Suspense Has No Color

†††††††† Horror stories, throughout history, have been told in the dark. This lack of awareness is personified in black and white movies, where all images are seen in shades of grey. Even during the day, or in a fully lit room, the lack of color can easily be manipulated into an austere image. Jack Clayton successfully pulls this off in his 1961 The Innocents, which has many beautiful, sunny scenes that were cast into a ghostly shadow.

†††††††† Ghosts in history are thought of as colorless, whether as transparent apparitions or even the Halloween version of a floating white sheet. The fact that the ghosts (Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessup) were able to appear so real, yet still lack color, helped add to their substance as characters. Shades of grey used not only for ghosts but the entire film cast a grim tone to put the audience on edge.

†††††††† Black and white photography by cinematographer Freddie Francis allows Clayton to enhance the spotlight effect by eliminating the distracting background color. Any director could shine a light on the main emphasis, but only in black and white films, do you get the blending of all background except that which is highlighted. The lack of peripheral vision emphasizes the unknown truth and confusion found in Henry Jamesís 1898 The Turn of the Screw. When Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is frantically running through the hallways searching for the noises she hears, Clayton uses this method to help disorient the audience. This successfully added suspense and frightening emotion, as the only apparent light source was the candle she carried. The viewers were limited in their vision of the surroundings and become as lost in the house as Miss Giddens. The spotlight effect is symbolically used to emphasize the governessesí single mindedness and determination. The scene around her was fuzzy and nondescript, while she remained a sharply focused image.

†††††††† Everything The Innocents lacked as a horror film was redeemed by its supreme ability to throw the audience into suspense. Horror films today focus on gore and technology to draw the audience into the movie. The true beauty of scary stories lies in the suspense and complexities, which have been lost in the addition of color to the big screen. The imagination is a powerful tool, and lack of color encourages the mind to engage in speculation elaborately creating its own details.

Laura Harrison

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