5 Phenomenal Movie Cemetery Scenes

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It’s funny how I happened upon this week’s Phenomenal 5 list. I was in somewhat of a funk, unable to come up with a list that felt fresh. Well sometimes simply looking out your car window can offer up inspiration. Such was the case this week as I list 5 phenomenal movie cemetery scenes. I passed a cemetery and I instantly started thinking on the great movie scenes that have taken place in them. In fact it’s more than you might think. Obviously there are loads of horror films that are right at home in a graveyard. But I’ve also come up with great scenes from other genres. And to make the list more intriguing, I’ve chosen scenes that DO NOT feature a funeral (you’ll read about those in the near future). So considering the plethora of great movie cemetery scenes I would be dead wrong to call this the definitive list. But I feel perfectly comfortable calling these 5 movie cemetery scenes absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “THE THIRD MAN”

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One of my all time favorite classic movies is 1949’s “The Third Man” from Carol Reed. In the film an American writer named Martins (Joseph Cotton) visits Vienna in the wake of World War 2 to find an old friend who has offered him a job. He finds out his friend has been killed in an accident but he begins to suspect murder. He befriends his buddy’s girlfriend named Anna but soon finds out that she and nearly everyone else he meets is involved in the mystery. I don’t want to spoil anything so lets just say the movie ends after a funeral. Now this isn’t a cheat because my scene of choice is the final shot of the movie. It’s a long shot of Anna walking towards the camera with Martins leaning on a cart waiting for her. She walks and walks, finally making it to us but continuing out out of the picture. Martins is left alone and the movie ends on that note. It’s the perfect ending.

#4 – “TERMINATOR 3”

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How can I talk about cemetery scenes and not include the ridiculously over-the-top but ridiculously fun scene from “Terminator 3”? This franchise is known for its monster action sequences and this is one of the biggest. Thinking he is visiting his mother’s tomb, the Terminator reveals to John Connor that the casket is actually full of weapons. Arnie then busts out of the mausoleum with the casket full of weapons on his shoulder and a mini gun on his hip. He throws the casket into a hearse and then sprays every police car within 3 miles full of lead. But it doesn’t stop there. The evil terminator then appears and a crazy chase through the cemetery follows. A rocket launcher to her chest and a few broken tombstones later, and we get a wilder ending to what is a great cemetery scene.

#3 – “ARMY OF DARKNESS”

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Call it a sentimental choice but I just had to include the wacky cemetery sequence from “Army of Darkness”. You know the story, our “Evil Dead” hero Ash has been sucked back to the medieval past where and the Necronomicon holds the secrets to getting him back home. The problem is the Necronomicon is hidden deep within a spooky old cemetery. Ash makes his way to the center of the graveyard where three books await, two are traps and one is the real book. After a painful process of elimination, Ash finds the real book. All he has to do is say the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” and he can safely remove it. Of course he completely botches it which triggers the rise of the army of darkness. It’s a hysterical cemetery scene from a great movie.

#2 – “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD”

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I hate to keep including this movie in my Phenomenal 5 lists, but I can’t help it. George Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead” is such a great movie. Just think, the entire zombie craze as we know it today started in a rural Pennsylvania cemetery during this film’s wonderful opening scene. Barbra and her jerk of a brother Johnny have been making the long trip to visit their father’s grave for several years. But this year it’s a little different. As Johnny is teasing Barbra about her uneasiness in the cemetery they notice a man stumbling their way. As he approaches them he attacks. Johnny fights with the man only to have his head slammed against a rock in the struggle. The man then chases Barbra out of the cemetery which launches this classic horror story.

#1 – “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY”

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Of all the Phenomenal 5 lists I’ve done none have had a more obvious #1 choice than this one. Sergio Leone had an unmatched knack for building up and executing great western showdowns. Perhaps his best takes place in his tasty 1966 spaghetti dish “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. In a scene destined to take place since the film’s brilliant opening, the good (Clint Eastwood), the bad (Lee Van Cleef), and the ugly (Eli Wallach) come together in a Mexican showdown at Sad Hill Cemetery. With buried gold at stake the three square off in a three-way duel not knowing who can trust who. Leone masterfully soaks the scene in tension with his camera and with Ennio Morricone’s glorious music. And even after the shootout, Leone gives us a classic finale that seals its place at the top of the list.

There are several other fantastic cemetery scenes I hated to leave off. What are your favorites? Please take time to let me know what you agree or disagree with.

REVIEW: “Evil Dead” (2013)

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It was 32 years ago that childhood friends Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell introduced a small, low budget horror film that would influence the genre for decades and become one of the biggest cult classics in film history. That movie was “The Evil Dead”. With little money and a cast and crew made up mostly of family and friends, Raimi and Campbell still managed to craft a visceral, gory, and frightening gem that remains one of my very favorite horror pictures of all time.

In keeping with Hollywood’s current remake fetish and creative brain freeze it seems only logical that we would get “Evil Dead”, an update on the 1981 classic. When I first heard about this project red flags went up everywhere. How dare they mess which such a cult favorite and one that I personally hold as sacred. I was instantly skeptical and uninterested. That was until I heard some very interesting details. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell would be producing the movie. Game on! From that moment on I’ve been anxious to see this film. My anticipation grew after seeing the first trailer and after hearing Campbell and Raimi’s enthusiasm. But I still had a deep burning question – could they even come close to capturing what made the original so great?

They certainly weren’t afraid to set the bar high. The movie poster features the line “The most terrifying film you will ever experience”. While I wouldn’t go that far, “Evil Dead” is still a creepy, gore-soaked, step back in time that’s sure to entertain old-school horror fans and shock newer viewers who are more accustomed to the popular PG-13 ghost stories of today. Raimi and Campbell hand over the directing keys to Fede Alvarez but their bloody fingerprints are all over this picture. And while there are question marks and a few plot holes, I still found this to be satisfying horror ride and a perfectly acceptable reimagining.

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There are several noticeable story changes in this film. Instead of it being five friends taking a fun filled vacation in the Tennessee hills, these five folks come together for a much more serious purpose. Mia (Jane Levy) has struggled with a drug problem and after a serious overdose her friends Olivia (Jessica Lewis) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) decide to take her away to her family’s remote rundown cabin to help her quit cold turkey. Mia’s brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) meet them there to help. After making a grisly discovery in the basement, the group uncover a book bound in human skin and filled with disturbing text and images.

Now fans of the original know this is the Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead) and that by quoting a specific set of words from the book, you would awaken an evil presence in the woods. Well that’s what happens and quite literally all Hell breaks loose. One demon possession later and the creepiness shoots through the roof and the blood starts to flow. Now you should know this going in but in case you don’t let me emphasize that this is an extremely graphic film. A crowbar, an electric knife, a machete, a box cutter – these are just some of the instruments of defense of death and this film isn’t shy about using them.

The spectacular special effects only makes the eeriness more pronounced and the gore more vivid. This is worth mentioning because Alvarez was emphatic that no CGI be used. What you see is the real deal – old school visual effects with some clever illusions and slick camera tricks. I loved this decision. It’s a clear reminder that great effects can be done without the cheaper and often times more obvious CGI. The visuals work hand-in-hand with the brilliant use of sound. Every creak from the cabin, every flick of a switch, and every chord from the score help in giving the movie an eerie and intense feel. This is a very technically impressive film and I can just see Raimi wanting to play with all the visual toys that weren’t available to him in 1981.

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Now perhaps the biggest question that will be asked by many centers around the horror. Is “Evil Dead” scary? This is almost impossible for me to gauge because movies never really scare me. For me effective horror pictures are one the creep me out, not necessarily scare me. While not on the same level as its inspiration, this film definitely has its creepy and disturbing moments. But it certainly scared some people during my screening so if that’s what your looking for, you should find it here.

But you won’t find the same sly and subtle humor that’s in the original. Everything here is dead serious (pun intended) and I honestly missed those lighter moments. There were also a few minor things that didn’t quite work as the movie intended. There’s an opening scene showing a disturbing past event that had happened in the cabin’s basement. The trouble is the entire scene felt completely disconnected from the rest of the movie. I had so many unanswered questions about it and I just don’t understand why it’s there. Then there is a scene close to the big finale featuring a bit of creative (and utterly preposterous) engineering. I’m not going to give anything away but it and its subsequent scene was just too ridiculous to buy into. Thankfully the movie doesn’t waste any time moving past it and making its way to its entertaining, blood-soaked ending. It too is different from the original but it worked for me.

Even though this is a remake of a true classic horror picture, for me it was important to not judge this movie strictly by the 1981 film or to go to far in comparing them. This movie stands on its own and it does it well. But it never forgets its roots and that’s the main reason I found it to be a success. It follows the pattern set forth by the earlier film and then amps things up 110%. It’s gruesome, it’s gory, it’s relentless, and it all fits perfectly with the films frightening tone. Fans of the classic will love the various tips of the hat to the original and new fans will be rocked by their visceral dose of old-school horror. I see it appealing to both groups. “Evil Dead” worked for me not only as a solid modern-day remake but as one of the better horror pictures to come around in years. It looks like Raimi and Campbell’s tried and true formula still works today.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

5 PHENOMENAL HORROR MOVIES

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What better way to start my ’10 Days of Horror’ than doing a Phenomenal 5 on the greatest movies of the genre (according to me of course). This is certainly a wide open list and everyone has their opinions. But this is the one genre where I can list my top 5 without hesitation. The horror genre goes way back to the silent movie era and it has kept audiences fascinated ever since. These 5 frightening films are the ones that I can’t get enough of. For me, they are the best of the genre and I truly love each. So here we go. Now considering how broad a subject this is I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But you can’t deny that these 5 horror movie classics are absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “PSYCHO”

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece “Psycho” has arguably the most well-known scene in horror movie history. But there’s also so much greatness wrapped around Janet Leigh’s memorable murder in the shower at the hands…err, knife of Norman Bates. Anthony Perkins is as creepy as they come and you know there’s something not quite right about the guy from the first moment you see him until that final unnerving grin. And of course there is his macabre relationship with his dear, dear mother. For my money “Psycho” is brilliant and it’s the perfect mix of mystery and horror presented with the sharp style of a master filmmaker. It has its share of detractors but I will always love it.

#4 – “HALLOWEEN”

Oh there are so many things I love about “Halloween”. The great John Carpenter gives us a host of special ingredients that makes this film unforgettable. “Halloween” gives us the quintessential scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. It gives us the frightening Michael Myers. It gives us Donald Pleasence’s wonderfully goofy prophecies of doom. And how can you forget the simple yet to haunting piano score by Carpenter himself. Working with an incredibly small budget, the movie still broke new ground and invented the great horror movie cliches that are still imitated today. It’s a horror movie classic and the king of the slasher sub genre. It also still entertains me just as much as when I first watched it.

#3 – THE EVIL DEAD

In 1981 two young new filmmakers, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, made what would become one of the scariest horror movies of all time. “The Evil Dead” is another example of creating a great horror film with a tiny budget. It’s a highly influential picture that spawned two great sequels. It’s the story of five college kids who spend spring break in an isolated cabin in the woods. They accidentally release demons who begin killing them one by one. “The Evil Dead” is one of the few movies that I would call genuinely scary. The creepy concept and disturbing makeup effects still stick with me to this day. And of course it introduced us to the wonderful character Ash. This is a horror treasure that beats anything that comes out these days.

#2 – “THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE”

For years I thought “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was based on a true story. It was one of the most frightening movies I had ever seen. It’s been years since I found out that the story is purely fictional yet the movie still has the same effect on me today. Tobe Hooper directed, produced, and co-wrote the film that was made for under $300,000 and featured a cast of unknowns. The story of five friends who encounter a cannibalistic family in rural Texas didn’t rely on a buckets of blood and gore for its frights. Instead Hooper creates a disturbing sense of uneasiness with this material alone. Throw in Leatherface and pinches of dark comedy and you have one of the greatest horror movies of all-time.

#1 – “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD”

I never have a hard time telling people what my favorite horror movie of all time is. George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” was the first horror movie that really effected me. This is the film that put zombies on the map and there have been countless imitators since. As with the others on this list, Romero uses a small budget and no-name actors yet develops a horror picture that is unlike any other. Expertly crafted and wonderfully unsettling, “Night of the Living Dead” sets its creepy tone early and keeps it through so many clever techniques. I love everything about this true classic. It’s not just my favorite horror movie, it’s one of my favorite movies of all-time.

There they are – 5 Phenomenal Horror Movies. As I mentioned, this is a broad list and everyone has their favorites. But I’ll put my five up up against anyone’s. These five films showed that if you’re creative and skilled you don’t need loads of money and big backing to make a great horror picture. So what did I miss? What would you have included on the list? Which of my choices do you disagree with? Please take time to comment below.

5 PHENOMENAL MOVIES FROM 1981

I recently did a Phenomenal 5 on the movies of 1980. Well now it’s time for 1981. As a kid of the 80’s, there are so many of these films that strike a nostalgic chord with me. There are also many genuinely classic pictures that came out of the decade that still stand up today. As I look at these years I’ve decided to allow both nostalgia and classic movies to influence my choices. That was never more evident than with my picks for the year 1981. Of course, with so many movies released that year, I couldn’t call this the definitive list. But there is no denying that these 5 movies from 1981 are certainly phenomenal.

#5 – “AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON”

1981 wasn’t the greatest year for movies but it did give us some memorable ones including “An American Werewolf in London”. This crazy mix of horror and comedy follows two American backpackers vacationing through the English countryside. They are attacked by a werewolf which kills one and leaves the other in a London hospital. But everyone knows that if you’re bit by a werewolf you’ll turn into a werewolf and so this story goes. The film features some truly fantastic special effects and Academy Award winning makeup. But one thing that set this apart from most horror pictures is its clever sense of humor from the dialogue to the various moon-oriented songs. It definitely mixes laughs with its buckets of gore.

#4 – “CLASH OF THE TITANS”

I wouldn’t normally think a fantasy film starring Harry Hamlin would be a good experience. But when you throw in Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith, and special effects from the master of stop-motion animation Ray Harryhausen, I’m automatically onboard. This mythological fantasy picture pits our bushy haired hero Perseus against an awesome assortment of creatures including Medusa and of course the mighty Kraken. Sure the movie is campy and loaded with cheese. But there were many of these fantasy movies that hit the theaters during the 70’s and 80’s and “Clash of the Titans” is one of the best of them.

#3 – “THE ROAD WARRIOR”

“The Road Warrior” was the second film in the Mad Max series and it was the movie that put Mel Gibson on the international map. This Australian action picture from George Miller creates one of the most impressive postapocalyptic landscapes in the movies. Gibson’s Max is a tough-as-nails ex-cop who ends up helping a group of settlers who are being terrorized by a murderous gang. The film features some amazing action, none better than the breath-taking vehicle chase scene at the end that still rivals anything else like it. This isn’t a movie that will appeal to everyone but it’s one I thoroughly enjoy.

#2 – “THE EVIL DEAD”

“The Evil Dead” remains one of my favorite horror pictures of all time and to this day it still creeps me out. Two friends and aspiring filmmakers Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made “The Evil Dead” with a tiny budget of around $350,000. Now it’s blossomed into a cult classic with two really good sequels. A group of college kids head out to spend their spring break in a cabin in the woods. Once there, they discover The Book of the Dead and end up unleashing a horde of demons who begin killing them off one-by-one. It’s unashamedly gory but intensely creepy. It’s also a great example of quality filmmaking without the benefit of boatloads of money. And of course Campbell is a blast to watch. This is without a doubt a horror movie classic.

#1 – “RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”

Without a doubt, one of my favorite movies from the 80’s was Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Not only was this a classic action picture but it introduced one of the most iconic cinema heroes of all time – Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford makes Indiana great through his pitch-perfect performance, rugged grit, and cracking whip. The movie features one of the greatest action-fueled character introductions you’ll find as Indiana and a young Alfred Molina venture into a deadly cave to retrieve a golden head. But his true adventure starts after he finds out the Nazis may have found the lost Ark of the Covenant. Indy races off to find it before the Nazi’s do and encounters a great assortment of friends and villains along the way. Brilliant construction, amazing action sequences, and just the right amount of humor help make this a true movie classic.

There are my five picks of phenomenal movies from 1981. Do you see one that I missed? Disagree with my selections? Please take time to share your thoughts.