August 15, 2007 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Where does the "hand shooting up from out of the grave" movie cliché come from?

I was talking to my fiancée about this recently and we were trying to recall all the movies, TV shows, etc. where we remember seeing this. I know it's been in lots of things, but the first two I came up with were the Gorillaz music video for "Clint Eastwood" and the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. I couldn't remember if that specific image was part of the grave escape scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 or not.

Is there some classic horror movie that started the trend?
posted by ckolderup to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by pieoverdone at 7:46 AM on August 15, 2007

I'd think even older than that, possibly Night of the Living Dead. (but I wouldn't doubt it could be taken back even further to a non-talkie)
posted by samsara at 7:55 AM on August 15, 2007

posted by dobbs at 7:58 AM on August 15, 2007

This idea was definitely seen in at least one German film from the 1930's (can't recall which one), and not unknown in literature prior to the advent of film. So the real answer is probably "from literature," which of course opens a whole new question.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:59 AM on August 15, 2007

I was just thinking about this... It's certainly at the end of Carrie, but feels older than that touching as it does on just about every primal fear about monsters and "comfort zones". There's a bit with a creeping hand in Nosferatu, isn't there? It's not SUDDENLY! but it's the same kind of thing.
posted by Jofus at 7:59 AM on August 15, 2007

I think Carrie is where most people have seen it, but there is this predecessor from Deliverance; there may be others
posted by TedW at 8:00 AM on August 15, 2007

Much, much older than any of these, I'd say. I reckon the very first director to use this effect would have originally got his idea - I mean, the hand, shooting out from somewhere - from here.

That's was immediately sprang to mind for me, at least.
posted by Zé Pequeno at 8:02 AM on August 15, 2007

Apparently it is pretty old.
posted by jessenoonan at 8:06 AM on August 15, 2007

I remember seeing it as part of the intro to movies that played on Cinemax, when my parents had it in the late 80's/early 90's
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:09 AM on August 15, 2007

When I was a kid my mom had an edition of the Brothers Grimm that reproduced original illustrations that accompanied the stories in the 1800s. One story, "The Willful Child," is illustrated with a version of this image. So, it goes back pretty far.

(Mom went through and read every Grimm story and used a coding system to reflect how appropriate each was was for little me. Next to this particular story, she just wrote "NO.")
posted by hilatron at 8:09 AM on August 15, 2007 [5 favorites]

Oops, too late, but at least I got to tell my funny story about my mom.
posted by hilatron at 8:10 AM on August 15, 2007

There's a literary "hand shoots up out of a grave" in John Dickson Carr's The Three Coffins (1935). Any older ones?
posted by ormondsacker at 8:11 AM on August 15, 2007

posted by ormondsacker at 8:13 AM on August 15, 2007

I think perhaps the movie that popularised it the most would be Evil Dead.
posted by Drexen at 9:06 AM on August 15, 2007

Special mention must be made here of Psychomania (1971), wherein an undead biker shoots out of the grave riding his motorcycle!!!
posted by stinkycheese at 9:08 AM on August 15, 2007

To just add to the pile of places that have borrowed this, they did it on Melrose Place when Jane and Sidney thought they'd killed Richard for raping Jane.

Also, Kill Bill Vol. II.
posted by hermitosis at 9:31 AM on August 15, 2007

The one that has, by FAR, left the most indelible image in my brain was the one from Deliverance. *shudder*
posted by ORthey at 9:41 AM on August 15, 2007

This image gets lots of mileage in Buffy episodes, which is what sticks in my mind. (Yes, I am embarrassed by this.)
posted by bassjump at 9:53 AM on August 15, 2007

I always thought that it started with the "spaghetti horror" zombie movies of Lucio Fulci.
posted by Curry at 10:04 AM on August 15, 2007

It also happens in Abel Gance's Napoleon, which predates all of the movies mentioned here. I barely remember the details, as I saw the re-release at the age of 10 or 11 in the early 80's, but I distinctly remember a scene of a soldier drowning in mud whose last act as he is dying is to thrust his hand up from the mud.

This traumatized the hell out of me at the time, but I was a sensitive little twerp.
posted by dersins at 10:10 AM on August 15, 2007

Aren't we mixing different types of hand-shooting up scenes? In Napoleon, the hand shooting up is the last grasp for life from someone who's dying. In Carrie et al, the hand shooting up is from someone who was already dead and is now not dead, undead, or only mostly dead. Similar physical gestures, different meanings. (And in Deliverance, the hand pops up in a dream, so it's psychological.)

Also, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:39 AM on August 15, 2007

Here it is...

This shit used to scare the bejesus out of me. At 5 years old, that hand would come up out of the ground and I would nearly crap my pants.

That hand also symbolized two things other things now that think about it...

1. I was up too late
2. My Mom was probably going to beat my ass for sneaking TV
posted by bkeene12 at 12:29 PM on August 15, 2007

I'd like to point out the OP is not asking for suggestions of movies this happens in.
posted by agregoli at 12:29 PM on August 15, 2007

Does hand creeps out of coffin count? The Fall of the House of Usher, 1928.
posted by nax at 12:57 PM on August 15, 2007

You know how people at the top answered Carrie? I think they were right. When I finally saw the film last year (and it's great -- I highly recommend it) that particular unforgettable hand certainly felt like the Ur-Hand from whence all other Grasping Hands of the Vengeful Coffin-Escaping Dead sprang.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:14 PM on August 15, 2007

(tries again, more tactfully)
I'd like to point out that I don't mind having extra examples of movies and things it's happened in. It appears that there's no definitive answer, but I like seeing examples and discussion.
posted by ckolderup at 7:44 PM on August 15, 2007

« Older I need to add a drop down list of email addresses...   |   Please, don't make me read twelfth night for the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.