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What Do The Walls At The Beginning Of Werewolf By Night Say In Latin?

The Disney+ mini-movie "Werewolf by Night" is a 53-minute-long tribute to the classic monster flicks of the 1930s and '40s, shot almost entirely in grainy black and white. It's unrecognizable as a Marvel project, lacking any elaborate CGI or costuming, and is much gorier than the standard MCU fare. But "Werewolf by Night" is beautiful in a gritty old-timey way, and the immediate response from audiences and critics has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Variety's Jordan Moreau wrote, "It's the creepiest and bloodiest Marvel project by far, and clocking in at a lean 53 minutes long, it's a perfect, snack-sized Halloween treat heading into the spookiest of seasons." Breeze Riley of The Marvel Report noted, "There is plenty of gore but it's subdued compared to many modern-day horror films. Between the black and white film, flashing lights, and bone-chilling sound effects, your imagination will be doing part of the work which makes it all the more fun."

There are beautifully constructed and complex sets to help your imagination along, including a gigantic domed hall where the heads of slain monsters are displayed. As Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) approaches the hall for the funeral of fabled beast hunter Ulysses Bloodstone (voiced by Richard Dixon), he passes through an anteroom with etchings on the walls showing battles between man and monster with inscriptions in Latin. But what does the writing on the walls mean?

Some of the phrases are references to royalty

The phrase extremum vitae spiritum edere translates literally to "to eat the last breath of life," but idiomatically means "give up the ghost." The monster slayers who come for Ulysses's funeral are challenged to hunt a formidable beast, with the prize being a powerful bloodstone that belonged to the recently departed master hunter. The phrase could be a warning to those hunters that fell by the wayside in pursuit of the monster and Ulysses' stone. 

Two of the other phrases relate to royalty: vocare ad regnvm means "call to rule," and vivat rex means "long live the King." Ulysses was the king of the monster hunters, and the others are in pursuit of his crown, including his own estranged daughter, Elsa (Laura Donnelly). She teams up with Russell, who turns out to be a monster in human form, which lands them both in a cage at the behest of Ulysses's widow Verussa (Harriet Sansom Harris). 

Verussa uses the bloodstone to send Jack back to monster form, but he escapes the cage, and he and Elsa take out Verussa's guards and the rest of the monster hunters. Monster Jack spares Elsa and escapes, enraging Verussa, who pulls out a blunderbuss and is ready to kill her own daughter for her betrayal, but the original monster, Ted, steps in just in time to kill Verussa, leaving Elsa to answer the call to rule and take over for her father.

Other phrases seem to refer to the monster hunt at hand

Some of the phrases on the walls of the anteroom are apparent references to the hunt that the funeral-goers find themselves in. Fugiunt means "they flee," which applies to Ted and Jack as they escape back to their tent in the woods after escaping the hunters and Verussa. Victoria aur mors translates to "victory or death," and it's one or the other for almost every character in the film; at the end, only Elsa, Jack, Ted, and the house butler (David Silverman) are alive, and three are clearly victorious, although Elsa's prize is greatest.

Ferae pericula vita means "wild dangers of life," which are evident throughout "Werewolf by Night." Elsa creates some for herself simply by returning home after many years, and she and the others are quickly shown an even wilder danger in the form of Ted. 

The word vident also appears, which means "they see." That applies best to the four survivors. The butler is a passive observer throughout the film, seeing it all unfold as he has seen Ulysses' battles take place over the decades. Ted and Jack are alive because they have supernatural perceptive abilities, and Elsa is the only one who saw Jack for his good intention,s while the rest of the hunters couldn't see beyond his monster side. All of the hidden Latin messages add a fascinating layer atop an otherwise straightforward monster flick tribute.