How ‘The Black Phone’ Created These Creepy Masks For The Grabber

The protagonist of Paul Leni’s 1928 silent film “The Man Who Laughs” provided early inspiration for the Grabber’s oddly stretched smile. “That particular grimace, I thought, might work well for the smile mask,” Derrickson said.

Savini and Baker were also inspired by circus masks, Greek masks, antique dolls, old movies like “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) and the Coney Island Barker. “We had a whole vision board in our studio, just little ideas and things that inspired us,” Baker said.

“And Scott had pictures,” Savini said. “So it was a back and forth process with Scott.”

“Scott was like, ‘He must look like something that [the Grabber] found, not something he created,” Baker said. “They wanted it to be very old, very antique. Maybe something that was done for a theatrical production or something.

Derrickson sent some old ceramic masks for reference, as well as other types of handmade masks. “Jason started to really refine it and do 3D concept work on Tom’s design, showing me what he thought it would look like,” he said. “By doing it, we almost ran out of time. Because I spent most of my pre-production trying to get the masks just right and it just wasn’t going well. And then at the last minute, everything fell into place.

Ethan Hawke as the Grabber in a scene from Universal Pictures’ “The Black Phone.”

(Fred Norris/Universal Pictures)

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