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Technicolor Terror: 5 Colorful Horror Movies to Delight Your Senses

The full spectrum of horror.

colorful horror movies like suspiria

When people think about horror films, they usually envision a dark and stormy night, a shadowy haunted house, or other supremely gloomy sets. But that doesn’t mean horror can’t look luscious and beautiful as well.

In fact, some of the most gorgeous films ever committed to the silver screen have been horror movies. So for your sensory-loving pleasure, here are five colorful horror films you should check out today. 

The Masque of the Red Death

During the course of his long and celebrated career, Roger Corman has been an absolute master of visual horror. Truly, any of his Poe cycle of films could make the cut for this list—The Premature Burial, House of Usher, The Tomb of Ligeia—but there’s something about the perversely colorful castle in The Masque of the Red Death that makes it unforgettable.

Starring Vincent Price as the debauched Prince Prospero, there’s never been architecture quite like this in the genre. One grotesquely vibrant room opens into another, alternating from pristine cream to canary yellow to a deep, melancholic violet, a sequence of disorienting and elegant sets that remain in the psyche long after the final frame.

Add in some fabulous costume design, including a group of literal walking plagues, and some serious splashes of Technicolor blood, and you’ve got one vivid horror movie for the ages. 


I love to sing the praises of this charmingly strange psychedelic masterpiece anytime I can, and there might not be a better list for Hausu than one celebrating its inspired use of color. The plot starts out straightforward enough: a group of schoolgirls visits one of their classmates’ aunt who lives in the countryside with her possibly cursed and haunted white cat named Blanche. Things take a decidedly weird turn from there.

The palette for this 1977 film is out of this world—from the animated sequences and double exposures to the laughing disembodied head and the copious amounts of gore. It’s truly a film that needs to be seen to be believed, so stream it this weekend, or better yet, pick up a copy of the Criterion Collection’s edition. If nothing else, a cutout cat mouth spewing blood has never looked so stylish.

Mystery of the Wax Museum

Let’s do a quick filmmaking lesson for a moment: when the average movie fan thinks of Technicolor, they’re usually imagining the extreme saturation of the later version of the technology, specifically what’s known as three-strip Technicolor. However, the earlier iteration produced a very different effect, as evidenced in Michael Curtiz’s Mystery of the Wax Museum. In what’s known as two-color Technicolor, the cinematography looks a bit more muted in terms of palette, but the end result is at once strange and almost dream-like. It’s also quite stunning.

In Mystery of the Wax Museum, the bizarre wax figures are brought to surreal life through this use of unusual color, with pinks, greens, and reds in particular popping on the screen. If you’ve never seen a two-color Technicolor horror film (or you don’t remember either way), I can’t recommend it highly enough, and this Pre-Code classic—which was later remade as the Vincent Price classic, House of Wax—is the perfect place to start.   

Peeping Tom

Directed by Michael Powell, Peeping Tom is a movie that should really be more well-known among horror fans. Predating Alfred Hitchcock’s highly similar Psycho by several months, this 1960 slasher classic broke all the genre rules of the time, and the end result is an unnervingly shocking film that still holds up to grisly effect over sixty years later.

Michael Powell is most famous for his collaborations with writer-producer-director Emeric Pressburger, and when it comes right down to it, a number of their films should be welcomed into the horror canon (The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, I’m looking at you).

But it wasn’t until Powell ventured out on his own that he produced his only undeniable horror film with Peeping Tom. The Technicolor underscores the brutal nature of the eponymous killer’s crimes, and the use of light and shadow casts an almost noir feel over the whole film. A distressing and voyeuristic journey to say the least, and one that’s certainly worth the time of any devoted horror fan. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. 


Perhaps the humdinger of all colorful horror films, this list simply wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to Dario Argento’s classic Suspiria. The use of stark blue and red lighting gives the entire film a cartoonishly unsettling patina, and there’s always something more than a little odd about the colorful ballet academy where American dancer Suzy finds herself confronting forces beyond her comprehension.

I once read that Suspiria was the final film to be shot with the traditional Technicolor process, and while I’ve never been able to definitively verify that fact anywhere else, I personally love the apocryphal tale that this weird and witchy horror movie was the last hurrah of a storied cinematic technology. It’s almost as if Technicolor was saving some of its very best for last.