Betsy’s Black and White Horror Show

The other night like many horror fans I’m sure, I went to sleep watching BETSY’S WEDDING (1990). Don’t judge, I’ve got a giant stock of sleepy time VHS and I know what I’m doing. Anyway, BETSY’S WEDDING was kinda rubbing me the wrong way with its ambivalent, leaning towards garish visuals and so I decided to tone that shit down by removing all the color via my remote and switching my TV to black and white. Then, who would have thunk it, but BETSY’S WEDDING transformed into some lost, mid-level WOODY ALLEN jaunt and I found myself engrossed with the courtship of ALLY SHEEDY and ANTHONY LaPAGLIA (who incidentally steals the film entire).

I still fell asleep before it was over but the black and white switcheroo was a success. I should not have been surprised at all really, because I had already learned this lesson with THE MIST and GHOST STORY (thanks to Fascination with Fear!) Anyway, I decided to leave my TV black and white for a while and watch some horror movies and see what this homegrown gimmick works with. I wouldn’t even try it with something like SUSPIRIA in which color plays such an important role in the film but I’ve got a feeling that some films might only be complimented by the new garb. Here’s what I tried…


The frat party beginning is a toss up but Garth Manor and black and white work wonders together. Suddenly we could be just down the road from THE HAUNTING.


Holy crap this movie just gets better each time I watch it and you know the snow graduates to a whole other level of engulfing in B&W. How will I ever repay Amanda by Night for turning me on to this fine film? A fruit basket is in order.


Speaking of snow, Geez, isn’t THE DEAD ZONE beautiful? I Love me all types of CRONENBERG but on a visual level I think it’s my favorite of his. Black and white really brings out the beaten down and past its prime small town atmosphere and the gazebo scene somehow becomes an even bigger knock out (if that’s possible). I feel about THE DEAD ZONE in black and white, the way the lady below feels about a certain curtain store….

ALIEN (1979)

Dare I? I’m so far gone at this point I went one even better and watched ALIEN not only in B&W but on a VHS tape so old, it has the nerve to boast about being in HI-FI stereo on the cover! Dead media and backwards technology makes me giddy. I feel like lil’ COREY FELDMAN in FRIDAY THE 13TH: Part 4 when he discovers the view from his new bedroom window.

FIDAY THE 13TH (1980)

I might as well at this point! I did just happen to pick up a used copy of the original on VHS this year just so that I could hold it in my hand again. I gotta say, this always-reliable classic worked a far sight better than I imagined it would. Color is not a very significant factor in F13th, in fact, it rarely comes into play but the black and white sure does a lot to deepen the woods and sense of isolation and it sure makes my pal Mrs. Voorhees lovely white sweater pop out against the night sky! That reminds me, me and your Aunt John were at a bar the other day (actually, right after my first draft of this) and they had a TV set to an obscure Game Show channel featuring a game show in B&W and guess who was a panelist? BETSY PALMER, the patron saint of broken cars and serendipitous career opportunities!! Of course I took a picture for you….

Done. Now I’m going to play Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” in an effort to alienate any stragglers who didn’t stop reading at the mere mention of BETSY’S WEDDING. Am I the only one not buying GEORGE WENDT as Mac’s dad? I totally get TESS (AMITYVILLE 3-D) HARPER as his mom though: they’ve both got that that Midwich Cuckoo look. Let me know if you guys have any other ideas as to what color horror films might work well in B&W!I’m on a roll so far and open to suggestions.

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Tim Tylor
Tim Tylor
6 years ago

I first saw “Company of Wolves” on a black-and-white TV set which had an odd greenish tinge for some reason. It suited the surreal fairy-tale horror perfectly.

Brother Bill
Brother Bill
6 years ago

“From Hell” (2001) looks amazing in B&W. Apparently the Hughes Brothers had done a print in B&W but the studio chickened out. There are a few scenes in B&W among the bonus features on the DVD.