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I have recently been watching the new Netflix TV series, The Umbrella Academy, based on the comic of the same name.

Two of its villainous characters are deadly assassins on the hunt for the character known as "5". The villains often wear animal masks on many of their missions, especially in public.

This prompted me to realize the use of animal masks and how they have been used more in more in recent cinema in relation to scary villains and/or antiheroes.

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Note: Following Works in "animal masks" collage include: The Umbrella Academy, Orphan Black, You're Next, Donnie Darko, The Shining, and 12 Monkeys.

My question is, in what film or tv series were animal masks first seen and used in this espionage/horror-like fashion?

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    Is it just specifically Animal masks, or does any mask at all count? Like aliens or creatures – morbo Feb 20 '19 at 22:32
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    Do you just mean specifically "store bought' style masks....two of your examples arn't part of your question. One is a plague mask, which is not an animal of any kind, and the other is Frank, a monster from Donnies visions. (not to be confused with the real frank, who is just wearing a halloween costume – morbo Feb 20 '19 at 22:38
  • Plague mask has a "beak" (like a bird) so that's why included The Witness from 12 Monkeys TV series here. I used "Frank" in terms of just 'the man in the costume', which includes animal mask similar to the bear suit and mask in The Shinning. They're clearly people in animal "costumes" as opposed to being anthropomorphic beings. I'm just looking for animal masks, not any mask. If you think the plague mask should be excluded, then please don't consider it. – Darth Locke Feb 21 '19 at 1:39
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Based on the book Masks in Horror Cinema: Eyes Without Faces (by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas) and my research, here are the most probable answers:

  • Curse of the Crimson Altar (The Crimson Cult) (1968): The first horror film where an animal mask is seen and used. However, it is not worn by a villain or a killer. It is in a dream of a character where a jury wears animal masks. Also, a character wears a ram's horn headpiece.

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  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974): The first horror film where a villain wears an animal mask. It is a musical horror comedy film. However, the wearer is not the true villain of the story. He is a temporary villain who wants to take revenge on someone and attempts to kill people. He wears a silver, owl-like mask.

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  • Motel Hell (1980): The first horror film where the killer wears an animal mask. He is the true villain but he doesn't wear the mask throughout the movie. He dons a pig mask in one of the final scenes. It is not a true slasher, it is a horror/comedy/satire massacre film.

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  • Terror Train (1980): The first horror film where a killer wears an animal mask in a true slasher movie. However, he doesn't wear the animal mask throughout the movie. He wears different masks in the movie but his iconic mask is the Groucho Marx mask. One of the masks is a serpent/lizard-like mask.

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  • StageFright (Deliria) (1987): The first horror film where the killer wears an animal mask throughout the movie. It is an Italian slasher film. The killer wears an owl mask.

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  • Fortress (1985): The first horror film where a group of villains wear animal masks. However, one of them is wearing a Santa mask, the other three are wearing a cat, a duck and a mouse mask. It is an Australian horror/thriller/hostage film.

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Honorable mentions:

  • The Mephisto Waltz (1971): There is a masquerade ball scene in which all the humans wear animal masks; and ironically, a dog wears a human mask. It is horror occult-murder mystery film.

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  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971): There is an interesting frog mask in this horror comedy film. The frog mask is not used as a disguise for the killer, it is designed for his victim. It has a mechanism that causes the mask to tighten until it crushes the skull of the wearer.

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  • The Wicker Man (1973): There is a bunch of animal masks worn by the cult members in the parades and ceremonies.

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  • Wow! Really awesome answer & research!! :D – Darth Locke Mar 6 at 21:14
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    @DarthLocke: Thank you and you are welcome. I've learned a lot about horror films with masked villains/killers and animal masks also while I was preparing my answer. I've mentioned as "most probable answers" because, obviously, I haven't seen all the horror movies, especially released before 1980s. A true horror fan/gorehound can correct me if they remember any earlier horror film with an animal mask used in it. Till then, this can be considered as the correct answer. – ermanen Mar 6 at 21:24

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