Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fantasies: Graveyard Memories

Two days ago, Moon.com featured a post about “tombstone tripping” – visiting graveyards not with a purpose but with fascination. Perhaps I’m a little disturbed, but I love strolling through interesting cemeteries. I respect the fact that they memorialize others’ loved ones – and I always walk quietly and with care. But I must admit – I’ve long been a fan of cemeteries, especially at this time of year, when Halloween and the Day of the Dead are upon us.

Part of this fascination comes from the thrill of being just a little unnerved, and part of it stems from the curiosity of some cemeteries, especially ones where famous movie stars are buried (like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery) or the architecture is particularly creepy and/or stunning (like the aboveground cemeteries and mausoleums in New Orleans). While there’s nothing quite like visiting a cemetery in person, I often get just as effective a fix from watching graveyard scenes in certain movies – comedies, dramas, thrillers, and horror flicks, it makes no nevermind. Here, in chronological order, are some of my favorite morbid movie moments:

Easy Rider (1969) – Amid a drug-induced haze, counterculture bikers frolic with some lovely ladies within an aboveground cemetery in the Big Easy. After seeing this film as a teenager, I never looked at Mardi Gras – or Dennis Hopper – the same way again.

Harold and Maude (1971) – The intergenerational title characters first meet at a funeral, where neither one belongs, and soon realize their mutual fascination with death. Oh, how I adore this movie – and hope it’s never remade.

Phantasm (1979) – The entire story revolves around a graveyard and a funeral home operated by a lanky alien, bent on destroying humanity. All I can say is... cloaked midgets, flying orbs, and marble walls are one freaky combination.

Poltergeist (1982) – During a torrential rainstorm, Carol Anne’s mommy falls into a muddy pool, filled with corpses. And, seriously, who can forget the line, “You son of a bitch. You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you?!”

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Most of this classic zombie flick takes place in a cemetery, where a small band of young partygoers offer easy access to the undead. Bloody hilarious!

Army of Darkness (1992) – In an utterly memorable scene, Ash, a hero of questionable ethics, ventures into a graveyard to retrieve the Necronomicon, only to misspeak the magic words and inadvertently raise an army of the dead. Oops.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) – It’s a brief moment, but I find it hard to forget. Assassin Martin Blank visits his father in a hometown cemetery, only to pour an entire fifth of alcohol into the grass above his father's grave. What a thoughtful son!

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) – The reporter and the millionaire venture into a creepy Savannah cemetery, where a spiritualist tries to quiet the soul of the millionaire’s murdered lover. There’s no doubting the effectiveness of some well-placed mist and moss.

Stir of Echoes (1999) – A loving mother takes her strange little boy for a walk that ends up in a cemetery, where a touched police officer stalks them, only to demonstrate his psychic connection to the child. Truly an underrated film!

My Dog Skip (2000) – A remorseful young boy finds his beloved dog in a cemetery, where moonshiners have nearly beaten him to death. Don’t worry – the doggy recovers.

Hellboy (2004) – The climax of this entertaining yarn occurs in a Russian cemetery, where the resurrected Rasputin attempts to open a doorway to the Seven Gods of Chaos. Every time I watch this movie, I believe this place is sinister – and cold.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – If you’ve seen this movie (or read the book), then you know where I’m going with this one. At the end of the labyrinth lies a portkey that transports Harry and Cedric to a moody cemetery, where You-Know-Who is waiting...

So, what’s your favorite cinematic cemetery scene?

14 comments:

Bane of Anubis said...

When my family lived in England, we went on this cool houseboat trip down a river (yeah, I don't know which) and lochs and such, and one of my favorite memories was of going to graveyards and trying to find the oldest tombstone (I think the oldest one was something from 1483)... pretty fun stuff for a six-year-old boy.

Laura Martone said...

Wow, Bane. You have the coolest stories from your childhood in England. I love cemeteries over there - the tombstones go back so much farther than they do over here...

marthawarner said...

Wow, Bane! That actually sounds like a fun trip. I know my sons would love that kind of thing.

My favorite tombstone scene is the graveyard scene from HP&GoF. Probably because the movies lean to the dark side starting with that one. (I don't count PoA as dark because I didn't get that vibe like I did with GoF).

and now I'm going to have to watch Grosse Pointe Blank again. I can't remember that scene and I love that movie.

Great post!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Hmmm, can't recall one. Isn't that sad?

Going to N.O. tonight for a wedding. Excited!

Becky said...

Hmmm I'm more into musicals than horror flicks. I watched "Mama Mia" last night. The "Rocky Horror Picture Show" is about as close as I want to get to a horror flick...

Hey, have you and Dan been to the geocache "Unknown and Forgotten"? It's South of here a bit. You'd like it. Go at dusk or late afternoon for the full effect.

BTW I love the graveyards in New Orleans. I've been to many of them as part of school lessons, and as a "tourist".

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I like visiting old graveyards and reading the inscriptions. I can't think of any movie moments at the moment... :)

Laura Martone said...

Yeah, that's a pretty cool scene, Martha. Oh, and I love me some GROSSE POINTE BLANK - I watch it often!

Angie, I hope you have a wonderful time. I'm headed to NOLA (finally!) on Tuesday. Can't wait!

Hey, Becky. Well, though my posts might indicate a passion for horror movies, I actually have very eclectic tastes. So, musicals are a fave of mine also. I like SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, PAINT YOUR WAGON, and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW equally. When Dan and I return to New Orleans this week, we hope to take a cemetery tour. He wants to go alone (just the two of us), but I keep trying to explain to him that they're not all that safe. Sad as that may be.

Laura Martone said...

Oh, no, Deb, not you, too! You're no longer Strange Fiction. Boo-hiss.

Ahem.

I like reading old inscriptions, too. I'm all for cremation, but there's something to be said for leaving a marker behind.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

LOL! Laura, you can still call me Strange Fiction :) You were smart to use your real name from the get-go.

Have a safe journey to New Orleans. Are you stopping along the way to eat at Cracker Barrel? :)

Donna Hole said...

Ghost Rider: When Johnny Blaze comes walking through the cemetery the morning after his first change and the grounds keeper asks: "You alright?"

And Johnny casually remarks: "Yeah I'm good. I Feel like my skulls on fire but I'm good." Then he sips his coffee.

Way cool.

.........dhole

Laura Martone said...

Deb - I don't know if I was smart to use my real name... or just really uncreative. ;-) But I'll happily call you Deb - since it's your name and all. As for my journey, thanks for the well wishes... and thanks for reminding me about Cracker Barrel. What a kick in the pants! I put the little golden ticket in my purse, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Laura Martone said...

Shoot, Donna. I forgot about GHOST RIDER. I don't love the movie, but I don't hate it either - and that particular scene is one of the best. Also, Sam Elliott is wonderfully sexy - even at his age.

hope101 said...

My husband is a huge history buff, so during my trip to Washington, DC for the RWA conference, I decided to go to Arlington Cemetery. I have seen pictures of it, of course - row upon row of uniform grave markers. I knew what to expect.

Still, there was something about seeing those graves marching down one hill and up the next. They went on, and on, and on... I had goosebumps for the two hours I was there, and tears threatened many times.

Then after I walked through downtown DC and looked at the security presence that was everywhere. For the first time I had a sense of what it would be like to live as a culture under siege, a visceral feeling of the very real consequences. I know I'll never forget it.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Jan!

I've been to Arlington a couple times - and I agree, it's truly a remarkable experience. I remember being excited to see Lee Marvin's tombstone - I even took a picture - but seeing all those rows of white grave markers was powerful, even seeing it as a child. And, yes, the heightened security in recent years (in D.C. and elsewhere) is at once disturbing and reassuring.