Recently there has been a lot of news about Scream 5, the next sequel in the long-running slasher franchise. But we’re not here to talk about that as a quick Google search can net you all the news you want. What we are here to talk about today is the franchise and the nightmare fuel that is the Ghostface costume.
And while we’re talking about Ghostface, how about we put him up against three other horror icons: murder doll Chucky, death-trap mastermind Jigsaw, and demonic Cenobite Pinhead? For this article each of these horror legends has one writer/champion who will be trying to convince your good self why their killer is king of the skull and bones heap. And if you’re wondering about other horror icons like Freddy, Jason, Michael and Leatherface, we had them in a previous face-off which you will find a link to below. With that explainer and a blood-splattered SPOILER ALERT let the face-off begin!
Charles Lee “Chucky” Ray/Chucky AI
Franchise: Child’s Play/Chucky
Period: 1988-2019 (2nd oldest)
Total Films Released: Eight (tied for 2nd)
Total Box Office: $250 million (3rd)
Total Kills: 67 (3rd)
Champion: Julien Neaves, RMR Editor
If you were to ask me (and for the purposes of this article I will presume you did) who is my favourite horror icon I would say dream killer Freddy Krueger. So it is understandable that I would be championing serial killer turned serial killer doll Chucky, as both characters are known for their quipping, wise cracks and very dark humour. I am a huge fan of dark humour, so if you can make me laugh inappropriately while dazzling/disgusting me with a gratuitously bloody murder scene then I am sold.
Chucky is just such a fun, irreverent character who is brought to life brilliantly by Brad Dourif’s voice work. He takes such glee in his murdering (some of which can get shockingly inventive) that it is almost infectious. Why are you looking at me like that? I said almost infectious. And he is not only king of the killer doll horror sub genre, but because he is diminutive he stands out (figuratively speaking) among his horror peers.
Chucky’s films overall have been pretty good including the first which is simply a classic and the second is just fantastic. The third part is the weakest of the series but it still watchable. The franchise ventures into horror comedy territory with Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky and while not the best of the films they still deliver some meta laughs with the mayhem. Where else can you find Jennifer Tilly playing a character, then playing a doll version of that character, and then playing a caricature of herself interacting with the doll version? Answer = nowhere. The icing of the blood-soaked cake are the sixth and seventh films, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky, which returned to the franchise’s horror roots and are surprisingly among the best of the series. Even the 2019 remake was an entertaining take on the story.
And now to cut the legs out from under the competition. I love Scream but the most iconic aspects are the mask and costume. Ghostface is a persona but not an actual character. I enjoyed the first couple of films in the Saw franchise and the series has made a butt load of money, but the world has moved on from torture porn. And without the John Kramer version of Jigsaw it’s just not the same.
For Pinhead his golden days were the first two Hellraiser films and they are long, long behind him. There is a reason the franchise has been condemned to straight-to-DVD hell for so long. Compared to these three one little knife wielding, cussing and wise-cracking bastard stands heads and shoulders above as a horror icon. Again, figuratively speaking.
Ghostface aka Multiple Killers
Period: 1996-2011 (3rd oldest)
Total Films Released: Four (last place)
Total Box Office: $608.5 million (2nd)
Total Kills: 43 (last place)
Champion: Alicia Veliz, Guest Writer
The first Scream film hit the cinemas on December 20, 1996 and gave the show slasher horror genre a well-deserved jolt, enough to get Horror fans like myself excited once again.
The franchise’s clever use of your typical Horror tropes and clichés from traditional Slasher films as a means of the main characters’ survival is bloody brilliant.
What makes Ghostface scary to me is that it can be anybody. It can also be more than one person. It can be someone from your inner circle. What’s more messed up than the fact that your best friend or family member can be a deranged Serial Killer all this time without you knowing it? Imagine all this time being taunted by a Killer playing a cat and mouse game with your emotions and then hanging out with you at the local coffee shop in the next clip, all innocent-like and pretending that they can be trusted. No way…not today Satan.
Now, Pinhead loses major points for me in being way, way too out there for me to take him seriously. Apart from the sadomasochism that I cannot get past, the Cenobites are way too twisted and disgusting looking for my eyeballs to even absorb what’s happening on the screen. I like Horror but Clive Barker made this one a little bit too much for me and it bordered on trying to gross people out more than scare us. Chucky, I got to admit I like the plot for the first one especially since it used the voodoo ritual to explain how Charles Lee Ray possessed the doll in the first place. But they broke their own rule. If Chucky was becoming human, the longer that he stayed within the doll and he was bleeding all over the place, then how on God’s green earth can he be resurrected? I can tolerate up to Part 2 but after that it was just utter nonsense. I would just melt his butt and dump him somewhere where nobody can find him.
Finally, Jigsaw is a character that I just couldn’t find the sympathy for his explanation into why he forces people to play his games or tests. So let me get this straight, you have a terminal diagnosis and because your suicide failed, I must now be tested to see how strong my will is for survival?! I mean come on!!! Seriously, I would rather take my chances with Chucky. It’s scarier to have to face the unknown with Ghostface because you never know the killer might just be living in the same house with you!
Jigsaw aka John Kramer et al
Period: 2004 and continuing (newest)
Total Films Released: Eight (tied for 2nd)
Total Box Office: $976 million+ (1st)
Total Kills: 93 (2nd)
Champion: Wayne Rock, Guest Writer
Let’s just face facts, we all know the Jigsaw killer. Despite his extremely recent debut appearance in 2004, the R-Rated, gore-filled, death-trapping adventures of one John Kramer made an indelible impact on the horror genre and has cemented him as a true horror icon. It is an undisputable fact that for seven years straight the Halloween movie to look forward to was the latest Saw film. Hell, even the ad execs at Hollywood knew that, with their extremely subtle tagline “If it’s Halloween, it must be SAW”.
While the Saw franchise has a reputation for its gore, the series has a lot of psychological horror elements that draw the audience in, leading up to (mostly) delicious twist endings which have become a staple for the franchise. I’m no horror fanatic, but you bet your butt that mine was planted at the nearest theatre to take in the latest exploits of the Jigsaw killer, and trying to figure out what crazy direction the films would go next. I mean, John Kramer DIES in Saw 3! There are FIVE films after that, and they didn’t have to resort to any crazy ex-girlfriend, aborted child voodoo resurrection schemes or anything (I’m looking at you Chucky). And can we talk about Jiggy’s style? This man has horror DRIP! That clown-faced puppet is one of the creepiest things I have ever scene, and when combined with Tobin Bell’s iconic voice, it is pure nightmare fuel. Not to mention, he has diversified into pig masks as will, which is doubly creepy.
Jigsaw is really more of an ideology or a symbol than an actual person and the films have shown time and time again that his legacy can live on through the acolytes he has chosen to continue his work. He’s like Batman, with the same mental issues, less money and no qualms about allowing people to die. And YES, I did choose the phrasing of that sentence very carefully, because while the Saw franchise boasts some of the most bone-cruchingly, gore-tastic, torture porn kills ever put to film…technically my boy Jigs hasn’t killed anyone. Nope, he just places his unsuspecting victims in borderline inescapable traps, all the while taunting them about their wasted life and potential.
Speaking of wastes, I want to play a game!
Lets start with the walking Pincushion, Pinhead. That name conjures images of a grandma’s embroidery station rather than anything terrifying. For someone supposedly stronger than Jason or Michael Myers, he certainly can’t hold a candle to their status. Pinhead is a joke and doesn’t even look scary. Next we have Ghostface. How can anyone take Ghostface seriously after the Scary Movie franchise reduced him to a pot-smoking idiot? But even without Scary Movie, Ghostface has always been known for not being a very efficient killer. I am sure there’s a supercut out there of his many incarnations falling, tripping or just getting beat up by his victims. Is clumsiness one of the traits passed from Ghostface to Ghostface? And Chucky…Chucky is a doll who couldn’t effectively manipulate a six-year-old. A SIX-YEAR-OLD? He’s a baby! How hard could it be? And has Chucky EVER succeeded at any plan? I don’t think so.
So yeah, my boy Jigsaw comes out on top, with his impeccable style, terrifying visage, iconic, bone-chilling voice, ingenious traps, gory kills and long lasting legacy. Oh and Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson are in the upcoming film set in the Saw universe, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Pinhead aka The Hell Priest aka The Cold Man
Period: 1987-2018 (oldest)
Total Films Released: 10 (1st)
Total Box Office: $55.8 million (last place)
Total Kills: 141 + (1st)
Champion: Sommerleigh Pollonais, RMR Senior Writer and Horror Head Writer
Can horror be sexy? Most people would answer with a resounding HELL NO! But whether you think so or not, the two elements have been linked together since the first time Dracula laid eyes on Mina, the Phantom of the Opera broke out his version of a mix tape for Christine, and Jason Voorhees ran his own bloody campaign against teenagers doing the devil’s tango.
Cenobites on the other hand make Christian Grey look like a choir boy by comparison, as these creatures see no difference between Pleasure and Pain. And Pinhead, as their leader, will happily dole the latter out for anyone stupid enough to solve the Lament Configuration (aka The Puzzle Box).
An acquired taste, Pinhead, taps into a side of horror not many people can stomach – body horror.
While Ghostface is just a person (or in most cases, people) running around in black sheets and a mask they found at their local gift shop, Pinhead’s an entity who was once human that went looking for the ultimate gratification and found something so much more instead. He would probably look at Jigsaw’s traps and deluded sense of morality and laugh while he had his chains rip his flesh from his body, showing his victims what TRUE pain and penalty for your actions look like. As for Chucky, well if Charles Lee Ray thought being trapped in a dwarf-sized doll is hell, he should thank his tiny overalls he never crossed Pinhead, who would’ve given him a Cenobite makeover no toy company would ever be able to sell. My personal favourites are the Female-Cenobite and Wire-Twins. The best horror monsters are the ones that visually stick with you long after the credits have rolled, and Pinhead most certainly does that.
To think Pinhead wasn’t even supposed to be the leader of the Cenobites (Clive Barker originally had the character who we would go on to be known as Butterball in this lead role) seems amazing now looking back, as Doug Bradley’s poetic line deliveries and distinctive voice makes the character instantly iconic. Add to that those soulless eyes, and of course, his unique “hairstyle”, and you have a presence that is the stuff of nightmares.
“No tears please, it’s a waste of suffering”. Pinhead might have a ridiculous name (Clive Barker famously hated that fans called him that), but this horror icon knows how to deliver memorable lines. Right before he delivers your soul to Hell.
So that’s our face-off. Who won? Who’s next? You decide! And yes I “borrowed” that from ERB. I have no shame. For our previous face-off you can check out Freddy vs Jason vs Michael vs Leatherface: Ultimate Slasher Showdown here.
And a very special thank you to guest writers Alicia Veliz and Wayne Rock for joining Sommer and I on this collab. For more from Wayne you can check him out at at RockLee Productions on YouTube.