Cursed Films is a series that recently premiered its debut episode on Shudder. The show highlights the hexed histories of some horror classics. The horror genre manifests occult-oriented oddities by its’ very nature and, at times, for its’ own benefit. As pointed out in the first episode, these tactics date back to Alfred Hitchcock.The Exorcist marketed many of the rumors surrounding its production in order to build a certain mystique around it’s release. And it worked. However, regardless of your spiritual stance, there are strange, horrific, and true threads that bind these stories. Cursed Films excels at distilling the mythologies of these flicks from the real tragedies that occurred.
Believers and practitioners fret not. I had a chance to check out the first three episodes and can say that Shudder is not here to burn you at the stake or tell you that you’re silly. In fact, the series opens with Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation author Mitch Horowitz. The point of the show is not to single out the superstitious, but to provide clarity with commentary from those involved. Outside of the campy “ritual” in The Omen episode, the magical-minded are fairly represented throughout Cursed Films.
We’ve all the heard the rumors. The stages catching fire during the filming of The Exorcist and a priest being summoned to bless the set. As stated, these stories were magnified to increase the allure. However, the death of crew and family members associated with the production are true. In episode one of Cursed Films, actress Linda Blair recounts how her lower spine was fractured due to an equipment malfunction. Ellen Burystyn also suffered an injury that made it on screen. Moreso than the mayhem mainly conjured by the marketing team, it was the torment of portraying the possessed Regan that haunted Linda Blair long after The Exorcist. Blair would not comment when asked to elaborate on reports of being assigned bodyguards in those times. No one can blame her for not wanting to revisit those memories.
Similarily, Poltergeist has it’s own macabre mythos. From the creepy clown that chokes children to the real skeletons taking a swim in the pool, these were all horror urban legends told on the playground. The untimely deaths of young actresses Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunne added a serious and eerie tone to the legacy of the Poltergeist curse. True to its’ cause, Cursed Films separates tale from cold, hard facts. Craig Reardon, a make-up artist on the set, gives everyone a free education on the use of real skeletons throughout the history of filmmaking. It was simply a cheaper method and not exactly uncommon.
Reardon also points out that to blame the use of these props for the tragedic death of two young girls is an insult to their memory. Dunne was killed by her boyfriend and O’Rourke passed due to an undiagonised medical condition. I, like Reardon, feel it is in bad taste to demean their deaths with this campy, cultish association.
The Omen is a necessary, yet curious inclusion. While it certainly meets all the criteria necessary for a cursed fiilm and possesses its fair share of tragedy, most of the weird occurances regarding The Omen were beneficial. Lightning struck the plane of Gregory Peck, yet he survived. Consequently, he canceled a flight that would crash. Strange occurances, sure. But not really cursed. Many of the crew claim the contrary, that the production was blessed.
There are still more episodes of Cursed Films yet to come and I couldn’t be more excited to see what Shudder has in store.
WICKED RATING: 7/10