Cemeteries in Cinema: Classic horror movies featuring graveyards

Invoking feelings of dread and terror, cemeteries have become one of the staple settings in horror movies.  It could be the dreary, grey headstones, or the fact that the dead are ceremoniously buried six feet underground.  But either way, the creepy atmosphere it gives is universal, whether you throw in the fog and the howling of wolves in the background or not.

While these days, cemeteries in horror movies may seem like overkill, there are a few classics that were able to utilize this trope very well.  Here are a few:

Poltergeist.  Consider this:  you move into a modern Californian suburb to raise your family and then you discover that it was built over an old cemetery.  To take the creep factor one notch higher, these greedy developers only moved the headstones and not those buried below, caskets and all.

This is exactly the plot of the iconic 1982 horror movie classic, Poltergeist.  And if that doesn’t creep you out yet, then maybe the thought of a poltergeist terrorizing your family, or coffins and rotting corpses erupting around the neighborhood will.

Night of the living dead (1990). During a zombie outbreak, the cemetery would be the last place you’d like to be in, especially if you only have funeral flowers to protect yourself with.  The Night of the Living Dead, which is a remake of the 1968 movie of the same name, follows the struggle for survival of seven individuals trapped in a rural farmhouse after a zombie outbreak hits Pennsylvania.

Pet Sematary.  Another movie following the “all hell breaks loose after a sacred burial ground is desecrated” trope, this 1983 horror classic based on one of Stephen King’s novels is about a grief stricken man who buries his young son in an ancient burial ground beyond the pet cemetery in the hopes of resurrecting him.  Little did he know that the ancient burial ground has become cursed or has “gone sour” as Jud explains later on.

Cemeteries and burial grounds have become clichés in the horror movie genre.  But these classics prove that with the right story and mood, cemeteries and burial grounds can actually add to the creep factor of a horror movie.