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11 Movies That Used Real Skeletons And Bodies For Bone-Chilling Dramatic Effect

List RulesVote up the films that benefit from the added creepiness of real human remains.

Horror films are designed to be as scary as possible. While special effects are often enough to make audiences squirm in their seats, some filmmakers filmed their movies with real skeletons and dead bodies to lend some authenticity to the horrifying images. You might not be able to pick out these moments onscreen, but you'll never look at these scenes the same after finding out the movies were made with real dead bodies. 

If a movie is filmed with real skeletons, the filmmakers rarely advertise it openly. Superstitions such as the "Poltergeist curse" dictate that using real human remains is not only disrespectful, but also potentially dangerous. Horror movie sets are scary enough without forcing actors and behind-the-scenes workers to come into contact with real human remains. Shouldn't we allow the dead to rest in peace? 

Nevertheless, the use of read dead bodies in movies is a reality. Take a look below at a few films that opted for real skeletons and vote up the scenes that benefited from the use of real human remains. 

  • Poltergeist is well known for the supposed curse that plagues the three movies. Several mishaps and deaths, both on set and off, made it a dangerous choice to be part of the Poltergeist cast. While the film's director vehemently denies any fault, most people believe the curse started because the film used real skeletons at the end of the first movie. 

    At the conclusion of the first film, the Freeling family discovers that their hometown was built on top of a cemetery. Skeletons emerge from the ground, ready to attack and take back their final resting place. At one point, Diane Freeling (JoBeth Williams) falls into the family's mud-filled pool and is immediately set upon by vengeful skeletons. 

    Though Williams didn't know it, the skeletons that jumped on her in the pool were real. The film purchased the skeletons from a medical supply company, which cost much less than acquiring fake skeletons. Considering the many deaths suffered by actors appearing in these movies, most people connected the use of real skeletons with the supposed "Poltergeist curse." 

    • Actors: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins
    • Released: 1982
    • Directed by: Tobe Hooper

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  • The making of Apocalypse Now was something of a disaster. While the film was originally meant to shoot for 14 weeks, issues on set expanded that original timeframe to 16 months. Filmed in the jungles of the Philippines, the film was intense and emotionally draining for everyone involved. 

    To really highlight the destruction caused by the Vietnam War, the prop crew started to get creative. They wanted an environment that truly felt dangerous, so they started scattering the bodies of rats on the ground to create a realistic smell of death. When Martin Sheen's wife complained about the rats, producer Gray Frederickson confronted the production designer, Dean Tavoularis, and asked that he stopped using the rats. Tavoularis responded by saying, "That's intentional, it gives it real atmosphere." During the conversation, a prop guy muttered within Frederickson's hearing, "Wait till he hears about the dead bodies." 

    After further investigation, Frederickson found out that the set designers had been keeping cadavers behind the tent where everyone ate. They wanted to scatter them in the trees to create a sense of authenticity. Although Frederickson immediately shut that idea down, their problems didn't stop there. It turns out the man who had been supplying the bodies was a grave robber. The police found out and the entire cast and crew were arrested until they could confirm that the production team had nothing to do with the unidentified bodies. 

    • Actors: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall
    • Released: 1979
    • Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

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  • Faces of Death is one of the most disturbing movies to ever see the light of day. It's exactly what the title suggests - a mondo film focused solely on death. Since it's filmed in a sort of documentary style, the movie has sparked dozens of rumors that the deaths taking place onscreen are actually real. However, the filmmakers explained that much of the action shown onscreen is entirely fake. 

    It's important to note the word "much." The film's creator, John Alan Schwartz, intercut his own fabricated scenes with real archival footage, forcing viewers to constantly question which scenes are real and which are fake. Some archival footage shows genuine dead bodies and corpses, though much of the violence depicted onscreen is simply the result of regular film production. 

    There is also one shocking, authentic moment that disturbingly aligns with the messaging of the film. While filming the final scene of the movie on a beach, a deceased surfer washed up onto the sand. He was completely unrelated to the film project, but it was a disturbing discovery in the midst of such a violent film. 

    • Actors: Michael Carr, Samuel Berkowitz, Mary Ellen Brighton
    • Released: 1978
    • Directed by: John Alan Schwartz

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  • Also known as They Call Her One Eye, this Swedish film centers on Madeleine, a young girl who is kidnapped by a pimp and forced to work in a brothel. When Madeleine claws the face of her first customer, the pimp retaliates by gouging out one of her eyes with a scalpel. 

    The scene is already horrifying, but it's made more disturbing by the discovery that the scene features a real cadaver. In order to fully capture the blood and gore, a real human eye was punctured by the scalpel. That, along with other strange behavior on set, forced most of the cast and crew to conclude that the director was a little mad. 

    • Actors: Christina Lindberg, Per-Axel Arosenius, Bo Arne Vibenius, Heinz Hopf, Hildur Lindberg
    • Released: 1973
    • Directed by: Bo Arne Vibenius

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