How horror icon Tom Savini created that terrifying mask for The Black Phone

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How horror icon Tom Savini created that terrifying mask for The Black Phone

How do you create the ultimate horror movie mask? That was the problem facing Doctor Strange and Sinister filmmaker Scott Derrickson as he was prepping his new movie, the Blumhouse-produced The Black Phone (out today). In the '70s-set movie, Ethan Hawke plays “the Grabber,” a character who kidnaps and kills children, and through most of the film same wears a dementedly grinning mask, or variations on the same. Derrickson was aware that getting the mask right was crucial for the film's success, both artistically and commercially.

“As soon as I started prepping the movie, I just knew, whatever this mask is, it's the thing that they're gonna use to market the movie,” says the director, who wrote the film's script with longtime collaborator C. Robert Cargill. “So the success of the movie really depends on how good the mask is and, boy, did that light a fire under me. That really did drive a lot of my determination to make something iconic. In the script, all we had was what was described as an old leather mask [with] a devil painted on with a smile and a frown and that was it. The development of the mask was a whole complex process.”

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Derrickson and executive producer Ryan Turek approached five different companies to come up with the concepts for the mask. The list included the Pittsburgh-based Callosum Studios, which is run by Jason Baker and legendary makeup artist Tom Savini, whose many credits include 1978's Dawn of the Dead and 1980's Friday the 13th.

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