A huge part of growing up as a horror fan is word of mouth. Someone you know told you about a film that they randomly came across and insisted you also just have to see it. Sometimes, along with information about the particular film itself, came some interesting tidbits about something that may have happened on set, something that happened to a cast or crew member, etc. On occasion, these bits of trivia were just silly occurrences, but other times, there seemed to be more sinister things at work. These are the types of goings on that Jay Cheel’s documentary series, Cursed Films, dives into.
Cursed Films is a five part web television series that was produced by the streaming service Shudder. Each episode covers alleged instances of curses surrounding various films.
I’ve personally heard of some strange events taking place on various movie sets over the years, but never have I had all of the facts (or are they?) presented in one place, in one coherent stream of information. That is exactly what Cursed Films does with each of its five episodes.
Writer, editor, and director, Jay Cheel, has created a docu-series that covers five well-known genre films and uncovers the controversies behind each one. The films in question, in order of which they are presented, are 1982’s Poltergeist, The Omen from ’76, The Exorcist, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Each episode is shot just as most other documentaries that you might have seen in the past; Various individuals are interviewed, providing either expert analysis or simply just sharing their beliefs. Included in the long list of people who are asked about said occurrences are professionals from all sorts of fields — writers, journalists, self-proclaimed witches, black magicians, professors, skeptics, and of course the very people involved in the making of the films in question. Most notable are names like Linda Blair, Michael Berryman, and Kane Hodder.
This documentary series is truly one of the most entertaining I’ve watched in a long time. I generally am fascinated by the sheer number of facts presented in most documentaries. After all, that is their true purpose, right? To teach the audience of something they may or may not already know about. In that regard, Cursed Films is full of information that I was never aware of.
Could it be that these iconic horror films were truly cursed? While some occurrences are certainly tragic, they mostly seem like unfortunate coincidences. Then again, in the case of episode 2’s telling of the story of The Omen, things seem a bit too unbelievable to be anything less than some twisted form of fate.
Things like two separate planes, one carrying lead actor Gregory Peck, one carrying another crew member, being hit by lightning, or a special effects coordinator getting into a motorcycle accident and having his fiance decapitated in a similar fashion to a scene in the film itself, can’t simply just be bad luck.
Cursed Films presents countless odd happenings to and around the cast and crew of the original 1976 The Omen just like these I have listed. So many, in fact, that by the end of the 27 minute episode, I, too, was convinced that that production was indeed cursed in some way.
Not all episodes are as convincing, however. In the case of Poltergeist, the tragedies surrounding that film simply do come off as very unfortunate incidents. The murder of actress Dominique Dunn or the misdiagnosed congenital condition that lead to the death of actress Heather O’rourke, for example. These things certainly did not have anything to do with the filming of that franchise, yet some believers out there will tell you otherwise.
What can be explained as just extremely effective PR for a horror flick or a small tidbit of info that has been blown into mythical proportions has certainly convinced thousands of people around the world that these particular films are cursed!
Cursed Films at Home
As I mentioned earlier, Cursed Films was produced by Shudder. Naturally, this means you can catch the entire five part series on the streaming service right now.
If you are a physical collector like myself, however, you will be happy to know that it will also be available to own on Digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray from RLJE Films tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18.
The Blu-ray home release contains all five episodes, of course, each presented in 1080p High-Defintion Widescreen 2.39:1. A DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track is included on the disc, as well as optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The full runtime of all five episodes is 141 minutes and each one is accompanied by an audio commentary by director Jay Cheel.
I’m not sure where I stand when it comes to believing in curses or not, but Cheel’s Cursed Films does do a tremendous job of telling some of the strangest and most shocking stories I’ve ever heard.
There is no doubt that tragedy hit every one of films, from the on-set death of Brandon Lee in The Crow to the horrific helicopter accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie that claimed three lives, but I don’t think anyone could ever know for sure if it was all just happenstance or if something evil truly had its grip on all of the films in question.
Whether you believe in that kind of thing or not, Cursed Films is still a very worthy watch. It is shot extremely well and I actually wish there were more than just five episodes.
Do yourself a favor and grab a copy, as I give this one 5 real life exorcisms out of 5.