When creating an iconic horror villain who always seems to cheat death, one of the biggest things to consider is how they will look. A classic horror villain needs the right look to be intimidating and strike fear into the hearts of their victims. A mask and a sharp knife are good, but sometimes the situation calls for something more.
Horror characters have made several freaky fashion statements over the decades, making fans rip these looks right off the silver screen every Halloween. From the striped sweaters and finger blades to full-on leather ensembles, these costumes are some seriously killer couture.
10 Norman Bates – Psycho (1960 & 1998)
“A boy’s best friend is his mother,” but wearing her clothes is another story. A gray wig and a housecoat might not seem like too much in terms of a slasher movie costume, but because of their integral part in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Norman’s demented disguise is certainly worth a mention.
The film is the cornerstone on which the slasher movie craze was founded, but it also came with a shocking fashion statement once “Mother’s” identity was revealed. Of course, shocking twists were Alfred Hitchcock’s MO, and Psycho is still a scary movie that holds up today.
9 The Phantom – The Phantom Of The Opera (1925 – 1998)
From Lon Chaney to Norm Lewis, many fabulous actors have donned the mask of the Phantom of the Opera. But no matter if it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version, Robert Englund’s gory adaptation, or the original silent film, there’s no mistaking the man in the mask as anyone other than the infamous Opera Ghost.
All proper interpretations of the character feature two things: an ornate mask to conceal his disfigurement and identity and an elegant black cape to wave in a dramatic fashion. For the most part, it’s a look that has remained as traditional and classic as the Phantom himself. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
8 Candyman – Candyman (1992 & 2021)
Clive Barker’s Candyman could be considered a modern gothic horror film, and there’s no denying that Tony Todd didn’t at least take a few notes from the previous character. From his calm and cold demeanor to the way he wears that magnificent coat and bloody hook, there’s only one character it could possibly be.
Even though the recent remake gives the character a more modern adaptation, Nia DeCosta couldn’t separate the legend from the reimagining. In no uncertain terms, Tony Todd owns this role, through and through.
7 Pinhead – Hellraiser (1987, 1988 & 2022)
Hellraiser is probably Clive Barker’s best-known creation, and its sadomasochistic demons from the Lament Configuration are definitely some of the most recognizable of their species. But the number one character that stands out amongst the leather-clad horrors is their insidious leader, Pinhead.
The leather garments may change on occasion, but there’s only one horror character with a head full of nails and a nasty set of hooks and chains. It’s visceral, it’s gruesome, it’s gory, and it’s a look that’s outright unforgettable.
6 Pennywise – It (1990 & 2017)
There’s nothing funny about a clown after midnight, and that’s more than likely true. Especially if it’s this sewer-dwelling, kid-eating, cosmic horror from one of Stephen King. Both Bill Skarsgard and Tim Curry each gave their own unique twists, but it’s the 1990 version that remains iconic.
The remake version was great, absolutely horrifying, but there’s just something so innately sinister and unsettling about a character that isn’t “scary” until it’s too late. The original Pennywise was approachable, funny, and charming until it was time to show some teeth. Plus, the brighter colors and zanier attire make him stand out as the better It clown.
5 Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 – 2021)
When it comes to dressing up, Leatherface doesn’t just have one look to choose from. In fact, he has a whole basement full of faces for every occasion. He’s one of those characters that has had a very long career, occasionally changing his looks completely for new sequels.
One thing that does remain constant, however, is his frequently growing collection of human skin masks and affinity for power tools. With each different installment, Leatherface seems to get a fresh face for a new audience. Whether for better or worse, he’s certainly fashionably versatile.
4 Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984 – 2010)
One only has to look at a set of red and green stripes to think of the infamous Freddy Krueger, a slasher villain full of cheesy one-liners that have aged poorly. But unlike Leatherface, Freddy has remained consistent throughout most of his franchise, although his tone is another story.
The hat, the sweater, and the bladed glove are all the elements that made Freddy iconic, and he never had to change to suit fan cravings or scripts. He might have altered his physical form in the dream world, but the stripes might as well have been part of his skin.
3 Michael Myers – Halloween (1978 – 2022)
Sometimes, the simplest approach is always the best. What people tend to forget about the original Halloween movie is that it was an independent film made on a shoestring budget. But even with that in mind, a set of coveralls and a painted white mask still ended up becoming one of the most frightening faces on the silver screen.
Even with the series’s popularity over the years, Michael never changed his form. He could have found different masks with each film, came back as a zombie, are completely changed altogether, but the filmmakers knew what the fans wanted. They wanted the Shape in all his glory, and he’s been the same ever since.
2 Jason Voorhees – Friday The 13th (1980 – 2009)
Michael walked so Jason could stalk, Crystal Lake’s resident slasher might not even exist if it wasn’t for Halloween laying down the groundwork for what a masked slayer needs. Friday the 13th and Halloween do share more than a few similarities, after all.
Comparisons aside, there’s only one true blue slasher to this day that can make that hockey mask work. Often imitated but never duplicated, Jason’s iconic look has been homaged, parodied, and repeated in and out of the horror genre. While it might have suffered some wear and tear over the years, it remains the guy’s classic look.
1 Ghostface – Scream (1996 – 2022)
While it might seem strange to rank Ghostface over Jason, consider the following. Think about how many times the Ghostface persona has been taken on by other characters, how very little it’s been altered, and how it manages to continuously show up in Halloween decor, year after year.
The costume and mask were designed with purpose, personality, and practicality, which is why it’s remained almost entirely constant since 1996. Whether it’s being scary in Scream or silly in the Scary Movie franchise, it’s a look that has stood the test of time.