Cursed Films is a five-part documentary television series revolving around horror films that were overrun with behind the scenes issues during production that have developed incredible urban legends or unbelievable myths over the years.

The episodes are around 30-minutes long and the first season consists of five episodes with each episode tackling a different film. The first season includes The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.

The episodes typically detail what strange or morbid occurrences may or may not have happened during the production of said films with input from producers, directors, filmmakers, authors, and other horror industry related individuals. In the Poltergeist episode, Cursed Films has interviews with ten different people ranging from the VP of development at Blumhouse Pictures, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief at Fangoria, a director, two authors, the founder of The Skeptics Society, a horror fan and prop collector, and a make-up effects artist.

Gary Sherman, director of Poltergeist III.

The wide variety of people and their knowledge of the subject offers different layers of insight into these films horror fans have loved and cherished for years. The Poltergeist episode mostly touches on Heather O’Rourke’s death during the making of Poltergeist III, but it also covers all three Poltergeist films.

The episode also sheds some light on Oliver Robins actually being choked by the clown in his room due to a mechanical malfunction, the muddy pool of skeletons possibly utilizing real desecrated bodies from India, and Dominique Dunne being strangled by her boyfriend, going into a coma, and passing away 4-5 days after the attack. The Dunne family was devastated when Dominique’s boyfriend only ended up doing two and a half years of jail time before being released.

Julian Beck had stomach cancer while filming Poltergeist II: The Other Side. According to Gary Sherman, they ended up making a prosthetic of Beck’s face referred to as a, “death mask,” in order for someone else to portray the Reverend Kane character in Poltergeist III. No one knows if it was created before or after Beck’s death.

Heather O’Rourke was diagnosed with Crohn’s and treated for it, but she was misdiagnosed. She had a congenital birth defect and an abscess in her intestines that eventually exploded. She died from toxic shock at 11 years old.

According to Gary Sherman, the cast didn’t want to finish Poltergeist III but the studio forced their hand. Sherman thinks the ending they used is still awful to this day and is unsatisfied with it. The cast refused to promote the film and Sherman was attacked after the film’s release but doesn’t blame it on the Poltergeist curse.

Craig Reardon, the special make-up effects artist on Poltergeist, states that real skeletons have been utilized for filmmaking purposes for budgetary reasons for an incredibly long time. He mentions Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill and Frankenstein as films that used real skeletons. It’s much cheaper for a film to use a real skeleton than to build one from scratch.

The Omen episode takes a bit of a different turn, as well. Due to the film’s religious backstory and inclusion of the son of the devil as a central character, the episode features key insight by professors of religious studies, authors, black magicians, a psychology professor, and a witch. Many believed that the concept of The Omen alone opened the door for the actual devil to intervene.

Two different planes carrying two different members of the cast were struck by lightning, Gregory Peck canceled his flight and that flight crashed killing everyone on board, a restaurant the film shot at was blown up, an animal handler was eaten by either a tiger or a lion (two different reports) at Windsor Safari Park (which is featured in the film), and a car accident decapitation occurred in real life almost exactly how it does in the film.

What’s fascinating is that nearly everyone interviewed about The Omen sees the film as a blessed production rather than a cursed one because the fatal accidents were so few and far between while everything else just seemed like strange and phenomenal coincidences.

Cursed Films is excellent at introducing the problematic occurrences of what happened on the other side of the camera on some of the most well-known horror films out there. It’s disappointing that they don’t really set out to prove or disprove them. The series is more interested in letting the audience know what gives the film a cursed reputation.

At the end of each episode, you’re left with more questions than answers and maybe that’s the point. It does leave you wanting the series to cover other films. The series is aimed at the horror genre but has The Crow, a dark superhero film, as one of the episodes. It’d be cool if they tackled The Wizard of Oz, Rosemary’s Baby, or Waterworld in the future.

Richard Donner, director of The Omen.

The series mostly feels like a horror version of Unsolved Mysteries. We’ll honestly never know the truth behind the plagued productions of these films, but it certainly makes you appreciate these films in a different way. It’s a miracle most of these were completed let alone were able to establish a fan base. Sometimes the making of a film has a better storyline than the film being made and Cursed Films dives into that and delivers riveting half-hour excursions into familiar destinations with unusual detours we may not all have seen before.

The Verdict

The Grim Reaper swings their scythe in mysterious ways and the strings of fate are often tangled in coincidence. Sometimes films just have troubled productions. Look at Terry Gilliam and how long it took him to get his Don Quixote film made. Cursed Films is a peek behind the tattered veil or the horror behind the horror. Horror fans will appreciate the exploration of what has seemed like a taboo subject for years and the insight Cursed Films is able to provide. It may not be able to offer a full explanation, but Cursed Films is able to scratch every itch horror and film lovers yearn for.

Cursed Films debuts with The Exorcist on Shudder on Thursday, April 2.

Cursed Films Review: Divulging the Darkness Behind the Terror
  • The rich yet bleak history behind these films.
  • Relevant interviews.
  • A different look at well-known horror films.
  • Most curses aren't proved or disproved.
  • Binging entire season is desired over weekly installments.
  • After credits sequence for The Omen episode is lame.
7.5Overall Score
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