Designing Fear: Jason Voorhees

Turning around to see a figure in the dark and wearing a stark white hockey mask will make any young trick or treater run and scream. Much to the amusement of whoever decided to dress up as Jason on Halloween night. This is Designing Fear: Jason Voorhees

With the spectacular success of John Carpenters, Halloween, everyone in Hollywood was scrambling to create a hit slasher of their own, featuring a new masked killer that would captivate and horrify audiences. Then in 1980, Friday The 13th gave slasher fans a new masked killer to haunt their dreams and destroyed the reputation of hockey masks in society.

However, Jason wasn’t even the killer in the first film of the franchise. The first Friday the 13th, saw Jason’s mother slashing her way through the counselors of camp crystal lake. Only her death at the end of the first movie spurs Jason’s revenge-filled slaughter in the subsequent films. In, 1981, Friday the 13th, part II, he wore a burlap sack with a single eye-hole over his head. While the image is unsettling for the third installment, in 1982, the writers and director Steve Miner wanted Jason to have his own iconic mask.

Surprisingly, a hockey mask wasn’t exactly on their list of terrifying options. The introduction of the hockey mask to film was thanks to Martin Jay Sadoff, the 3D effects supervisor who was an avid hockey fan and had a Detroit Red Wings goalie mask with him. When Miner called for a lighting check, nobody wanted to put make-up on Jason, played by Richard Brooker, so Sadoff offered up his hockey mask. Miner loved it and had the one used in film modeled after it creating one of the most iconic images in cinema.

Friday the 13th movie poster
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
(Top) Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees (Bottom) Paul Kratka as Rick

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Tyler, Adrienne. “Friday the 13th: How Jason’s Hockey Mask Changes in Each Movie.” ScreenRant, ScreenRant, 14 Feb. 2021, https://screenrant.com/friday-13th-movies-jason-voorhees-mask-differences-explained/.

Delgado, Melissa. “16 Behind the Scenes Secrets from the Friday the 13th Franchise.” TheRichest, 6 Oct. 2016, https://www.therichest.com/entertainment/16-behind-the-scenes-secrets-from-the-friday-the-13th-franchise/.

Tyler, Adrienne. “Why Friday the 13th’s Creators Gave Jason a Hockey Mask.” ScreenRant, 5 May 2021, https://screenrant.com/friday-13th-jason-voorhies-hockey-mask-bts-origins/.

“Jason Voorhees.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Voorhees.

Designing Fear: Michael Myers

A tall, description-less figure seems to be following behind you. But, whenever you turn around, the figure slips just out of sight, causing you to doubt your own vision until the moment that figure is upon you, and in those final moments, you regret not trusting your instincts.

The fear of faceless killers gripped the American imagination through the late 1960s and 70s as a seeming epidemic of serial killers dominated the news cycle. As always, Hollywood responded to this fear with a new kind of horror film, the slasher.

While the origins of slasher films can be found in the high body counts of early Agatha Christy films and the crazed killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Many mark John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween as the first true slasher film. Halloween’s story of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless, unstoppable assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers. Halloween’s tale of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers.

Halloween (1978) Promotional Poster

The infamous killer is now a Halloween costume staple for those aiming to celebrate the horror genre on the scariest night of the year. Michael Myers’s featureless mask and generic navy blue jumpsuit turn one into the perfect non-descript individual that can blend into the crowd and spook unsuspecting passers-by just as Michael did on the streets of Haddonfield.

Carpenter’s inspiration for the character of Michael Myers came from an experience he had in college, where one of his courses took a trip to a mental institution in Kentucky, and he saw a patient with a “blank, pale, emotionless face and blackest eyes.” This description became the basis for the character, but in the script, he states Michael Myer’s mask has “the grotesque features of a man,” but Carpenter knew they didn’t have the money to create the mask he described. So instead took inspiration from the French film Eyes With Out A Face directed by Georges Franju, deciding that the mask should be blank and featureless. Bringing how he imagined Michael under the mask to the mask, it’s self.

Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)

With a budget of only $300,000, Carpenter and his team were forced to get creative with making the mask. More precisely, it was down to production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to bring that blankness, featureless mask to the screen. So Wallace went to a mask shop on Hollywood Boulevard and picked up three options. First, a clown mask to reference the clown costume he wore as a child, the second a Star Trek Spock mask, and the third a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask that he ironically picked out because he thought it didn’t look like anyone in particular. Then after Wallace had modified in under an hour to look precisely as Carpenter described.

Tommy Lee Wallace recreating the Michael Myers mask
Source: (screenrant.com)

In 2014 Wallace demonstrated how he created the original mask during an interview with Sean Clark. The Process boils down to five simple steps.

  • The Captain Kirk Mask
  • Sprayed the Back Hair
  • Remove Side Burn and Eye Brows
  • Widen Eye Openings
  • Spray Paint White

It’s hard to imagine that five simple steps and $1.95 were all it took to create one of the most terrifying and iconic killers in all of horror.

John Michael Graham as Bob (Left) Nick Castle as Michael Myers (Right) in Halloween (1978)

Want to know more? Check out my sources

Cerulli, Mark, director. Halloween: Unmasked. Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc. , 1999.

Clark, Sean. “Rebuilding the Shape/Halloween Michael Myers … – Youtube.com.” Youtube, Malfuncsean, 3 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzhM8Ut3cRc.

Elizabeth, Hilary. “Halloween: 15 Hidden Details about the Horror Movie Costumes You Didn’t Notice.” ScreenRant, ScreenRant, 28 May 2021, https://screenrant.com/halloween-10-hidden-details-horror-movie-costumes-didnt-notice/.

Felthousen-Post, Cyn. “How the Movie ‘Halloween’ Was Made, against All Odds.” Groovy History, 25 Oct. 2019, https://groovyhistory.com/halloween-john-carpenter-making-of.

Hutchinson, Sean. “15 Terrifying Facts about John Carpenter’s Halloween.” Mental Floss, 26 Oct. 2018, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59788/15-terrifying-facts-about-john-carpenters-halloween.

Hedash, Kara. “Halloween: The Real Life Story behind Michael Myers’ Mask.” ScreenRant, 19 Oct. 2019, https://screenrant.com/halloween-michael-myers-mask-origin-story/.

Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)

Designing Fear: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

As the 20th century drew to a close, Dracula was a familiar figure with a look and story that anyone could identify at a glance. From Bela Lugosi to Christopher Lee and countless adaptations, the character seemed to be played out. That is until Francis Ford Coppola decided to breathe new life into the character with his 1992 adaptation Bram Stocker’s Dracula. 

Coppola brought a new life and depth to Dracula and with Gary Oldman’s performance, he was now more than an evil specter of the night obsessed with blood, he was also a character we could sympathize with. A new look was in order for this new kind of Dracula, and Coppola knew precisely who he wanted to create it, Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka was not known for her costume design when Coppolla hired her. Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1938, Ishioka started her career in advertising. Know for her avant-garde and evocative ads, it is no wonder that she was hired to design the Japanese poster for Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. He was struck by her work and developed a close working relationship and friendship. 

At the start of the production, Coppola declared, “The costumes will be the set,” making the unusual decision to put the bulk of his budget towards costumes and not sets. He wanted costumes to be visually exciting set pieces, and set the film’s atmosphere and believed Ishioka could achieve this. Although she only had two costume credits and a handful of production design credits, Coppola knew her distinct creative style was what the film needed. This collaboration resulted in animalistic features to the characters, and a distinctive east meets west to look for the film. For her Dracula, Ishioka wanted it to feel like he was continually transforming. So she didn’t make a one costume fits all previous adaptions had. Instead, she created seven distinct costumes to create a visually stunning story for Dracula. Of those four truly stand out. 

Francis Ford Coppola and Eiko Ishioka

Dracula’s Armour 

This terrifying armor suit is how Dracula is introduced to us while still the human Transylvanian prince heading off to defend his land. Ishioka loaded symbolism and foreshadowing into this suit. The crimson color makes him the center of every scene and refers to the blood he’s about to shed while also alluding to the blood be will later drink. The muscle like pattern of the amour resembles flayed skin, referring to the historical figure Bram Stoker based his count on. The silhouette is created by the armor is striking, with the helmet resembling the head of a wolf, which he would later become. Coppola uses this design beautifully during the opening battlefield scene when he backlights the set creating silhouettes of everyone on screen. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s Red Robe

By the time Jonathan Harker meets Dracula, wears a long flowing robe, and a white gown with long white hair, a far cry from the strong battle-hardened warrior. The voluminous kimono-inspired crimson red robe has his family crest embroidered in gold trails several feet behind him. The look is topped off by a great wig giving him an otherworldly look. This shows how Dracula has become enveloped by his past and cannot change in his current environment. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s London Suit

The closest Ishioka gets to a classic Dracula costume is the beautiful three-piece suit he wears upon arriving in England. While it’s a far cry from the tuxedo and cape that helped hide the intentions of previous Draculas, this charcoal suit provides the same purpose. While not as dramatic as the cape, the overcoat obscures his figure, the top hat gives him some cover, and the sunglasses hide the emotions of changing eyes.  

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winnona Ryder as Mina Murry and Gary Oldman as Dracula
Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Oldman as Dracula

Dracula’s Gold Robe

When discussing the inspiration for the film’s look, Coppola showed Ishioka many Klimt paintings. So, when creating Dracula’s costumes, she took particular inspiration from Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, for what would be his final look. Dracula wears a gold robe when resting to recover his power at the end of the movie. Much like the painting, the robe is made of a patchwork of different gold blocks with varying patterns giving the garment richness and depth. The robe also resembles priests vestments. This becomes symbolic as Dracula reconciles his life and his relationship with God at the end of the film. 

Gary Oldman as Dracula
Winnona Ryder as Mina Murry and Gary Oldman as Dracula
Gary Oldman as Dracula

Ishioka creates a stunning, dynamic, and emotionally rich film that released Dracula from his iconic look through these costumes. For this masterful visual storytelling, Ishioka won the Academy Award for Costume Design in 1992. Ishioka created many stunning and iconic costumes until her death in 2012, but her reimagining of Dracula remains her most lasting impact on film. 

Eiko Ishioka
Concept Sketch by Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka
Eiko Ishioka’s Academy Awards acceptance speech.

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

  1. “How an Apocalypse Now Poster Led to Oscar-Winning Costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 13 Nov. 2015, http://www.oscars.org/news/how-apocalypse-now-poster-led-oscar-winning-costumes-bram-stokers-dracula.
  2. Codega, Linda. “Inside the Costumes of ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula.’” The Spool, 15 Sept. 2020, thespool.net/features/2020/09/costumes-bram-stokers-dracula/.
  3. “Eiko Ishioka.” IMDb, IMDb.com, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0411130/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cr19.
  4. Academy, The. “How Eiko Ishioka’s Revolutionary Costumes Won Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ an Oscar.” Medium, ART & SCIENCE, 12 July 2017, medium.com/art-science/how-francis-ford-coppola-s-choice-to-work-with-a-weirdo-outsider-led-to-an-oscar-dd22bdf51e2a.
  5. “Celebrating Eiko Ishioka’s Extraordinary Costumes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 13 July 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/eiko-ishioka-japanese-costume-designer-google-doodle-bram-stokers-dracula-gary-oldman-winona-ryder-francis-ford-coppola-a7836536.html.

Designing Fear: Vampira

Tall, dark, and sexy, this glamorously morose woman is an image we’re all familiar with, but few know the name or origins of televisions first horror movie host, Vampira.

Maila Nurmi as Vampira

Vampira was the creation of Maila Nurmi, a pinup model, and actress looking to start a career on television. While Maila had a successful career as a pinup model, she still hadn’t been able to break into film and decided the emerging medium of television might be where she needed to be. In 1953, she was invited to Hollywood choreographer Lester Horton’s annual Halloween ball. Maila thought this was her chance to be recognized by producers. In preparation to catch producers’ eye, Maila researched what was popular on tv and what might be missing. She realized that a satire of popular family sitcoms might be precisely what television needed and decided that Charles Addams New Yorker cartoon, The Addams Family, could fill this need. So for Horton’s ball, she decided to go as the yet unnamed matriarch of the Addams Family, Morticia. Maila made the costume herself and described the process in an interview with Stacey Asip-Kneitschel,

 “So, first I made the costume. I bought a piece of material for $3.67, at The Home Silk Shop, on the remnants table. I didn’t have a sewing machine, so I cut it and sewed it by hand and made my costume. I wore pale green powder, with long toenails — Made myself flat-chested … so that I was very scrawny and pale green and there I was”.  – Maila Nurmi

Charles Addams New Yorker Cartoon

Her ploy worked, and KABC-TV producer Hunt Stromberg Jr. took notice of her and spent five months after the party looking for her. While Stromberg wasn’t interested in Maila’s idea to create an Addams Family tv show because of how expensive it would be, he did want to use her and the look she’d created to host syndicated horror movies without getting the rights from Charles Addams. Maila was utterly opposed to the idea of stealing the character but didn’t want to lose her chance to be on tv and asked for a few extra days to create a new character for the network. Maila wanted to keep the vampiric nature of the Addams matriarch while also creating something new. She found the solution in the bondage and shoe fetish magazine Bizarre. She decided a combination of “sex and death” would be the perfect new direction for her new character. When creating this new character, she decided to start with the wig she’d bought for the ball and dressed she’d made but deepened the dress’s V-neckline, added a slit in the skirt. To create a more pinup look, she got a padded pushup bra and corset that cinched her waist into 17 inches. She also added fishnet stocking and stilettos, and long manicured nails. Finishing up the look with extremely glam makeup and exaggerated eyebrows giving the newly dubbed Vampira her signature look. Executes at KABC-TV loved her and green-lit The Vampira Show

Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira

The Vampira Show aired on April 30th, 1954, with Vampira’s horrifying opening gliding down a fog-filled hall then screaming into the camera before introducing that night’s movie with dark humor. Her ghoulish entrance and manner were exaggerated by her costume ensuring that she had the audiences attention. The show was an instant hit, with people saying they felt entranced by the program. Maila spent the next year promoting the show and making it an even bigger success. She did a spread in Life magazine and appeared on variety shows like The George Gobel Show and The Red Skelton Show with Bela Lugosi. However, the show was not destined for long term success. After just fifty episodes created over one year, The Vampira Show was canceled.

Maila Nurmi retained Vampira’s rights and appeared as her character in Ed Wood’s b-movie cult class Plan 9 From Outer Space alongside Bela Lugosi but was never able to recreate the success of the show with Vampira. One possible explanation for this is that she may have been blacklisted after refusing to sell Vampira’s rights to The Addams Family tv show producers. In the early ’80s, Maila was contacted to take part in a Vampira Show revival but parted ways with the production early on takes her rights to Vampira with her. However, the producers simply renamed it to Elvira’s Movie Macabre program, cast Cassandra Peterson as the titular host, updating Vampira’s look for the ’80s. Maila sued the production for Copy-write infringement but ultimately lost.

Vampira was cemented as a pop-culture icon when Lisa Marie portrayed her in the Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood. While contributing much to pop-culture as Vampira, it wasn’t until years after her death in 2008 that perhaps Vampira’s most significant contribution to pop-culture was substantiated. It had been rumored for decades that Disney villain Maleficent had been modeled after Vampira for their 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. The exaggerated eyebrows and high cheekbones were dead giveaways to Vampira fans, but the production was so secret no one knew for sure. That was until her niece Sandra Niemi found entries in her aunt’s diaries that showed two separate days where Maila was scheduled to be a live-action model for Maleficent during the production. Disney confirmed this when an extensive exploration of their Sleeping Beauty archive was done ahead of the live-action remake. Maila Nurmi’s “ghoul queen” Vampira created a sexy and creepy icon that stays with us today. 

  • Maila Nurmi as Vampira in Plan 9 From Outer Space
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
Maila Nurmi as Vampira and Elvis Presley
Maila Nurmi as Vampira
The Vampira Show Opening and Commentary

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

  1. Greene, R. H. “The Real Maleficent: The Surprising Human Face behind the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ Villain.” Salon, Salon.com, 15 Feb. 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/02/15/the_real_maleficent_the_surprising_human_face_behind_the_sleeping_beauty_villain/.
  2. Asip-Kneitschel, Stacey. “VAMPIRA ACTRESS MAILA NURMI: THE LAST INTERVIEW – PART 1.” PleaseKillMe, 15 Nov. 2019, pleasekillme.com/vampira-actress-maila-nurmi-part-1/.
  3. Asip-Kneitschel, Stacey. “VAMPIRA ACTRESS MAILA NURMI: THE LAST INTERVIEW – PART 2.” PleaseKillMe, 15 Nov. 2019, pleasekillme.com/vampira-actress-maila-nurmi-part-2/.
  4. “Maila Nurmi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maila_Nurmi.
  5. Staff, EW. “Interview with Vampira.” EW.com, ew.com/article/1994/11/18/interview-vampira/.
  6. Baby, Burly. “Vampira – Maila Nurmi.” Burlesque Baby Magazine, 6 July 2020, http://www.burlesquebaby.net/2020/07/06/vampira-maila-nurmi/.
  7. “Horror Icon Vampira: Fabulous Photos of Maila Nurmi in the 1950s.” Horror Icon Vampira: Fabulous Photos of Maila Nurmi in the 1950s ~, 18 May 2019, http://www.vintag.es/2019/05/maila-nurmi-vampira.html.
  8. Potempa, Philip. “Vampira, Aka Actress Maila Nurmi’s Passing Rekindles Memories of Elvira Rift.” Nwitimes.com, 17 Jan. 2008, http://www.nwitimes.com/entertainment/columnists/offbeat/vampira-aka-actress-maila-nurmis-passing-rekindles-memories-of-elvira-rift/article_6fd8f956-7950-53e3-a01c-46d3a21ac1da.html.
  9. Thompson, Brett. “The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr. .” The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr., 1995, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdfGJOaUPlw&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=17.
  10. Hudgens, John E. “American Scary – Maila Nurmi (Vampira) – Extended Interview.” YouTube, 2006, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPqIhTREzbE&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=18.
  11. Holiday, Lindsay. “Morticia, Vampira & Elvira.” YouTube, 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDfaVv3kQk0&list=PLtwaUGW5Y0WxPU77kiRjnFXRRzazazm5P&index=19.