Tagline: “If looks could kill…” (Now there’s an ellipsis.)
Premise: 11-year-old–ELEVEN! NOT TWELVE!–Carly Beth Caldwell (which is such a solid name) scares easily. So on Halloween, she decides to ditch the duck costume her mother bought her and get a mask at the local costume shop. When she gets to the shop, she stumbles upon the hidden back room and the grotesque masks stored there. The shopkeeper is hesitant to sell Carly Beth a mask, but he relents after she gives him $30. Yes, $30 is all it takes to buy what used to be a living face that proceeds to affix itself to a child’s face. Carly Beth goes back to the shop to find out how to remove the mask and is told that the only means of removing it is with a symbol of love. Fortunately, Carly Beth’s mother recently made a plaster of Paris sculpture of her daughter’s head, a sculpture that Carly Beth is able to show to the masks (they all chase her around town because of course they do) and therefore remove what the shopkeeper called her new face. The twist? The mask can never be worn again, lest it attach itself to another face, which it does when Carly Beth’s little brother Noah decides to see how he looks in it. Dun-dun-DUH!
Creepiness factor: Comparatively high. There’s a mask that gets stuck to a girl’s face, and the mask is made of actual skin created by a costume shop owner/mad scientist. Then some masks follow said girl down the block until she shakes a sculpture of her real face at them and shouts about how it’s a symbol of love. Harrowing.
Signature Stine moment: Abbreviated sentences are really this guy’s ace in the hole.
“Her hot, green face.
Her monster face.
The monster face she could not remove.”
This segues into another Stine trope I’m getting used to: a battery of rhetorical questions in a single paragraph. Here’s a stellar example, of which I’m sure there will be many more:
“What was that sound? That deep, gurgling sound? That low murmur that seemed to be following her?”
RL Stine doesn’t need your literary devices, he’s got his own.
Accuracy of title: I suppose the mask is haunted in some sense. I’d more just call it alive. But The Living Mask doesn’t sound as catchy or scary as The Haunted Mask, so I understand the motivation here.
Moral of the story: Next time, just wear the damned duck costume.
Overall rating: 7.5/10. This one’s a classic for a reason. It’s a fun and eerie idea with a twist or two along the way leading to a satisfying conclusion and a delightfully contrived twist.