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Ghostface explained - who is the Scream movies killer?

The Scream movies are stalked by a killer who continues to terrorize Woodsboro and beyond, and our Ghostface explained guide reveals all about the slasher.

Ghostface explained

Who is Ghostface? In 1996, horror maestro Wes Craven introduced the world to one of the most memorable killers in cinema, Ghostface. Changing film to film, one thing that always remains the same is the creepy white mask, unflinching in the face of death.

Scream has given us some of the best horror movies from the ’90s to now. Starting with Drew Barrymore’s brutal demise in the original slasher, Ghostface has cleaved their way through many residents of Woodsboro. Sidney Prescott was a recurring target, but now the killings have moved to New York City, putting a big twist on any marathon of the Scream movies in order.

With all the twists and changes around the knife-wielding phantom, you might be left with some unanswered questions. The Digital Fix is here to unpack everything you need to know about the killer as we await the Scream 7 release date. From their powers, backstory, and multiple identities, here is Ghostface explained.

Who is Ghostface?

Ghostface is the main villain of the Scream movies. However, their identity is pretty unique compared to their horror peers. Unlike some of the other best movie villains out there, such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Ghostface is more of a symbol than a specific ‘person’ (or perhaps killing machine is a better word?)

Ghostface doesn’t have an in-depth origin story; they don’t have a traumatic childhood or a ghost mother driving them to kill. Instead, this slasher icon is purely named after their white plastic Halloween mask and long black robes. The iconic vinyl mask is based on the Edvard Munch painting, The Scream (we love a good pun), and was sold as part of a Father Death costume in real life.

Watching the Halloween movies in order will always leave you with one Michael Myers, but there have been a total of 12 Ghostfaces in the Scream franchise (and that’s not even counting the horror series). Ghostface itself is a mask; their very being is designed to protect the identity of the killer (or killers) in each and every new movie in the Scream franchise.

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Ghostface’s icon status is even woven into the Scream movies itself, thanks to the meta Stab franchise, which is introduced in Scream 2. In the films, Ghostface is a symbol of the tragedy that follows Sidney and has entered into the sphere of horror movie fame – even in the flicks.

So, in answer to the big question ‘who is Ghostface’ – there is no permanent identity. In the first Scream, Ghostface was Sidney’s boyfriend, Billy Loomis and his mate Stu. And the killers in Scream 6 added some new names to that list.

Ghostface explained: A close-up on Ghostface

What is the backstory of Ghostface?

While Ghostface as a character doesn’t have much of a backstory, their iconic mask does. The original concept art for Ghostface was more gruesome and zombie-like than the design we know now. The memorable look that we’ve grown accustomed to was actually for a mask that was first developed by the novelty store by Fun World in the ’90s.

The real-life mask was part of a series entitled ‘Fantastic Faces’ and was called ‘The Peanut-Eyed Ghost’. Producer Marianne Maddalena spotted The Peanut-Eyed Ghost mask while scouting for filming locations for Scream, and well, the rest is history. Craven went about trying to obtain the rights for the mask, and luckily Fun World and Dimension Films managed to strike a deal.

But, when it comes to the backstory of Ghostface’s creation, their mask isn’t the only exciting bit of Scream lore. Kevin Williamson, The writer of the first Scream screenplay (which was first titled Scary Movie), penned a story featuring a young woman who was taunted over the phone by a serial killer.

This plot point would make it into the final cut of the ‘90s movie with the opening scene of Scream seeing Drew Barrymore chatting with Ghostface via landline before meeting her bloody end.

Ghostface explained: Ghostface holding a bloody knife

But this iconic moment was actually based on a true story. Ghostface’s standard home invasion ways came after Williamson learned about the Gainesville Ripper – a serial killer in Florida – one night when his own windows were open.

Watching a report on the killer and feeling vulnerable – he was spooked enough to use his feelings and horror movie expertise to write a slasher villain who would stand the test of time.

Danny Rolling (aka the Gainesville Ripper) killed five students, but besides targeting young women and men, he and Ghostface don’t have many striking similarities. You can read more on the subject in our article on the true story that inspired Scream.

Ghostface explained: Ghostface trying to open a door in Scream 5

What powers does Ghostface have?

Every person who takes on the identity of Ghostface is very much human. However, they all tend to have decent speed, stealth, and physical durability. In nearly every Scream movie, Ghostface has been punched, kicked, and sometimes even stabbed.

Still, they get back up and chase after their victims with sure-fire determination. And, while sometimes there are two or even three Ghostface killers in one movie – meaning it can appear that the killer is everywhere all at once – the slasher baddie has proven to be quick on their feet, chasing teens and often catching their prey.

If there were any doubt on supernatural goings on, it would be Ghostface’s uncanny stealth ability. They pop up unexpectedly and constantly manages to avoid detection from his targets and the police alike. We know Ghostface is human at the end of the day, but sometimes it seems like that mask has some sort of power-up (to clarify, it doesn’t.)

Ghostface explained: Ghostface on a train in New York

Ghostface also has the power of knowledge on their side in every Scream movie. In each outing of the franchise, the killers have planned out how they want the situation to unfold and all the traps that the victims are set to die in.

While these plans are often revealed at the end of every Scream movie, along with an unmasking (think Scooby-Doo but with more death), the level of preparation and detail is still impressive. So, credit where credit is due.

For more horror movie baddies, here are all the Cenobites ranked, and you might to give our Hellraiser movies in order guide a look too. and Freddy Krueger explained. Or if you still can’t get enough Ghostface, here is our Scream cast guide, how to avoid an attack from Ghostface, and our Scream 6 review. You’ll want to have a look at our guide to the Saw movies in order and the Saw X release date, for more scares, too.