We are excited to have internationally best selling novelest, Michaelbrent Collings, for a special guest post on Night of the Living Dead (1968). Read to the end of the article to learn more about Collings and his love (and fear) of horror!
Horror and Buttcrack
By Michaelbrent Collings
I’d like to talk a bit about one of the scariest things of all: buttcrack.
Wait, lemme ‘splain.
I’m a horror writer. That’s all I do. I’m one of the top indie horror writers in the United States, a bestseller in forty-plus countries, and a produced screenwriter (of horror!). I have a wonderful job, in which I get to sit around thinking up things that will scare people. I also get to work in no pants if I want. Which is also scary, but a different kind of scary.
But I digress…
The point is this: I live in Scary-town, U.S.A. And so when I say that one of the scariest things of all is buttcrack, I hope you’ll listen.
I wasn’t as young as some, but I was pretty young. Watching a scary movie on late-night television, curled up in that little corner of the couch that is safest from darkness, insects, monsters.
I was watching Night of the Living Dead. The original one. Romero treating us all to a story that would forever define cinema’s of zombies. They would change, they would evolve. But almost without fail, if you’re seeing a zombie onscreen, that walker’s grandpappy is somewhere in that flick.
So many good scares. The claustrophobia. The little girl hacking a parent to death. The fact that [BIG SPOILER] all the good guys die in the end.
But for me, the scariest thing: you guessed it. Buttcrack.
There was a moment, a single shot in the entire movie: a shot of the zombies shambling up toward the house in which our heroes have barricaded themselves. All of them dead, all with vacant eyes, malevolence their only motivation.
One of them was naked. And it stuck with me. Boy, did it. Just a single second of a naked woman, seen only from the back.
She was a zombie.
She was naked.
She was turned when she was naked.
It can hit her somewhere so unexpectedly that she didn’t have time to dress. Just one moment human, the next moment dead. The next… horror.
It was an early lesson about the best horror. The best horror isn’t necessarily found in a particular demon or ghoul, in a smiling serial killer or a screaming axe murderer. It is found in this simple fact:
Horror will find you. Wherever you are, ready or not, it will find you.
It was a tough thing for a young kid to deal with. I was in the “safe” zone in the couch, in the still-safer zone of my own home, in a decent neighborhood in the good-ol’ U.S. But none of that mattered. Because at any time – sitting on the couch, out with my friends, or maybe buck-naked and about to get into the shower – horror could find me, too. Just like it found Naked Zombie Lady.
That buttcrack scared me.
But it was a wonderful scare, too. Horror – the best horror – is not really about the people on the screen or on the page. It is about us, the readers and viewers. The best horror has the power to not only entertain, but to become a part of our lives. It splices itself into our DNA so that when the survivors bat away grasping arms that reach through knotted boards, we are among them. When the priest chants the rites to exorcise the little girl’s demon, we hold the bible beside him. When the teens run from that chainsaw, we hear the rasp-rattle of the chain behind us.
Because when it comes for the people on the screen, it comes for us. Horror has come to them, just as it does to every one of us. We all experience terrors, fears, tragedies, personal disasters. Horrors take many shapes and sizes – sometimes survival itself can be one of them. And a good movie or book wraps that knowledge up and punches us in the face with it. Leaves us gasping for breathing, gasping for more.
And so we are reminded forcibly of that fantastic moment in Night of the Living Dead. That buttcrack staring us in the face. The knowledge that the horror has come. Just as it has before. Just as it will again. And we are not – cannot be – ready for it.
Horror doesn’t let us be ready. Doesn’t even let us get dressed.
But that’s what makes it so fun.
Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist and screenwriter. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings, on Twitter @mbcollings, or you can sign up for his mailing list at http://eepurl.com/VHuvX.
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