5 Great Graveyard MoviesPoppaScotch
Graveyards have always been a longstanding tradition in horror movies. Not only do they generally bring back terrible, sad, and lonely feelings from their visitors, but they are often covered in fields of gray tombstones adorned with various types of religious imagery. So, not only do you have gravestones and internal feelings creating a creepy atmosphere that is almost universal, but you still have hundreds of dead bodies buried ceremoniously below the surface. It’s not hard to see why horror films so often put a focus on cemeteries; it’s a location that everyone automatically associates with dread and terror. Did I also mention that when the zombies come, this would be ground zero? Yeah, I think we would all shy aware from cemeteries pretty quickly, especially if we found ourselves right in the middle of a horror film. So with that in mind, I present to you the loyal reader, 5 Great Gravesite Movies.
I Sell the Dead (Dir: Glenn McQuaid - 2008): In 18th Century England, a grave robber named Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) reflects back on his life right before his hanging to a priest (Ron Perlman) about how he used to go to random cemeteries and dig up bodies to sell for medical experimentation. Of course, the bodies naturally come alive and wreak havoc on everyone all while a rival grave robber is trying to run Arthur and Willie out of business and into an early grave. I sell the dead is a low budget horror comedy that is also fully interspersed with a very dark type of humor. It isn’t a home run on the level of say, Shaun of the Dead, but nonetheless, it’s an entertaining film that uses the cemetery as kind of a metaphor for new beginnings, which is a pretty stark contrast to the common perception of cemetery as “the absolute end”.
Cemetery Man (Michele Soavi - 1994): Francesco’s (Rupert Everett) main occupation is to live at the cemetery and re-kill the dead that come to life after they have been buried for 7 days in his cemetery. It starts off as a B-movie that glorifies a myriad of headshots and introduces some weird love interest, but just when you think this is a worthless gore fest, something happens. The movie becomes a commentary on life and death along with deep philosophical questions of identity and the self. It’s weird, it’s creepy, it’s surreal and it’s utterly brilliant. It’s definitely not a horror film that you can kind of half watch while you’re folding laundry or rolling Joints, it takes some serious watching and contemplation to fully grasp what is unfolding in front of you. Even then, the story isn’t clear and everything you may have thought about it is questioned in subsequent viewings. If you haven’t seen this one yet, check it out.
Pet Sematary (Dir: Mary Lambert – 1989): While not taking place in a cemetery, Pet Sematary is about a family who goes through a terrible tragedy when their young child is struck by a truck and is killed. Naturally they bury him in the pet cemetery behind their home to resurrect him. Only catch is that he doesn’t come back to life exactly the same way that he left. Oh, did I mention that the Pet Sematary was on AN OLD INDIAN BURIAL GROUND!!! Yeah Poltergeist and Pet Sematary really took the ball and ran with it on the whole Indian burial ground thing and thusly helped make it into a cliché. Unfortunately this film didn’t age too well, but if you are a fan of Steven King or any of his adaptations, this is a definite must see. Ignore Pet Sematary Part II though, what a stinker that was.
Poltergeist (Dir: Tobe Hooper – 1982): Speak of the devil and he shall appear. It’s so like those greedy land developers to move a gravesite in order to build a new suburban housing development isn’t it? Then we find out that they didn’t actually move the graves, only the headstones! Well that is pretty creepy in its own right and of course it manifests itself into a full out Poltergeist intrusion complete with a kidnapping, a strange psychic (RIP Zelda, we miss you) and Craig T Nelson. This is another one of those films that I try to find every reason in the world to write about because it scared the crap out of me as a kid and is still entertaining to this day. Now would be the best time to revisit this classic since it’s probably just collecting dust on your DVD shelf.
Phantasm (Dir: Don Coscarelli – 1979): Phantasm is an interesting film. It definitely has its share of extremely hardcore fans because it evokes an very specific response from the viewer. The film is much like an experience whereas we get to see our main character Mike as a young boy dealing with the death of his brother. For most of the film, the Tall Man is very real to him as he trolls around the cemetery but as the film dissolves into a nightmare, we experience a very confusing and overbearing situation along with the main character. I’m also not sure if the addition of the town’s Ice Cream man as a hero is necessarily the first guy I would want at my side in a firefight, but the subsequent sequels show that Reggie can get it done. Plus the Tall Man is an extremely awesome villain whom no matter how many times you kill him with flying orbs, he just won’t die.
Honorable Mentions: The Return of the Living Dead – just for that one scene in the cemetery, you know exactly what I’m talking about.