magic has a part where the young hero is taken into a possible future where the mask has gone full on evil, and it lives up to this trope far more. Especially when it forces a servant to attach the mask to his face, and then only a few minutes later take it off... which requires the poor guy to tear his own face off.
  • In Spawn, one bum almost got smothered when he donned Al's mask for a joke.
  • In The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, the Decepticon Vos has a removable face which is lined with retractable spikes and hooks on the inside. Being a sadist and Torture Technician, he likes to force his victims to wear it.
  • Wonder Woman (1942):
    • Nina Close, the Mask, is so known because she locks her victims in masks rigged to fatally poison them if they tamper with them or she remotely activates them.
    • In issue #80, "The Mask of Mystery!", Wonder Woman falls asleep one day (near a pond, no less), then wakes up to find herself stuck in a mask that's rigged to explode.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes features a constricting frog mask that gradually crushes the head of its wearer.
  • The page image is from Black Sunday; the mask is spiked on the inside and rather brutally hammered onto the victim's face.
  • The lethal masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch are textbook examples; they are just like any other mask, but if its wearer sees a certain commercial, all hell breaks loose.
  • Saw:
    • A recurring trap in the series is the Reverse Bear Trap, which, while meant to be a Death Trap to escape from, is placed on a victim like a mask.
    • Saw II has the aptly-named Death Mask, although its structure goes beyond the face. In addition of a metal mask with a spiked interior, there's another panel of the same nature aimed towards the back of the head, which, alongside the harness in the neck and shoulder area, makes the trap function like an iron maiden.

  • The Graham Masterton horror novel Death Trance features a scene where one of the bad guys, a psychotic Vietnam vet, puts on a full-head demon-mask featuring a leyak, an Indonesian evil spirit. He writhes in agony, to the accompaniment of screams and crunching noises, as his buddies try to get the mask off, but when it finally comes free, the dead man has no head left. Something has eaten his head while he was wearing the mask...
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: People in The Kingdom of Gods are falling victim to ceremonial masks that are enchanted to kill their wearers and animate their corpses to go on killing sprees. They're being made by the Big Bad, the Godling of Vengeance, who detonates thousands of them at once to destroy the World Tree of Sky in a bid for true Godhood.
  • New Jedi Order: Somewhat related is Yuuzhan Vong vonduun crab armor. If worn by a non-Yuuzhan Vong, it will repeatedly attempt to kill its wearer.
  • In Diane Duane's Rihannsu Star Trek novels, Romulan starships are frequently named Rhea's Helm. The titular, legendary helm was the product of a sorcerer-smith who was asked to create a helmet that would make the wearer impervious to all harm. When the helm was donned, the demon she'd bound into it bit the wearer's head off—nothing can harm a dead person.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Department S episode "The Man Who Got a New Face", an assassin sneaks into the home of a wealthy man and glues a comedy mask to his face. The target dies of a heart attack from overexertion in his vain attempt to remove the mask.
  • Love and Redemption: The Loveless Mask. Its wearer must never feel any emotions, and if they do the mask's curse will kill them.
  • In an episode of Relic Hunter a cursed mask causes its last wearer to have his/her face disfigured and then contract a wasting disease that will kill the victim if the curse is not passed to another person. The mask used to belong to a French executioner and the only way to permanently stop the curse is for Sidney to find the executioner's tomb and return the mask there.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Celtic Mythology and French folklore, Princess Dahut-Ahès of the legendary Breton city of Ys used to take a different lover to bed every night provided the lover wore a black mask during their intense evening of pleasure. However, at the first rays of dawn, the drawstrings of the mask would tighten and strangle the unfortunate suitor.


    Tabletop Games 
  • An old Dungeons & Dragons monster invokes this: called the Executioner's Hood, it's a flat membrane that lives on the ceiling, dropping down on the heads of unsuspecting adventurers to suffocate them.


    Video Games 

    Web Original