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Are Horror Movies Scarier in Black and White?

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It doesn't matter to me. I like both B&W and color horror films.  My favorites are the Hammer films which are in color, but the older Universal classics are great too.  I'm not a big fan of what some call "teenage slasher" movies. I liked the original HALLOWEEN from 1978, but they ran that into the ground with all the sequels. One of my favorites is GHOST STORY from the 80s with John Houseman and Fred Astaire.  I actually liked THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT although it was sort of quirky.

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Well I dream in color, but I'm an artist & attuned to subtleties. I think psychologically black & white movies trigger a certain anxious feeling within us.

Definitely the more true black in a frame, the scarier it will be to the viewer psychologically because we cannot see or identify what predator might be lurking in the dark. This creates an inner anxiety. Notice even though there is a lot of white areas in the above ^^^pictures, the black is very black.

Color movies typically seem more "real life" to us, but if the contrast is such the blacks are very black, it shouldn't make that much difference in visual scare factor.

Hitchcock filmed PSYCHO in B&W as cost cutter and understand this was his attempt at proving a successful movie can be made using TV techs & budget.

I do agree with the earlier comment that sound is everything. When watching a movie that's "too" scary, I will turn the sound off and watch the special effects. I was taught this by a famous horror filmmaker when I told him I couldn't watch his movies!

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I've never thought of a film's scare factor being related to color/B&W cinematography.  I generally find movies scary based on the situations presented rather than on how they look.  Full disclosure, the three films that have scared me the most, in the sense that they truly got under my skin and made me feel uneasy for several days, are Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, and Eyes Wide Shut.  All three are in color.  What frightened me about the first two is their nightmare logic in which the line between what's real and what isn't is blurred.  Along those same lines, the black-and-white Vampyr is also very scary to me.  The Kubrick film, which is not a horror movie at all, always disturbs me because of the dread it creates with the cult/secret society at its center.  While I'm not a conspiracy theorist, the very idea of cults and the way they manipulate their followers is one of the most frightening things I can think of.

When people talk about B&W movies being scarier or creepier than color films, I do think this has more to do with Gothic appearance being creepier than modern settings.  I've seen people in this very thread extolling the classic Universal horrors while dismissing slasher films, but that's not a fair comparison because slasher movies are not even trying to look like old Gothic horrors.  It might be more interesting to compare two Mario Bava films, Black Sunday and Black Sabbath.  He utilized some of the same sets in both films, but the first was in B&W while the second was in color:



Black Sunday (top) echoes the chiaroscuro of classic Universal, while Black Sabbath emphasizes artificiality with lurid color, not unlike Douglas Sirk.  Which you prefer will come down to personal taste, but they are both effective in capturing a Gothic mood.

And of course, not all color horror films go all out with vivid hues.  Take a recent film like The Witch, for example.  Note the more muted tones that give it a somewhat cold appearance.  The introduction of warmer colors on occasion becomes all the eerier.




And of course, let's not forget one movie that has frightened generations of children, whether they watched it on black-and-white  TV or on glorious Blu-ray:


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2 hours ago, Feego said:

 Re: "And of course, not all color horror films go all out with vivid hues.  Take a recent film like The Witch, for example.  Note the more muted tones that give it a somewhat cold appearance..."


 The "cold" screenshot culled from THE VVITCH (2015) looks like a visit to 1824 Burkittsville - to me yet another example of how far-reaching the influence of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT has been.

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