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Featured Indie Horror Scary Movies and Series

4 Sinister Moments of ALTER Short Horror Films

What makes a horror story so scary? We believe it really depends upon the person and what they may have experienced in their lifetime. Some people are easier to frighten than others, but we believe everyone is afraid of something. Hopefully we found something here in Alter’s short horror films that will frighten you!

3:36 (2020)

Do we know when we’ve passed on? Or, if it’s a violent, painful, or emotionally traumatizing death, do we relive the moments that surround it? We’ve talked a lot about ghosts here at Puzzle Box Horror, we’ve tried to figure out what they are, why they come back, if they’re really ghosts or if they’re demons in disguise. We’ve also discussed their roles in ancient societies, how ghost stories still thrive in a world of skepticism, and whether or not mirrors can be portals to ghostly realms. We haven’t discussed too much about how or why ghosts are really scary, or why–maybe it’s because they show us a point in time where we may no longer be able to follow our dreams, or tell our loved ones how we feel before it’s too late. We think ghosts are fascinating regardless–we love a good haunted tale that makes our blood pump, or our breath catch in our throat.

Check out this ALTER horror short film that shows how pain, grief, and death all play into the horror that we feel in our own mortality. Let us know what you think about it below!

Now that you’ve seen this original horror short film about ghosts, take a look at some of our own original short stories where we tackle haunted locations!

Still (2020)

This next horror short film also deals with a certain level of grief, but that’s not where the horror lies–instead this story deals with monsters in the night, what we might think are just night time terrors, but are really true nightmares. Sleep paralysis is a real phenomenon in our world and has been studied throughout the ages, so we can perhaps have a medical understanding of what we go through at night. Are the monsters real, or is it just our minds trying to cope with the disturbing images that we absorb throughout the day?

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters that prey on us in our sleep, then let us know what you think about it below!

Here There Be Monsters (2020)

We love paranormal and supernatural horror here at Puzzle Box Horror, perhaps because reality can be scary enough without the creatures in our collective imagination running wild. The real monsters in our world are bullies, the people that take advantage of the weak, pick on the underdog, or kick an injured person while they’re down. It’s always interesting to see how the victims to life’s real monsters end up being the ones who stand up the strongest against the most nightmarish creatures of horror.

Check out this ALTER horror short film about the monsters we face not only in the shadows, but the ones we face on a daily basis, and tell us what you think about it below!

We’ve taken a look at other ALTER shorts before, one in particular which was about nighttime phobias and the monsters that we face as children (and sometimes well into adulthood, to our own dismay). In Here There Be Monsters (2020) the bullies are external tormentors, but in La Noria (2018) the bullies are our own fears and the deception of the shadows at night. If you haven’t seen this horror short, it’s a great time to check it out now!

The Armoire (2019)

When you’re looking curiously at that eBay listing for a haunted doll, or a sealed dybbuk box, just remember the victims of haunted objects in horror cinema. These objects are no joke, folks! What happens though, if you stumble upon a haunted or possessed object unwittingly? What do you do then? Well, hopefully, you figure out that it’s haunted before it’s too late–otherwise you may end up like the woman in The Armoire (2019).

Check out this ALTER horror short film that has to do with haunted objects that we might unintentionally bring into our lives and let us know what you think about it below!

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

7 Terrors of the Far North

The frontier of the far north is typically regarded with mystery and a sense of trepidation. Even if you have lived through it all, there is always something about the place that can feel rather unsettling. The standardized phobia of the dark is exacerbated by the long, cold winters of Alaska—a place where nearly half the year is shrouded in the dark bitter cold. Those of us who live in a place that is constantly trying to kill us can attest to the harshness of the environment, at least during the winter, where temperatures often plummet to thirty degrees below freezing. To say that the cold and dark are our sole worries would be a farce, but that’s only because we have all heard the stories about what lurks in the darkness of the Last Frontier.

Don’t be mistaken—you don’t have to be a Sourdough to be wary of the beasts abound in the frozen tundra. Stay for a couple of days in a rural cabin during the darkest part of the year and you’ll soon be wondering if those are really are the eyes of the Adlet glimmering at you from the shadows, or if it’s just light shining off of the crystalized snow. Was that shadow under the the water the Tizheruk or something else? Turn your back and you’ll likely feel as if you’re being watched by a deadly monster waiting to attack.

The Monsters of Alaska Native Culture

Every culture has its own unique beasts that torment the locals—the farther you get out of the urban atmosphere, the closer you get to what keeps people from roaming unnecessarily into the shadows.

The Stalker - Adlet, the Werewolf of the North

1. The Adlet: The Werewolf of the Far North

The murderous Adlet is considered the arctic counterpart to the well-known werewolf. Believed to be the unholy descendants of an Inuit woman and a dog, they have an upper body of their human brethren, but their lower half is fully canine. They are considered to be a full-fledged race of humanoids, who after their initial creation were sent to a remote island away from humans, so as not to satiate themselves on local tribes—except that didn’t last.

Keelut Evil Earth Spirit

2. The Keelut: The Evil Earth Spirit

A mixture between a cryptid and the paranormal spirit—the Keelut (key-loot) is considered an earth spirit who primarily takes the shape of an immense black, hairless dog. It’s often compared to the Church Grim of Great Britain and stalks travelers at night, often attacking and killing them.

Qalupalik, the Inuit Siren or Mermaid

3. The Qalupalik: The Inuit Siren

If you live by the arctic ocean you will have undoubtedly heard about the Qalupalik (kah-loo-pah-lick), a creature that stems from Inuit culture and haunts the nights of children as they’re sleeping. She’s described as being humanoid, with green skin, long hair, and even longer fingernails. Like a siren, her home is the sea and she hums to lure children to come closer to the water, but what does she do with them?

Thunderbird Alaskan Lore

4. The Thunderbird: An Avian Nightmare

From Southern Alaska all the way to the Pacific Northwest, there are legends that speak of the mythical Thunderbird. As large as a small plane, stories have been told by Natives as well as bush pilots who can confirm the existence of such a monster. Considering the reputation that even the bald eagle has for snatching up small dogs, it’s not too much of a stretch to fear for your children with such a gigantic vicious bird of prey in the skies above.

Tizheruk Sear Monster of the Arctic

5. The Tizheruk: The Sea-Monster of the Arctic

Not unlike the lore that brings us Loch Ness, the Tizheruk (te-zer-ook) is described as being a sea serpent that is approximately fifteen feet long. Where Loch Ness is considered to be less of a threat and more of a mystery, the Tizheruk is known to snatch their unwitting victims from docks and piers.

Alaskan Bushman The Tornit

6. The Tornit: The Alaskan Bushman

Even Alaska has its own legends about Bigfoot—we reference it as the Tornit (tore-nit), or the Alaskan Bushman. Another monster from Inuit folklore, the Tornit is nearly indistinguishable from a bear except for the ghastly skunk-like smell they exude. They mostly keep to themselves out in the bush, after their troubled history dealing with humans, who can blame them?

Read our original story about this beast and his fateful encounter with an Inuit boy.

Scary Kushtaka hand

7. Kushtaka: The Otter People

The Otter People are most often seen in the Pacific Northwestern region of Alaska known as the Kushtaka. These tall, ape-like creatures are known to be aggressive and deadly and chase and kill their victims. Described as being horribly ugly, covered in long coarse hair, scabs, scars, and have enormously long claws. Their scream is high-pitched and terrifying, they have a strange whistling call that also alerts people to their presence.

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghosts of the Ancient World

Although the trend of ghost hunting only seems to have gained popularity in more modern times, the phenomena of ghosts, as well as the belief in their existence has been around since ancient times. Just like the belief in a higher power, the details may vary from culture to culture, but across all of them one thing remains consistent—the existence of a realm where the human soul survives after death. This isn’t so much an evaluation on whether or not ghosts exist, so much as an acknowledgement that cultures across the world place value in the idea that death is not the end for the soul. In Christianity, depending upon the lifestyle that the individual led, the soul either spends an eternity with a benevolent god, or in perpetual torment. In Voodoo, veneration of ancestors plays a large part in religious practice and different pagan religions have different ideas of the afterlife and where their soul will go once they have passed. Another commonality between all of these cultural beliefs is that the human soul, once having passed into the realm of the dead is that the soul would invariably remain in this next realm, unless authorized by the governing entity of the realm. That is to say, there has to be a reason for which the soul is released back to the plane of the living, this could be due to a variety of different reason, such as improper or nonexistent burial and funeral rites, most of these are due to a body having never been recovered. Another common reason behind a soul returning is to resolve unfinished business, whether this is to give an account of the true events surrounding their death, or to give a message to a loved one who is experiencing an inordinate amount of guilt. Even in modern times, the occurrence of encountering a ghost, no matter what the circumstances, is very rarely an experience that one wishes to have. So what did these modern beliefs and experiences evolve from?

How Cultures Viewed the Afterlife

image of an ancient ghost

An unexpected visit from the dead has always meant in one way or another that something was wrong—this meant that whatever message the ghost had to deliver, or business it had to resolve needed to be taken care of in order for the spirit to ever obtain peace and be able to rest for eternity. This was such a common theme across ancient cultures that stories can be compared from across regions of India, China, Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Ireland, and Scotland, with similar depictions regardless of origin.

Mesopotamian Land of the Dead

Although known by many names, the land of the dead in Mesopotamia was a realm from which there was no return—Irkalla, was the realm of the dead, where they dwelt in darkness and lived in the muck and mire that was provided for them, regardless of their social status or moral fortitude during their lifetime. Souls weren’t given permission to pass back to the world of the living unless they had been given a special mission to attend to, such as righting a wrong.

Egyptian Land of the Dead

In ancient Egyptian lore, passing into the land of the dead was an enormous trial—where the soul would go through the Hall of Truth to be judged by Osiris and the forty-two judges. The white feather of truth was deemed the way in which all souls were judged, whereupon weight the feather and the heart of the human who had passed, only those whose hearts were lighter than the feather would pass to the afterlife. Those who were found to have a heart heavier than the feather would have their soul eaten by a monster—so to pass into the afterlife, there was a necessity to live in truth and purity. This afterlife was known as the Field of Reeds, where the soul would enjoy all of the favorite things that they knew in their lifetime, which meant that the soul would not return to the plane of the living unless they had an important reason to do so.

Land of the Dead in Ancient Greece and Rome

In the ancient societies of Greece and Rome, the pagan culture that surrounded daily practice embraced a more complex theory of the afterlife, where the souls of the dead were assigned to a specific realm depending upon their life and how they lived it. Warriors had their own realm, good people had the second, and bad people had the third realm, into which they went to atone for their wrongdoings. No soul was ever condemned to an eternity of damnation, it was more considered penance that could eventually be fulfilled, at which point they would be sent to the realm for those who had lived a good life. Before being sent to their designated realm, Greek and Roman culture dictated that they would be given a drink to forget about their former lives and only know the realm to which they were assigned—this made it clear that ghosts had little to no reason to ever return to the land of the living. That being said, ghosts would occasionally return, but only for good reason, usually to fix an injustice brought upon themselves or a family member, once justice was served the soul would “die” a second time and return to the plane they had been sent to.

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Lovecraft and His Creations

H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of torturous terrors that realized his talents of dark, serious mythos that he provided to a world that would never truly appreciate his visions until far too long after his passing.

Lovecraft’s Otherworldly Monsters

Cthulhu and R'lyeh
Artwork by BenduKiwi

As we discovered last week H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of some of the most influential horror fiction that is still causing waves today. In fact, in the past decade, there has been a major uptick of people who have found inspiration within the creations that were birthed from his dark creative mind. For those of you who may not be aware, Cthulhu is by far the most well-known of Lovecraft’s monsters and for good reason, The Call of Cthulhu is arguably the story that best serves the terror that he was able to bring into the world. It’s also true that Cthulhu is not the end-all-be-all of Lovecraft’s many monsters, despite serving as the introduction to forgotten races, elder gods, and all types of mind-altering monsters. Lovecraft provided his readers with many delightfully dreadful and detestable demons and beasts.

Shub-Niggurath

Possibly the least referenced Lovecraftian monster or god, Shub-Niggurath is only referenced in passing in stories that Lovecraft wrote under one of his many pseudonyms. He refers to this she-beast as both “the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young,” as well as an “evil cloud-like entity,” which doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of her as far as her visual form, but it certainly leaves us with an impressively terrifying feeling of awe.

Nyarlathotep

Unlike most of the gods of Lovecraft’s godly creations, Nyarlathotep doesn’t live in cosmic exile, nor has it made its home within the dreams and more often nightmares of humans, or the other intangible and non-physical places that Lovecraft’s gods tend to inhabit. Instead, Nyarlathotep often walks to realms of Earth in one of his many different guises, the most famous is that of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nyarlathotep’s true form is possibly one of the most obscure things that could be imagined and just like many of Lovecraft’s other creations, there are vasts numbers of tentacles and of course leathery batwings that are thrown into the mix.

Mi-go

Mi-go are not gods, like most of Lovecraft’s other monsters, nor are Mi-go god-like entities. The Migo-go are actually simply aliens, but in the most alien way imaginable; the Mi-go are made of substances that could never be conceived of upon Earth and are best visualized as a cross between a fungus and a lobster, with bat-like wings that allow them to fly from one planet to another. The Mi-go revere Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath and are vicious and vile creatures that waged a massive war against the Elder Things eons before humans ever walked the face of the Earth.

Ghast

The humanoid Ghast is not exactly the first monster that people conjure when they think of one of Lovecraft’s monsters, which is a shame since Lovecraft gave us a huge collection of awful beasts to choose from. The Ghast has no nose or forehead but boasts a pair of kangaroo legs with hooves, with which they hop around and scoop up all of the delicious Gugs they can eat.

Gug

Banished to the underworld for appalling offenses done against the Great Ones, these giant monsters live in huge towers in their underworld home. Their arms split into multiple forearms with massive talons and razor-sharp tooth-filled mouths that open vertically. Despite this terrifying description of these horrible monsters, they’re still Ghast food.

Brown Jenkin

Within the tale of The Dreams in the Witch House, we see the character Keziah Mason, an old witch who was subjected to the Salem Witch Trials. Mason’s familiar, Brown Jenkin is a hairy, rattish creature with hands and a face that are eerily human in nature. Brown Jenkin fed on the blood of Mason and some readers speculated Jenkin’s mother was Mason who had been impregnated by Nyarlathotep, in which case, I would like to be a fly on the wall of those family reunions.

Elder Things

Creators of the monstrous Shoggoth race, the Elder Things aren’t actually all that evil–in consideration of some of the other monsters present in the Lovecraftian universe–despite the fact that just laying eyes upon their starfish-plant hybrid alien forms will drive the viewer to madness. Just like the Mi-go, the Elder Things are actually aliens who built colossal cities and societies that predated all human civilizations; the Elder Things had a history of chaos and war between the Mi-go and the Great Race of Yith.

Shoggoth

Despite not being entirely evil, the Elder Things did create the Shoggoth as a race of slaves, hypnotizing them to build their massive underwater societies. The Shoggoth, a race of huge amorphous blobs of protoplasmic slime really just looked like a big pile of eyeballs, but are surprisingly strong and can form their blobby, slimy bodies into whatever limbs they require for any given task. The hypnotism didn’t last for long though, as they threw off the bonds of slavery and developed consciousness in order to turn against their masters.

Dagon

A story that is named after the Caananite fish-god, Dagon, Lovecraft’s Dagon was one of the first stories that he created as an adult. It was the predecessor for some of the most popular fiction he created. Dagon started the idea that gods, as known by human beings, were actually malevolent extraterrestrial or extraplanar entities. The creature of the Dagon story is a massive fish-like humanoid that crawls out of the ocean and embraces a holy monolith.

The Great Race of Yith

Another great race (quite literally in their name) of aliens created by Lovecraft, the Great Race of Yith is a foe that battles with the Mi-go and the Shoggoths. The Planet Yith was set to be destroyed billions of years ago, but the inhabitants used their psychic powers to install their consciousness into the hardiest race of creatures they could find. So the Great Race of Yith became a four-armed, conical Earth-bound race; one set of arms had claws, the other a set of horns and then their head had eyes, ears, and of course, the Lovecraftian-famous tentacles.

Kassogtha

Kassogtha is one of the lesser-known terrors of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, she’s a huge pile of writhing tentacles and is both Cthulhu’s sister and mate. Their female offspring, Nctosa and Nctolhu, were equally terrifying and awful monsters, because how could they not be?

Cthulhu

Finally, we have Cthulhu–the most renowned monster within the Lovecraftian universe–our descriptions of him come from Lovecraft, as well as the artistic renditions of him that have arisen since his creation. He was said to be a mashup of an octopus, a dragon, and humanoid, with a “pulpy, tentacled head surmounted [by] a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.” Another description of him, also given to us by Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu is that he, “represented a monster of a vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

H.P. Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu

Where Are All of the Lovecraft Movies?

In a world of horror inspired by minds like H.P. Lovecraft, I’m often left wondering where all of the Lovecraft movies are–after all, I’d love to see some of my favorites being reinvented on the big screen, but the truth is the ones that have been created often fly under the radar because of their minuscule budgets and more often than not, dissatisfying results.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community.

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Featured Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

Night of the Living Dead: Social Commentary in Horror Cinema

Night of the Living Dead (1968) was hardly the first zombie film—in fact, it was the fortieth, for those of you who like useless trivia facts—but it is possibly the most memorable of the older zombie classics. It’s not hard to see why it has persisted for the last fifty-three years, enduring beyond the renown of such modern zombie sensations, such as The Walking Dead (2010 – Present) and Train to Busan/Busanhaeng (2016). What most modern films and television shows of the horror genre seem to gloss over is their captive audience. Therein lies the opportunity for commentary on the civil rights issues that are still incredibly relevant in the present day.

One notable exception to missed opportunities for commentary being Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017)—but we can get to that one later. For now, we’ll just focus on the message of Night of the Living Dead. As Tom Gunning explained in his essay, “confrontation rules the cinema of attractions in both the form of its films and their mode of exhibition. The directness of this act of display allows an emphasis on the thrill itself—the immediate reaction of the viewer,” (“An Aesthetic of Astonishment”, 122)—this thrill that we get from controversial messages and images on display within films is one of the main reasons we watch horror. Excitement is king.

They’re coming to get you, Barbara!

Johnny in Night of the Living Dead (1968)
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A line of undead ‘zombies’ walk through a field in the night

What is Night of the Living Dead about?

At face value, this movie is just a story about survivors of a zombie apocalypse stumbling upon one another, clashing personalities, and finally a begrudging combining of forces to fend off the zombie hoard that surrounds the farmhouse that they each found and decided to hunker down in for safety. One by one, these survivors each ends up dying, until we see the last man standing—Ben, emerged cautiously from his secure space in the cellar of the farmhouse to find that police and other volunteers were roaming around, killing the zombies, and reclaiming their land for the safety of the living.

Unfortunately for Ben, these rescuers are less focused on finding survivors and more focused on mindlessly putting down anything they find that moves. While that might simply be interpreted as bad luck for our main character, Romero’s decision for this ending was actually fairly controversial considering the time in which it had been created. Now you might be asking yourself, where does the conversation of civil rights factor into this? Well, buckle up, buttercup—we’re just getting started.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) Movie Poster
Night of the Living Dead (1968) Movie Poster

Controversial Social Commentary

“Curiositas draws the viewer towards unbeautiful sights, such as a mangled corpse, and ‘because of this disease of curiosity monsters and anything out of the ordinary are put on show in our theatres,’” (Gunning, 124). Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) gives us these “unbeautiful sights” in spades. Consider the special effects that were available to directors at that time—the glimpses of a woman with her face eaten off at the top of the stairs and zombies ripping flesh off of bones after an unfortunate accidental explosion of the getaway vehicle were the literal encapsulation of this concept. The intangible concepts within this film are the reflections of society and how little progress has been made since 1968.

Ben giving Barbara slippers in Night of the Living Dead
Ben giving Barbara slippers

Freud pinpoints the appeal of the horror story. He begins by discussing the etymological root of the word “uncanny” in German, a word long associated with the horror genre, demonstrating how both the word and its opposite are very close in definition and usage… ‘it may be true that the uncanny [unheimlich] is something which is secretly familiar [heimlich-heimlisch], which has undergone repression and returned from it, and that everything is uncanny fulfills this condition.’ … Freud … hit upon the key to understanding the core of the horror genre. Horror is dissimilar from much of [the] science fiction genre in which the threatening ‘monster’ (often created because of the interference of science or technology)—whether it be alien, atomic mutant, or cyborg—is portrayed as the Other which must be destroyed or controlled by science, often in conjunction with the military/industrial complex, in order to save humanity. Horror tends rather to concentrate on another type of ‘Other,’ an ‘Other’ which is very familiar and because of that much more frightening, an ‘Other’ which is rooted in our psyche, in our fears and obsessions.

James Ursini, pg. 4 of the Introduction in The Horror Film Reader

The Civil Rights Movement

From 1954 to 1968 the Civil Rights Movement empowered Black Americans and their like-minded allies. They battled against systemic racism (or institutionalized racial discrimination), disenfranchisement, and racial segregation within the United States. The brave efforts of civil rights activists and innumerable protesters brought meaningful change to the US, through changes in legislation; these changes ended segregation, voter suppression for Black Americans, as well as discriminatory employment and housing practices.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

There were tragic consequences for two of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. With the assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965, and the subsequent assassination of Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Each of these losses to the movements provoked an emotionally-charged response; looting and riots put even more pressure on President Johnson to push through civil rights laws that still sat undecided.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968

The Fair Housing Act became law on April 11, 1968. It came just days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; too little too late, but it prevented housing discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion. It was also the last piece of legislation that was made into law during the civil rights era.

Casting a Black Actor in a Non-Ethnic Role

The way the lead character Ben was written originally with Rudy Ricci. Surprisingly, however, when 31-year-old African American actor Duane Jones auditioned for the part, the decision to cast him was unanimous. Even Rudy Ricci was on board with the change in plans, stating that, “Hey, this [was] the guy that should be Ben.”

Duane Jones—the Anti-Ben

Romero recalled that Jones had been the best option when it came to casting the part of Ben, and remarked that, “if there was a film with a black actor in it, it usually had a racial theme.” He even saw fit to mention that he resisted writing new dialogue for the part just because they had cast a black lead. It was assumed that Jones was the first black actor to be cast in a non-ethnic-specific starring role, but that barrier was broken by Sidney Poitier in 1965.

Interestingly enough, the role of Ben was supposed to be a gruff, crude, yet resourceful trucker. His essence was that of an uneducated or lower class person. On the other hand, Jones happened to be very well-educated, with fluency in several languages, obtained a B.A. at the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.A. at NYU. Jones was the one who flipped the script, improvising through the dialogue to portray his interpretation of Ben as a well-spoken, educated, and capable character. Therefore, as originally written, white Ben was a stereotype whereas Jones turned the character into the antithesis of a stereotypical black ben.

So why was Night of the Living Dead so controversial?

Even though Ben is the protagonist, he was never meant to be the hero—in fact, Ben was supposed to represent just an everyday Joe, who “simply reacted to an irrational situation with strong survival instincts and a competence that, though far from infallible, surpassed that of his five adult companions trapped in that zombie-besieged farmhouse,” (Kane). What we would expect in terms of racially heated arguments, we only witness the palpable tension that displays what goes unsaid. What also may not occur to modern viewers as being controversial, is the portrayal of a black man and a white woman being locked up alone in a house together. Segregation may have begun over a decade prior, but racism doesn’t die overnight just because laws are changed.

The “Final Guy”

The tragic ending of Night of the Living Dead was a commentary on real injustices that were happening at the time, as well as a foreshadowing of an issue that has doggedly limped into the systemic racism of the twenty-first century. The world was facing its end of days. The threat of the undead rising from their graves and feeding off of the living was enough to pull everyone together to stay alive—but racism was still alive and well. Unlike most of his African-American male successors of horror, Ben does not fall victim to the black character stereotype by being the first character to die. Ben makes it to the end—the so-called “final” guy—he was able to save himself when the house was overrun by the living dead. Then, after all of his hardship, he ends up dying at the hands of the gun-toting police officers.

Ben was wielding a gun, he was clearly not a revenant, and the sharpshooter who put one between Ben’s eyes could very obviously see this—his death affected not a soul in that situation, his life in plain language was unworthy of continuing in the eyes of the men who were supposed to serve and protect the living, who instead of seeing a human being, perceived a threat. The ending that Romero’s film allowed to linger in the minds of the audience was controversial because it made people think. It made them look at the social and political issues that were washing over the United States all around them; Romero delivered in that two minutes ending, a message that was unforgettable. It has thusly endured through the culture of horror and has continued to inspire modern horror cinema.

Final Thoughts

If classical Hollywood style is posited as the norm, then filmmaking practices that deviate from it risk becoming seen as “primitive” (such as early cinema) or “excessive” (such as genres where spectacle often seems to trump narrative, including musicals and horror films).

Adam Lowenstein, “Living Dead: Fearful Attractions of Film”

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Interested in watching the full film now that you’ve read this article? Well, you’re in luck—this film is now in the public domain and can be watched online for free.

Work Cited

Gunning, Tom. “An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator.” Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film, by Linda Williams, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1995, pp. 114–133.

Lowenstein, Adam. “Living Dead: Fearful Attractions of Film.” Representations, vol. 110, no. 1, 2010, pp. 105–128. JSTOR. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.

Kane, Joe. “How Casting a Black Actor Changed ‘Night of the Living Dead’.” TheWrap, 1 Sept. 2010.

Harper, Stephen. “Bright Lights Film Journal: Night of the Living Dead.” Bright Lights Film Journal | Night of the Living Dead.

Ursini, James, and Curtis Harrington. “Introduction/Ghoulies and Ghosties.” The Horror Film Reader, by Alain Silver, Limelight Ed., 2006, pp. 3–19.