ANTLERS: An Elegy to the Native American Tribes



What is the true function of a horror movie? To entertain its audience or to serve its purpose as an homage to a lost civilization. ‘’Antlers’’ (2021) is a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. The movie can be seen as a typical horror movie that set in a small town or a rural area yet there is a greater meaning in the background. Allusions to Native American myths and indirect messages about Indian civilization are presented through a technique called foreshadowing. This article will be examined the enchanting allusions to the Indian civilization in the movie Antlers which is the truly invisible subject matter of the movie.


The Indians were the first settlers in the continent which is now known as the United States of America before Christopher Columbus and various other settlers inhabit the continent to colonize and slaughter the inhabitants who used to live peacefully. The Indians were a hunter-gatherer tribe. They lived all over the land, even in the arctic part of the continent. They lived within the large group with a few advances yet it was their eternal happiness to live in unity, coherence, and by their religious understanding. Their religion highly relied on rituals and spiritual ceremonies. Indians believed in various spirits and creators. There was immense importance to nature as well as various places were seen as holy land. Indians sang religious songs and created myths that served oral tradition very well. The Indian mythology has great importance as it also told various stories of creation and to prevent their people from wrongdoings. One of the most popular myths from Native Americans is the myth of Wendigo. It is a myth originated by arctic Indians who often found themselves in challenging conditions of snow and common cold. According to the myth, Wendigo is created when a human being dwells on the edge of cannibalism to survive from starvation. Wendigo was a human that later turned into a horrifying monster which is 15 feet tall, furry, has sharp teeth, glowing yellow eyes, claws, and a never-ending appetite. Hunts both humans and animals with both unstoppable rage and gluttony. The story of Wendigo continued to be told through ages and finally, it not only became an urban legend related to the curse of deceased Indians but also as a part of the popular culture. The curse of Indian legend, Wendigo, is presented as subject matter in the movie ‘’Antlers’’.



The movie is set in a neglected town in Oregon. The atmosphere is gloomy and set mostly in the woods. Many characters want to live in isolation instead of interacting with other citizens, people cooking drugs in secret, the church is also neglected and the faith of the town’s people has faded away. The movie starts by demonstrating a school teacher of middle-grade students named Julia in the ladies' restroom while she is trying to keep calm. She is the first character who wants to isolate herself from society yet the urge to isolate herself is overcome by a sense of unity. So, presents a clear frame of contradiction. The classroom is the main obstacle to the urge of isolation since it is a place of unity and wisdom. After the teacher goes to the classroom the later events and subject matter are foreshadowed by the writings on the classroom board. There are clear and visible writings on the board which are ‘’Native Americans’’, ‘’Myth’’, ‘’Fables’’, and ‘’Emotion". They serve as hints to demonstrate the subject matter of the movie to the audience. The movie involves stereotypical themes and elements of horror movies such as gore violence and jump scares provided by the creature Wendigo.


The concept of Wendigo is present in the movie as some kind of Indian curse. Whenever a person hosted or inhabited by Wendigo is killed, the curse is passed his/her family members makes the monster impossible to kill. Thus, it can be understood that long-suffered Indians’ curse is so strong that cannot be broken completely. The other character who prefers isolation is Frank Weaver, the host of the Wendigo. His decision of isolation can be seen as brave action since he does not want to hurt his children during his process of transformation into a horrible creature. Frank is out of control so locks himself because he cannot control his excessive gluttony. Frank is the origin of evil in the town and he cannot get rid of the curse, his two sons are in charge of taking care of their father which leads them to isolation as well. Both gather dead human flesh to end Frank’s hunger. The curse of Wendigo is a transmissive curse that passes to his son, causes suffering to the Oregon townspeople. Each person is punished by their wrongdoings by the curse which made them isolate themselves by preventing a possible unity. Colonizers are doomed to an eternal living hell in Oregon. The origin of the curse is explained when Julia goes to talk to Warren Stokes who once served as a town’s sheriff clarify the situation about Wendigo informing how it dates back as an Indian myth. Even if the townspeople had managed to get over the curse of Wendigo, in the end, the gloomy theme is still present and after all the happening it is not able to see a unity yet isolation continues as if the suffering of Indians had continued.


In conclusion, many people who watch ‘’Antlers’’ by Guillermo Del Toro will probably not enjoy the movie if they are not constant horror movie admirers. However, the audience who will focus on the indirect messages and hidden meanings behind the movie will adore it greatly. It will be a fascinating experience to be able to see how later events presented in the first scene of the movie in a technique named foreshadowing by giving major clues, how an ancient myth from American Indians serves as revenge to the colonizers as well as what kind of troubles living in a neglected state will bring as a form of punishment. ‘’Antlers’’ is not only a horror movie that makes its audience's heartbeat faster out of excitement but also will enchant the audience due to its historical references and hidden messages embedded all over the movie since the movie serves as an homage to American Indian heritage.





SOURCES:

- The Movie:

Del Toro, Guillermo. ''Antlers''. 2021


Historical Background

- Britannica

Prine Pauls, Elizabeth. "Native American' indigenous peoples of Canada and United States''. Rodriguez, Emily August 2017 (Edit)


- History Channel Source

A&E Television Networks, History.com editors. "Native American Cultures". December 4, 2009.


- Legends Of America

Weiser-Alexander Kathy."Wendigo: Flesheater of the forests". November 2021

Link: https://www.legendsofamerica.com/mn-wendigo/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20legends%2C%20a,resorts%20to%20cannibalism%20to%20survive.&text=Native%20American%20versions%20of%20the,into%20a%20creature%20by%20magic.


Author Photo

Can Urla

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