When it comes to cursed films in the history of cinema, which one really grabs your attention? Cursed Films, Shudder’s original series, dares to dive into the mystery, coincidences, and sciences behind the unfortunate events surrounding some of Hollywood’s biggest horror productions combining fear of the unknown with the fear of reality. As members of an audience, we concentrate so much on the visual horror and narratives that occur on the screen, but sometimes it’s the tragic circumstances and terror that go on behind the camera lens that are far worse. Written and directed by Jay Cheel (How to Build a Time Machine), Cursed Films documents the accidents, controversies, and coincidences that plagued the sets of The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Cursed Films is described as “a five-part documentary series which explores the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions. From plane accidents and bombings during the making of The Omen, to the rumored use of real human skeletons on the set of Poltergeist, these stories are legendary amongst film fans and filmmakers alike. But where does the truth lie? Cursed Films reveals the events that haunted these productions through interviews with experts, witnesses and the cast, directors and producers who lived through the real-life events.”
“Cursed Films is not afraid to dabble in both emotion and speculation […] it’s hard not to question your own superstitions and beliefs”
Each of the five Cursed Films episodes efficiently utilizes 30 minutes to analyze the disturbing content we have a lore of these film curses. The timing and pacing is so well constructed that the flow easily entertains and educates from start to finish. Retro-style synth introductory music plays up the nostalgia we have for these films, while also modernizing the subjects for mature, observant viewers.
Imagery, stills, footage, headlines, and an impressive list of commentators make up quality documentary material. Cheel’s ebb and flow of synced territories surprisingly adds new, fresh points of view with each move through the curses that haunt Hollywood. Cursed Films is not afraid to dabble in both emotion and speculation position viewers and commentators alike to question, “Were these films really cursed, as many believe, or just the victims of bad luck and bizarre circumstances?”
The list of Cursed Films commentators is one of the series’ major stand-out factors. Across the five episodes, you’ll hear and see commentary from: Lance Anderson, Hector Avalos, Bridget Baiss, Nate Bales, Vincent Bauhaus, Stefano Beninati, Michael Berryman, Linda Blair, Tony Burke, Sean Clark, Michael Correll, Douglas Cowan, Eileen Dietz, Richard Donner, Stephen Farber, Colin Geddes, Matt Gourley, Sarah Graff, Kane Hodder, Robert Hofler, Richard Holloman, Mitch Horowitz, Matthew Hutson, Lloyd Kaufman, E.A. Koetting, Barton Lane, Max MacDonald, Joseph Mazur, Matt Miller, Jeff Most, Mace Neufeld, Phil Nobile Jr., Craig Reardon, Clay Routledge, Richard Sawyer, Gary Sherman, Michael Shermer, Ryan Turek, and April Wolfe. The documentary’s factors of credibility and relevancy cast a broad net over the film community, especially within the horror genre corner. Ranging from beloved stars to super fans, each participant adds depth, knowledge, and heart to the discussed films and their consequential curses.
Artist Matt Ryan Tobin’s incredibly powerful poster art illuminates the spooky icons representing the underlying horrors of these classic films. While it may not be present in the series itself, the graphic is a precognitive piece of illustration that brings character and tone to Cursed Films from inception. Tobin’s talented visual highlighting the reels of classic horror history is a compilation of sheer terror that you can’t help but stare at it in wonder. Every detail from the bold, sharp font to the green-lit hues and canvas-style technique creates a strong source of film’s truest horrors. Poster art may not count in terms of a review factor, but it certainly should not be discounted as a means to draw in viewers. Harnessing the enigmatic energy of the evidence and questions that lay ahead, Tobin miraculously captures the spirit of each episode in one impressive portrait.
Given a sampling of episodes from the upcoming Cursed Films series, I was pleasantly surprised to revisit the conspiracies I thought I was familiar with donning a new set of eyes as well as become acquainted with new undiscovered allegations I could dissect. Being a fan of Richard Donner’s The Omen, I was shocked to learn that I knew so little about the evidence of dark situations and agents of evil lurking around production. The weird twists and turns that suspiciously evolve around the subject of Satan’s son bear remarkable accidents and fortuitous fates. What makes a documentary series like Cursed Films so special is that viewers may think that they know everything about a topic of choice, but thanks to a variety of expert testimonies and unearthed pieces of content, there is always something new to dig up.
No commentary on films supposedly cursed by supernatural powers at play would be complete without Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist. As one of the most significant and well-known cinema curses in history, this haunted house episode is bound to steal the show with the number of tragedies, coincidences, and lore. From untimely deaths to actual corpses, the subject of Poltergeist in Cursed Films delves into the science and philosophy behind our belief in the authenticity of film conspiracies. This segment is not only a fascinating analysis, but it is full of facts, fiction, and everything in between. Exploring both the facts and curiosities of events surrounding production of Poltergeist, Poltergeist II, and Poltergeist III is a treat for any kind of audience. A peek into aficionado Sean Clark’s horror collection and masterpiece of memorabilia is worth watching alone.
Every bite out of an episode, regardless of the observed film, fuels lingering doubt and interest making it a perfect companion for those who dig horror history, production, and, in some cases, cinematic collusion. Cheel and the compilation of experts go the extra mile to bring forward not only the specific entities that give these films the “cursed” title, but also the reasoning why bystanders believe in the mysteries behind these unusual bits of disaster and catastrophe. Tragic events and strange happenings are tastefully presented and analyzed, it’s hard not to question your own superstitions and beliefs. Following no agenda other than to display a brilliant combination of facts and loaded elucidation, Cheels’ series is a fluid, effective journey. Cursed Films is undoubtedly an enjoyable and intriguing lesson in lore.
The first episode of Cursed Films will premiere exclusively on Shudder April 2nd, 2020. Are you planning to stream the episodes of Jay Cheel’s Cursed Films? What do you think of Shudder’s original series? Which of these “cursed films” do you think is the most mysterious? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!