Why has the mask been such an enduring generic motif in horror cinema? This book explores its transformative potential historically across myriad cultures, particularly in relation to its ritual and myth-making capacities, and its intersection with power, ideology and identity. All of these factors have a direct impact on mask-centric horror cinema: meanings, values and rituals associated with masks evolve and are updated in horror cinema to reflect new contexts, rendering the mask a persistent, meaningful and dynamic aspect of the genre’s iconography. This study debates horror cinema’s durability as a site for the potency of the mask’s broader symbolic power to be constantly re-explored, re-imagined and re-invented as an object of cross-cultural and ritual significance that existed long before the moving image culture of cinema.
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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is an Australian film critic, speaker and consultant who specialises in horror, cult and exploitation cinema. She is a researcher at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne.