Whether it’s for comedy purposes or to build the tension in a thriller or horror, a nice memorable phrase repeated over and over has a certain unrelenting quality to it – something is going to happen and chances are it won’t be good for the person on the receiving end. Here are some of my favourites:
Warriors… come out to play!
Picture the scene in this 1979 cult classic, The Warriors: framed for the murder of Cyrus (the most powerful gang leader in New York) the Warriors battle it across the city to get back to their home turf on Coney island. Only to find their bitter rival, Luther – leader of the Rogues and the man who actually killed Cyrus – blocking their path and demanding a fight. Director Walter Hill masterfully cranks up the tension with Luther creepily tapping bottles together and chanting in a bizarre and deranged manner.
Rufio versus Pan
What’s the best way to make an entrance at the end of the ’80s/early ’90s? On a skateboard of course. Then onto a trapeze and into a backflip. Then draw a sword. Who wouldn’t want to be leader of the Lost Boys? Growing up, Spielberg’s Hook in 1991 was a treat and Rufio was super cool – every young lad wanted to be him. In these scenes Rufio makes his entrance and taunts Pan (Robin Williams), then loses to him in a battle of words; a point where Peter begins to believe and the Lost Boys switch their allegiance.
The greater good
Mmmm, a murderous cult. What we learn in this scene is that killing is ok if it’s for ‘the greater good’ and said in chanted unison. Here Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) faces off against the town’s village council in Hot Fuzz (2007), having worked out that they’d been behind a slew of killings… all in the name of ‘the greater good’. Creepy, yet brilliantly funny.
Frank the tank
‘You know it! When it hits your lips!’ When Old School was released in 2003 it was a bit of a sleeper hit. The modern brat pack of Vince Vaughn and co were just getting going, but one man stood out beyond all others. Will Ferrell aka Frank the tank. Gaining his name downing beer at a frat party. Reminds me of that alcholic’s phrase, ‘one is too many, two is not enough.’
Growing up most of us remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (great title); specifically the moment Indy witnesses human sacrifice with a guy getting his heart torn out. Quite horrific to watch as a kid, but mesmerising. Here’s an idea… Chant ‘kali ma’ in a creepy way whilst moving your hand towards a friend’s chest and see if they freak out.
Give him fur black as black
Hocus Pocus in 1993 was – and still is I guess – a bit of a guilty pleasure, with Bette Midler on fine form as the head of a coven of witches (one of which included a young Sarah Jessica Parker). In this scene early in the film she turns a young chap into a black cat with a nice little, suitably witch-y chant. ‘Give him fur black as black just, like, this.’
Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice
‘Jump in the line, rock your body on time. Ok, I believe you!’ There’s so many great scenes, songs and dialogue from this film. From the possessed dinner party chanting and singing ‘Day-O’ dance to the aforementioned ‘Shake Senora’ calypso finish, it’s movie gold. Beetlejuice is also let out to play by saying his name three times. Go on, try it.
You shall not pass
Not sure if this counts as chanting, more booming. But it’s Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf against a Balrog, c’mon! I think just before his immortal line there’s a chant. I mean, I wouldn’t mess with someone that says they’re the servant of the secret fire, would you?