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It's ineffably haunting. The warped expression. The drooping eyes. The contorted mouth, howling in silence. The Scream mask has become as iconic as the visages of horror staples like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, but MTV is taking the face of the franchise in an entirely new direction.
Scream fans were in mourning this week after the network debuted the trailer for its upcoming reboot. The trailer, fans discovered, glaringly omits the most recognizable feature of the original films: the beloved Ghostface mask worn by all the killers. To their dismay, MTV has replaced it with a new mask, a blurry version of which the trailer glancingly reveals in a few short frames (see below).
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, original Scream director Wes Craven says he let MTV use his name in association with the series, but his involvement beyond that was minimal. "I just put my name on it," Craven explains, referencing his executive producer credit. "I was too busy to do much else."
More specifically, Craven, 75, says he had no part in MTV's decision to scrap the Ghostface mask for the reboot series. As far as he's concerned, even minor changes to a proven formula can be devastating.
There's been endless speculation about why MTV made the decision to redesign the mask for the new series. The network has denied it was budget-related, stemming from Fun World's licensing fee, but THR has learned preliminary discussions about incorporating the mask in the series did occur.
"We have been in regular contact with [The Weinstein Co.] for years while the TV series was conceived," Fun World executive vp Alan Geller tells THR via email, but "no deal" is currently in place for the show. MTV had no comment.
For its part, MTV has insisted the change was simply a creative decision to take the franchise in a "darker," more modern direction. "If the Scream movie mask was the more plastic version," MTV senior vp Mina Lefevre told EW, "this one is a more organic-looking and, frankly, darker version." Still, neither Fun World nor MTV has ruled out the possibility of allowing Ghostface a cameo in the series, presumably once a favorable deal is struck.
Aside from the mask, Roger Jackson, who voiced the original Scream killer, is another glaring absence from the reboot. "I can't picture it," he tells THR about the MTV show. "How can you have Scream without Ghostface? It's like Friday the 13th without Jason." Jackson says MTV hasn't approached him to voice the killer, or anyone.
Bob Weinstein, an executive producer on the original Scream and now an executive producer on the MTV project, agrees that the original mask was special, likening it to the masks in Halloween and The Phantom of the Opera, but is more optimistic about the changes made for the show, revealing one key difference between the old and new versions.
"The [new] mask itself plays a story element, and that is different from Scream the movie," Weinstein says, "It ties in specifically to the story. The mask has an importance; it's not a mask for mask's sake."
But it doesn't quite have the same history.
"When this mask project was given to me," says Brigitte Sleiertin-Linden, the artist who developed the initial concept drawings for Fun World's Ghostface, "I was tasked with designing ghostly faces to be made as masks and to do some drawings with a similar look and feel. So I did a bunch of sketches of different white, ghostly faces with simplistic black facial-feature shapes."
"As an animation junkie," she continues, explaining her inspiration, "I loved the old Max Fleischer cartoons, and Betty Boop was one of my faves. Those faces were mostly inspired by the ghosts from some of those old 1930s black-and-white cartoons."
"I just loved all vintage animation and that fluid, almost rubbery movement," she adds, citing jazz singer Cab Calloway as another major influence. (Interestingly, Alan Geller, Sleiertin-Linden's former boss, adamantly disputes that she created the mask. He insists the mask is his creation, and an upcoming documentary will reveal the true story behind its genesis. Geller wouldn't provide additional details.)
Following its inception in the early '90s, the Ghostface mask was in circulation as a Halloween costume for several years before Scream producer Marianne Maddalena stumbled upon it by accident in 1996 while scouting locations for the first film.
One location, Maddalena says, happened to be the Santa Rosa house made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, which, at the time, was owned by an old widow. The woman lived there alone, and — in what sounds like the set-up for a horror movie in itself — Maddalena says she spied the mask draped over a chair in one of the vacant rooms.
Maddalena immediately took it to Wes Craven and the rest is history.
Can MTV rewrite it?