Green is a color that often elicits a positive response when the brain and eyes work together to perceive its reflection. Luck, health, nature, youth, and even our signal to go are all determined by the color green. However, given calculated placement, green can also invoke more unsettling feelings like envy, the supernatural, sickness, and disorientation. Many filmmakers rely on color to both represent themes and motifs as well as add touches of style and artistic expression to enhance the narratives of the stories they wish to tell.
When it comes to the horror genre, red is usually the hue of choice while its color wheel complementary partner, green, takes a backseat. However, when placed side-by-side, the two create the strongest contrast of the pair and make for some unsettling imagery. Whether it’s fighting against its opposing mate or stealing the screen on its own, green is an interesting shade that ups the ante in visual terror. These 10 Horror Movies Covered in Green make powerful statements in the use of color from innocent mints to diabolical neon greens. Beware: you’ll find no luck here, just shades of clover.
John Erick Dowdle’s (The Poughkeepsie Tapes) Quarantine is certainly not drenched in green like so many others on this list, but it deserves a spot thanks to the film’s iconic final moments. As a found footage flick, a 2008 remake of Spanish original Rec, much of the atmosphere remains intentionally average in color and style. However, when the third act comes to a close and the camera captures the remaining survivors in night vision, grainy green becomes the sole source of color and a major standard of description when it comes to identifying Quarantine among other found footage films.
9. The Descent
Neil Marshall’s (Dog Soldiers) female ensemble in 2005’s The Descent lead an excursion into the depths of the earth with frightening consequences steeped in trauma, guilt, and the unknown. Recognized by its shocking scene of the protagonist rising from a pool of red blood, The Descent is another film that relies on a more organically chromatic clash of red with green. Red seeps through the carnage of visceral mutant attacks, but there are many surprising scenes where Kelly and bright slime greens take over the scenes with unlikely pigmented hue. It’s not just the small spaces that make viewers uncomfortable, it’s also the incredible trick on the eyes by adding sneaky shades of green light wherever light is available in that setting including the clever night vision perspective.
With a title like Saw one would expect an exceptionally bloody red palette, and it certainly delivers on gore, but the film’s aesthetic adds an interesting sheen of green in multiple scenes. James Wan’s (Insidious) twisted genre-changing body horror is the first in a long line up of gutsy installments, but initiates the series’ unsettling color palette with selective venomous green hues. The uncertain narrative mixed with the daring display of subtle chartreuse and bright olive green lighting, from the moods of the scenes down to Jigsaw’s first video appearance, creates a memorable atmosphere of dread without being too jarring or distracting to the eyes… color-wise, that is.
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When it comes to style, Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) is a masterclass in the unique and the odd. His fun, quirky fan favorite 1988 film Beetlejuice established the artist’s creative reach with beloved characters, a quaint setting and a whole lot of weird. Contrasting the ordinary with the fantastical, the colors of the film are vibrant and catching. The highlights of stark apple green light give the film an eccentric layer of otherworldly glow. From the lovely fern green mold on the titular character’s face and hair to the overall setting and cinematography, Beetlejuice is visually synonymous with peculiar colors, with green being one of its primaries.
Who said green had to come from light? Ari Aster’s (Hereditary) contemporary folk horror, Midsommar, took 2019 audiences by storm with its unapologetic narrative in grief and cult mentality and most importantly, its prominent array of color. Stimulating viewers with a film that takes place solely in the energetic light of day and set in a flourishing landscape, the spring green color remains a central point of color for a majority of the scenes. Being the natural color of the environment, the green vegetation of the earth serves as a substantial base for the rest of Midsommar’s powerful visual selection, setting a new precedent for daytime horror.
Giallo films are defined by their bright colors, most notably thick piercing splashes of red. Dario Argento’s (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage) most well known film, 1977’s Suspiria, illustrated a modern fairytale draped in fantastical colors, light, sound, and all the other important film elements it takes to make a classic. While most of Suspiria commits to the display of red, the more drastic imagery is brought to life with flaring true green backlighting. Immersing viewers in a disorienting palette casts the film in a dreamy composition shrouded in terror. The stark representation of such an unsuspecting color like green gives the murder who-done-it film a tinted nod toward the supernatural, taking the giallo subgenre to more mystical territories.
4. Green Room
The name says it all. Jeremy Saulnier’s (Blue Ruin) vicious 2015 punk horror Green Room takes viewers to the edge with rebellious roots and effortless brutality. Though the palette is relatively tame and subdued, the color green sneaks its way into the darkness. For all of the film’s extreme components of music, politics, and violence, the color choices never saturate the screen but rather become an impressive cohesion of look and substance. Between hair dye, clothing, lighting, the secluded scenery of the setting, and even wall graffiti, Green Room is brilliantly dripping in multiple shades of green from lush and bright emeralds to deep and faint moss and pine colors.
On the scale of zainy schlock, Michael Dugan’s (Raging Hormones) 1983 demon flick, Mausoleum, hits all the right and wrong notches. Deemed a failure upon release, the film has found a home amongst fans as a cult favorite. As a woman becomes possessed by an inherited family demon, the revelatory sign of possession begins with her glowing green eyes. The increasing strength of the demonic presence is enhanced by fluorescent green lighting that takes over each frame as the poor woman physically and grotesquely transforms. The smoky turquoise, deep limes, and unnatural harlequin green lights give Mausoleum an underappreciated ghoulish palette to match the film’s equally colorful scares.
The name Alfred Hitchcock almost immediately draws black and white scenes of an iconic shower murder in most film fans. What often slips under the radar is his extreme, yet comprehensive, exercise in color through his film Vertigo released just two years before Psycho in 1958. Enveloping scenes in dreamy symbolic shades of green ranging from rich sage to hyperactive neon, Vertigo assigns color to meaning and mood evolving over time as the film’s narrative unfolds. Taking advantage of that popular duo of red and green, the film’s unique clash of lighting and wardrobe sees green representing death, mystery, and terror, while red expresses alarming danger, lust, and obsession. Though a majority of the film takes place in lovely neutrals, the use of glowing minty greens and teals take its nightmarish qualities to new heights (get it?).
1. The Ring
Some storytellers opt for extreme uses of color to set the overall environment of a film, usually pushing warmer notes to the highest level of opacity. Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl) utilized this practice, but chose a particular dreary green notch of the rainbow for his 2002 American remake of Japanese horror Ringu, The Ring. Playing on the film’s inferred water-based application, The Ring itself seems to hold an underwater palette from beginning to end with muddled shades of sea foam green, pale mints, and murky aquamarines. Connecting the opposing charges of watery decay and digital technology, The Ring’s overall off-green color not only sets a polarizing aesthetic, but also guides the narrative simply in its color.
Which of these films have the best presentation of green color? What other films and filmmakers make the best use of green in their imagery? Do you find these specific green aesthetics effective in storytelling? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!