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Top 10 Films Involving Indian Burial Grounds

by M David Scott
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Indian burial grounds have long been associated with stories of random people stumbling across them, ultimately causing hauntings and paranormal activity. This trope has been widely used in horror movies with stories about native spirits that haunt and curse those who have disturbed them. This theme has been overused and is factually incorrect, but it has not stopped Hollywood from returning to this theme time after time. At other times, the burial ground is not haunted, but still plays a vital role in the story. Here are ten fictional films that involve Indian burial grounds.

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10 Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary (1989) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

In the 1989 horror movie Pet Sematary, based on the book by Stephen King, the Pet Sematary was a Native-American burial ground used by the tribe known as the Micmacs. The ancient burial ground is next to a present-day animal graveyard which is now cursed. Anything buried in the graveyard returns to life and wreaks havoc on the town and its people.[1] This trope was seen in several horror movies during the 80’s.

In the film, a cat named Church is killed and buried at ancient Indian burial grounds. Church comes back to life, but this time in a much more evil way. The cat smells worse than ever, it violently rips apart mice and birds, and is no longer vibrant like it was known before. A young child is also killed and is buried at the Indian burial ground by the father in hopes of bringing his son back to life. His wish came true as the child rose from the grave, but like Church, the child was different than before. The viewers quickly learn that sometimes dead is better.

9 Scalps (1983)

Scalps (1983) – HD Trailer [1080p]

Scalps was just another horror movie from the 1980’s that used an Indian burial ground as a main focus of the film. Six archeological students head to the California desert to work on a dig together, even though they have previously been warned to not go. As the group begins to dig around an ancient Indian burial ground, they unleash an evil spirit by the name of Black Claw.[2]

The movie was made on a budget of about $15,000 and depicted Black Claw looking for vengeance across the town. The evil spirit possessed one of the group members and began to slaughter them one at a time. The low-budget film includes several slow scenes of characters being scalped, giving meaning to the movie’s name.

8 Identity (2003)

Identity (2003) Official Trailer 1 – John Cusack Movie

Pet Sematary featured burials on ancient Indian soil, Scalps was about people digging on burial ground, but Identity features a building that is erected on ancient burial grounds. In this 2003 film, ten strangers find themselves stranded at a small hotel together during a rainstorm. Torrential rain has caused the roads both ways to flood, forcing the group of people to spend the night at the hotel.

An unidentified murder slowly begins to knock off each person at the hotel. The group of strangers discover that the motel’s brochure describes how the motel sits next to where Native Americans were buried, and they start to believe that the supernatural may be causing the murders. The psychological slasher film is based off Agatha Christie’s book And Then There Were None, but you will have to watch for yourself to see if the Indian burial grounds actually play a part in the murders.[3]

7 Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982) Official Trailer – JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson Horror Movie HD

A family’s home is haunted by a multitude of ghosts in Poltergeist. The ghosts in this 1982 film appear to be friendly to the family at first as they playfully move various objects around the house. The haunting quickly turns from amusing to demonic for the family as the ghosts start to terrorize them. The supernatural energy hits a high when the ghosts “kidnap” the youngest daughter.[4]

The plot from Poltergeist is often attributed to the Indian burial ground trope, but this is a common mistake made my many people. An episode of Family Guy, Petergeist, even parodied the movie as lead character Peter Griffin discovers an Indian burial ground in his backyard. Poltergeist did feature a cemetery, but it was not an ancient tribal burial ground. Whether there is a connection to the burial grounds or not, the film will always be attached to the overused horror trope of the 1980’s.

6 The Shining (1980)

The Shining – Official Trailer [1980] HD

Jack Nicholson stars in the psychological horror film The Shining, which was based on Stephen King’s book by the same name. The movie, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrik, was about a family that encounters a sinister presence while staying at a hotel. The father, played by Nicholson, is influenced into violence while his son possesses physic abilities that allow him to see horrific views from the past and future.[5]

The Overlook Hotel from the film was built on the site of a Native American burial ground, and Nicholson interviews for the position of winter caretaker at the hotel. He quickly learns about the hotel’s scary reputation, but he still accepts the position after being impressed with the hotel. The Shining is a staple of pop culture and is widely regarded as one of the most influential movies ever made. The film is one of the most popular movies to date to use the native burial ground trope.

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5 Monsterwolf (2010)

Monsterwolf (2010).trailer

Monsterwolf combines fantasy and horror to create the low-budget film made for TV. The movie did not receive great reviews or ratings, but the predictability and bad acting is entertaining for some horror fans. The science fiction movie is about a group of workers from an oil company that find new land to drill from. Their work unleashes a wolf-like creature that wreaks havoc on the people and town.

You have probably figured it out by now, but the land they drill from is actually ancient Indian burial grounds, and the spiritual wolf is only protecting the land from those who threaten it. The evil oil workers are destroyed by the wolf, and it can only be stopped by the last surviving Native American. The plot falls right in with other Indian lore and legends, but the story of the monster wolf creates a new element for an old story.[6]

4 Little Big Man (1970)

Little Big Man (1970) Trailer

Many of the movies on this list fall under the genres of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, but Little Big Man is filled with drama, adventure, and comedy. The 1970 film is about the story of Jack Crabb, who is currently old in the film but tells the story of how he was raised by Native Americans. The Native Americans are depicted sympathetic in the film, while the United States Cavalry are viewed as villains.

Jack tells the story of how he was cared for by the tribal leader, Old Lodge Skins, since he was a ten-year-old boy. After saving another kids life, Jack earns the name “Little Big Man,” because he is short but also very brave. Later in the film, he tells the story of how he accompanied Old Lodge Skins on an Indian burial mound. Old Lodge Skins declared it was a good day to die, and he laid on his spot on the burial ground. Rain began to pour down on his body, and he was revealed to still be alive and said, “Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.” [7]

3 Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Silent Hill: Revelation – Official Trailer 2012 – Regal Movies [HD]

Trying to understand the plot of Silent Hill: Revelation can be more confusing than algebra, but the film is enjoyable for crummy-horror movie fans and fans of the Silent Hill video game franchise. According to Revelation, Silent Hill was originally a prison colony in West Virginia that was erected on stolen Indian ground. It was known as “The Place of the Silent Spirits.”

The movie is about Heather Mason who is drawn to an alternate reality in the town of Silent Hill. She thinks she is on the run with her father who murdered a man in self-defense. On the eve of her 18th birthday, she discovers that her dad has actually been protecting her from an evil cult called the Order of Valtiel. Once she learns about who she really is, she falls into the demonic world of Silent Hill with little hope of escaping.[8]

2 The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Amityville Horror Official Trailer #1 – Rod Steiger Movie (1979) HD

The Amityville Horror, released in 1979, was about a couple that moves into a large home with a horrific history. The home haunts them in strange ways that eventually drives them to move away. The story was based on the true accounts of the Lutz family that claimed supernatural things were happening to them in the home ranging from strange visions to physical transformations.

The connection to an Indian burial ground comes from the Lutz’s book which sort of claims the house was built on ancient burial grounds. They said the home was erected on a sanitarium-like property where sick and dying Indians were taken to die a horrible death. The facts given by the Lutz family have been questioned, and there may not be any connection at all to a Native American burial ground. True or not, the movie has always been tied to the trope as it presented scares for millions of viewers.[9]

1 The New Daughter (2009)

The New Daughter – Trailer

Spanish screenwriter Luis Berdejo got his feature directorial debut with the horror movie The New Daughter. The movie was based on the John Connolly short story by the same name. The film is about a recently divorced novelist who moves into an old home in South Carolina with his two children. On the first night after moving into the new home, the daughter begins to hear strange noises outside of her bedroom window.[10]

While exploring the property the following day, the children discover that their new home is next to an Indian burial mound. The father then learns that his new home is famous around town for the disappearance of a woman who previously lived there. He then returns home to find his daughter’s cat mutilated. The family is continuously haunted by the supernatural throughout the movie as the ancient Indian burial mound plays a major role on the outcome of the film.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater