Shadowvision: “CURSE OF CHUCKY”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Welcome to Shadowvision, a regular column in which Fangoria.com revisits modern horror films in black and white. The purpose is to analyze these films through a new lens, seeing if the classically informed viewing experience will give a new angle to familiar images. If you’d like to watch along at home, it’s simple: go into your TV settings and desaturate the picture completely, then adjust the contrast and brightness to fit either standard or high definition.
When CURSE OF CHUCKY hit shelves last fall, genre fans at large were impressed by the direction the franchise took, defying the cartoonish and referential territory the previous two entries had traversed. Franchise creator and CURSE OF CHUCKY director Don Mancini brought Chucky back to being scary, all the while holding onto the dark sense of humor that the series’ fans had previously embraced. Even more impressive was the aesthetics with which Mancini conveyed the story, opting for a Gothic design complete with a large, creepy mansion for the minuscule madman to operate within.
With its classically informed style, CURSE OF CHUCKY appeared ripe for a Shadowvision experiment to see just how effective the tonal transition works. Technically speaking, the film doesn’t need many major adjustments. While you may want to increase the contrast to help smooth out the grey, the brightness should be fine as normal and the crisp cinematography from Michael Marshall should do most of the heavy lifting.
Almost immediately, CURSE OF CHUCKY feels more appropriate in black-and-white, as its measured storytelling and visual cues match the monochrome presentation. The early moments of suspense feel in line with classic horror, especially the notorious “soup” scene, which feels stripped from a ’50s murder mystery. Perhaps most apparent in black-and-white is CURSE OF CHUCKY’s delightfully nostalgic setting, using the “dark and stormy night” trope to accentuate the mansion’s creepy emptiness and the threat of its supernaturally-tinged slasher.
In black-and-white, CURSE OF CHUCKY feels much closer to the B-horror movies of the ’50s, especially considering the “terror in your home” motif taken from the original film. The internal family drama of the film coincides with said era, and with Chucky still practically achieved through much of the movie, the black-and-white presentation of the conceptually-unusual killer feels very in-line with the minimalist monsters from THE TWILIGHT ZONE. But the most noticeable representation of B-horror comes in the form of the patient, setting-driven sequences. When encased in shadow, the darkness and design of the house gives Chucky an eerie, ominous presence throughout the film’s latter half.
Much of this comes from Don Mancini, who seems particularly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, Tod Browning, Terence Young and, to a certain extent, Hammer Horror here. Mancini knows the lasting appeal of Chucky and makes sure to keep in the character’s signature one-liners and brutal kills, yet the monochrome version reveals a much more measured filmmaker, reveling subtle dread rather than harping on the gory moments. And whereas the film’s natural blue-and-green color palette feels quite generic in initial presentation, the film feels almost immersive in black-and-white, with Marshall’s lens capturing every angle with reverence and effectiveness.
In fact, this writer feels the losses from CURSE OF CHUCKY’s desaturation are more beneficial than obtrusive. The colors of CURSE OF CHUCKY don’t necessarily add much to the film itself, other than to make the film palatable to modern audiences and to present the iconic “Good Guy” depiction of it’s titular character. Furthermore, the tone and atmosphere of CURSE doesn’t necessarily come from its color scheme, and therefore, there’s no emotional connection or underlying aura that isn’t better evoked when viewed in black-and-white.
Aside from a single, jaw-dropping gore effect in the film’s third act, CURSE OF CHUCKY doesn’t miss a beat in black-and-white. With strong performances that aren’t contingent on the color scheme, CURSE OF CHUCKY turns every technical success into a calculated moment of horror in black-and-white. And thanks to Mancini, Marshall and production designer Craig Sandells’ Gothic spin on the CHILD’S PLAY franchise, CURSE plays like a melting pot of classical visual and narrative influences that are even scarier without color.
Recommended for Black and White Consumption?: Yes.