Top 10 Horror Movie Graveyards!

Happy New Year lads and lasses! Say, how many of you had a chance to WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES with badass Liam Neeson last fall? Well if you didn't get a chance, I definitely recommend doing so, particularly if you sort of cast it off as the annual, incredibly-rote-geriatric-Liam-action-flick. Trust us, it's far better than that (more akin to THE GREY, quality wise). Anyway, whatever you think of the flick, I think we can all agree that A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (out on DVD Tuesday) is one of the doper titles we've seen in mainstream movies in awhile. Sounds a bit like an old-school Hammer horror joint, no? Well let's take it one step further. Check that, 6-feet deeper! If you dare, if you're brave enough...feel free to have a walk through our own Top 10 Scariest Horror Movie Graveyards!

#1. PET SEMATARY (1989)

Wholly unique in it mythic spookiness and animalistic dread, Stephen King's sixteenth book-to-film adaptation PET SEMATARY is still collecting bodies more than 25 years after it opened its creaky gates. Bodies of fans! And it's primarily because of the titular terror of the setting, is it not? Constructed atop a sacred Native Indian burial ground, the spiritual reawakening of the dead animals in the pet cemetery (that little f*cker Church!) somehow takes on a deeper meaning than your run of the mill zombie fare. Between King's script, Lambert's direction, the abject creepiness of Pascow and little psycho Gage - not to mention the frightful production design of the cemetery by Michael Z. Hanan - it's not hard to see why this is one graveyard worth revisiting annually!


Dude, what's not to love about the ever entertaining - sexy, funny, creepy cool cemetery scenes in the best fucking zombie movie of all, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD?! Seriously, name a negative! My girl Linnea Quigley as the foul-mouthed punk-rock trollop Trash, fiendish for a geriatric gang-rape while spreading her legs and busting a boner-inducing nighttime striptease? That ass? Come on now! Miguel Nunez's filthy homeless Jheri curl mullet flapping in the wind as he sucks sauce from a paper brown? How about Scuz and his righteous "this is a way of life!" speech while Trash crawls all over him? F*cking epic! But of course, in the end...it's picture perfect...hordes of nasty undead ghouls arising from a fog-swamped graveyard of cracked headstones and rotten sarcophaguses.

#3. CEMETERY MAN (1994)

Ah, DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE! Anyone who's seen what, but virtue of it being a 20 year old Italian import, has to be our most under-seen graveyard on our list, already knows what a flat-out pimp Rupert Everett is as the titular grave-watching antihero Francesco Dellamorte. Dude's the Mack! Here's a perfectly balanced horror-comedy that is set almost entirely inside of a cemetery, in which it's caretaker is tasked with re-killing the legion of flesh-decayed zombie monsters who just so happen to, inexplicably, resurrect from the sod in one particular burial-ground in northern Italy. Splendid direction from Michele Soavi, sumptuous shots from DP Mauro Marchetti and drearily jarring production design from the great Massimo Antonello Geleng.


Because so many horror film graveyards and cemeteries directly involve the reanimation of undead corpses - zombies - it only seems fitting then, if not honorable, to doff the old lid to what the great George A. Romero laid down in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The OG! Because of this flick and its countless inspirations, imitations, hell, even iterations (sequels) over decades, the cemetery as a mainstay of horror settings will always signify panic, frenzy, pandemonium...all predicated on the rise of the dead from the grave. As you can imagine on such a shoestring, Romero just used the local Evans City Cemetery in his hometown Pennsylvania. Instant production value!

#5. POLTERGEIST (1982)

And I thought foreclosures were evil! Goddamn if the Freelings aren't still pissed-off at their real estate agent after peddling that lethally accursed plot of land way back in 1982. A bit of a veer from your typical iconographic burial-site festooned with cracked headstones and a mossy sarcophagus or two, the unceremonious graveyard in Tobe Hooper's POLTERGEIST happens to be sitting right underneath the family's idyllic suburban home. Turns out land developers built the house on an old Indian burial-ground, but never actually bothered to remove the subterranean corpses, only their tombstones. As you know, malicious spirits come a calling for little Caron Ann, and when shit hits the fan in the end, momma Freeling goes wading in a pool of muck among the rotting dead!


You crazy, we wouldn't dare glance over Ash's unholy fight against the mighty legion of skeletal Deadites in ARMY OF DARKNESS...most of which occurs during that stormy, rain-soaked medieval graveyard! You know the deal. As lightning bolts flash down in a fury, Ash makes a run for it, but a hellish curse unearths a race of bony flesh-starved monsters. Ash gets tripped up, slapped around, nose-picked, beat upon (three stooges style) before making a dash through a fiery graveyard that looks right out of Ray Harryhausen's playbook. Sinister, decrepit, yet cartoonish and fantastical...as only Sam Raimi could!

#7. THE OMEN (1976)

Four decades later and we still can't shake that indelibly haunting image, can we?!? You know the one. Little cherubic Damien - the personification of pure evil - standing innocently in front of an immaculate row of pristine white crosses. Shit gives me the shivers just writing about it. Of course, that's not the only bit of bale found in behind the tall, spiky wrought-iron gates. Oh no. How about when that priest tries to hop the fence and gets his arm sliced by one of the sharp prongs. What about when that other dude gets his entire body impaled by a giant metal-rod while on cemetery grounds? Shite's heinous! Almost as heinous as the '06 sequel...yikes!


We couldn't conscionably live with ourselves if we failed to dally through at least one foreign graveyard, and since it's right there in the title, thankfully Lucio Fucli's 1981 zombie-slasher-bash HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY offers one worthy of renting. What a sick and icky little flick! Sure could have feted ZOMBIE or THE BEYOND as well, or even saluted Argento or Bava instead, but since HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY uses the setting in such an original way, hey, here we are. As you can see, the house is creepily constructed smack dab in the center of a century old, long since abandoned cemetery. WTF? Taken further, at one point in the picture, a main character stumbles through the living room, only to find a the tombstone of Dr. Freudstein sitting there, the man who owned the cemetery 100 years prior.

#9. PHANTASM (1979)

The motherf*cking Tall Man! Who else lost many a night of sleep trying to shake that petrifying image of yes, The Tall Man, leaning over that boy's tomb-shaped headboard in PHANTASM? You know the one. So surreal looking, so out of place, almost dreamlike, as the bed appears firmly planted amid the tombstones of a local graveyard. Moreover, since the Tall Man is of, from and introduced via a cemetery (at the funeral to start the film), the location becomes all the more integral and germane to the story...and even responsible for the antagonism of the plot. Props to Don Coscarelli for not only creating an enduring boogeyman, but for also executing one of the better horror sequels of all as well in PHANTASM II.

#10. ED WOOD (1994)

What's a collection of ghastly burial sites without the twisted vision of Tim Burton? Oh I know, an illegitimate one! Real shite, we could have just as easily cited Burton's motif of Gothic antiquity seen in a number of his cinematic graveyards. The scene where Adam and Barb first meet Beetljuice, for example, or the creepy black and white (pet) graveyard seen in FRANKENWEENIE. Hell, doesn't SLEEPY HOLLOW even have an unnerving plot of bodies six feet deep? Yeah well, for me nothing tops the atmospheric homage ED WOOD pays to the halcyon days of 1950s horror. It's a meta-creation, a movie about the real life making of a movie - and the studio-set cemetery - a moody fog-drenched, branchy space with crosses and half-circled gravestones erected from the soil.
Tags: Hollywood

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