The Shudder Original ‘Cursed Films’ is now streaming and it is coming to DVD on FILL IN THE DATE. To celebrate the release we wanted to revisit some of these films that are considered the most cursed films in Hollywood. The documentary series takes a look at five films and most of the time gives first hand accounts of what went wrong and the horror stories that live beyond the set. I had a tough time ranking which film felt the most “cursed” because they all have their own set of issues. Lets dive in to our list of which film grabs the number one spot.
CURSED FILMS will be available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray August 18, 2020.
5: Twlight Zone: The Movie
Out of all the films in the documentary this was the one I knew the least about – both the film itself (which was never released) and the backstory regarding the tragedy that occurred on the set.
This could easily have landed at number one because of the gut punch it provides while watching it but I kept it at number five because it does not seem like a film that was “cursed.” It seems like a film that dealt with negligence on the set from the producers, and most noticeably, director, John Landis. While all of these films deal with deaths surrounding the cast and crew almost none of them (aside from The Crow) involve such a horrific accident that could and should have been avoided if the proper precautions were taken. All of which are touched upon in the episode.
4: The Crow
We can all agree the entertainment world lost Brandon Lee to soon. This episode goes into great detail around the death of Brandon Lee on the set of ‘The Crow.’ The cult classic film is probably known more for this accident than the film itself which is a real shame. The irony surrounding Brandon Lee’s death is that his career was on the rise and he was incredibly proud of the work he had done on the film. In fact ‘The Crow’ was almost done filming when the unthinkable happened. In a scene where Lee was suppose to come into the room he was going to be shot with a blank from a gun. The problem with this is that their was debris from a previous blank left in the gun which dislodged when the gun was fired that day. Essentially shooting a bullet at Lee and killing him.
The tragedy linked to Lee’s death is that of his father’s last film, ‘The Game of Death’ are bizarre to say the least. The parallel’s between the two situations are eerie but coincidental that add fueling another layer of the curse. In one of the final scenes of ‘The Game of Death’ Bruce Lee’s character is shooting a film and is shot by someone on set. Very meta all these years later. This was a completely new piece of information to me that was shocking.
Rest in Peace Brandon Lee.
‘The Poltergiest’ has several unfortunate chain of events surrounding it and many point at the fact their used real skeleton’s in the famous pool scene in the film. The only issue with that is many other films in Hollywood have used actual skeletons in their productions as well. Usually because it was cheaper to do so. But we like to find something to tie back the unfortunate events that take places during these films to call them “cursed.”
They may very well be, but the deaths of the two female girls in the film seem far from cursed and much more sad stories.
Actress Dominique Dunne, who played Dana Freeling in the film, was in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend that took things to far. After coming to set with bruises the cast and crew knew something wasn’t quite right. On October 30, 1982, Dunne was strangled by her ex-boyfriend in the driveway of her West Hollywood home. She died on November 4 at the age of 22 having never regained consciousness.
Her co-star Heather O’Rourke plays one of the most fantastic children horror characters of all-time, Carol Anne. Uttering the line “They’re heeeeerrre” sets things off. Drew Barrymore was considered for this part but was passed over for O’Rourke, but it was this audition that landed her the role in E.T. She was beloved by her co-stars and felt angelic on screen amidst such evil presences. Sadly, Heather passed away unexpectedly on February 1, 1988 of intestinal stenosis at the age of 12. They were forced to re-shoot some of the films last scenes with a stand-in for O’Rourke. Something the entire crew struggled with.
Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke are buried in the same cemetery: Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
This paranormal films relies on no blood, graphic violence or killings in the 80’s era when it was possible the most celebrated. It leaned on a blend of digital and practical effects to feed on our fear and for that it will always be celebrated. But the stigma of the death that takes place off screen might be the most tragic of all.
2: The Exorcist
Coming in at number two on our list is, ‘The Exorcist.’ Any time you have curses and demons you are stirring the pot for something wicked to happen. Such is the case with ‘The Exorcist.’ I had considered putting this film as the number one cursed of all-time but the one thing that held me back is much of the hype around the film was fueled by a PR machine and a studio the knew fear and mass hysteria would help sell what was already truly frightening film.
Audiences lined up to see ‘The Exorcist’ and it delivered an experience that only helped the hype machine. Some people passed out and even vomited watching the film. It was creating buzz in theaters and the studio loved it. They feed the hysteria by having ambulances standing by outside theaters. So before we even dive into the terrible things linked to the film you have to consider ‘The Exorcist’ had an urban legend quality building around it during the release and all these years later. It was even banned in parts of the UK. That’s not to say there was not a fair share of bad things that took place during filming.
Due to William Friedkin wild west way of filmmaking, which happened a lot back then, he was pushing things to the limits without many people stepping in to stop it. This including pushing actors to the brink which resulted in several injuries including lifelong problems that would be felt by Linda Blair (Regan) and Ellen Burstyn who played Regan’s mother. Several scenes show Linda Blair and her stunt double being slammed violently in bed which they were strapped to by a harness. A few takes got a little to rough resulting in injuries to Blair which were the takes used in the final cut of the film. The crew thought Blair was just acting when she was whimpering and crying but she was in actual physical pain.
On top of these injuries there was also a fire that burned much of the set down, except, wait for it, Regan’s room. Which begs the question why? Did the devil send a message and spare this room and not the rest of the set? Perhaps.
The real gruesome thing from ‘The Exorcist’ happened tangentially from the film itself. During a scene when Regan is getting an MRI and tests run on her Friedkin used an actual doctor and his staff to assist with the scene. They appear in the movie. One problem, a man who played a nurse in the film killed a reporter before ‘The Exorcist’ was released. Even more strange is he was fairly quick to confess and they never truly found out why he committed the crime.
With all the issues that surround the film itself, it remains the scariest film on this list adding to the lore and “curse.”
1: The Omen
That brings us to ‘The Omen.’ Much like ‘The Exorcist’ it deals with a demonic story line involving a child and from the beginning that opens it up for a creepy discussion that can be fueled with accidents and near death experiences that happened to the cast and crew.
‘The Omen’ wanted to replicate the success of ‘The Exorcist’ when it opened production in London. If they followed the formula they could have a blockbuster on their hands as well. But instead the film followed the cursed playbook of ‘The Exorcist.’
‘The Omen’s’ creator Robert Munger warned producer Harvey Bernhard that if the film was made it would cursed. He was right.
Actor Gregory Peck had a scene with an attack dog and the stuntman that stepped in for him, while wearing protective clothing, was still biten and the trainers could not get the dogs to stop. Another animal trainer later died after filming a scene where Baboons attack Damien.
Gregory Peck’s luck almost got worse when he was riding a plane that was struck by lightening. This didn’t happen just once but three times to cast or crew working on the film. What are the odds!? No deaths occurred from these strikes but it is still pretty undeniable that something like this taking place could not be just a coincidence.
Between the lightening strikes the IRA bombings took place in a London restaurant where the producer was set to have dinner. They avoided disaster and probably death by not going that night. A near death experience.
The most disturbing occurrence that happened to any of the cast or crew that worked on ‘The Omen’ was to special effects designer John Richardson. There is a scene in film that features a decapitation. Unfortunately life would imitate art when John and his wife were in a freak car accident and a tire flew through the window decapitating his wife. John was knocked unconscious and when he came to he told officials he saw a sign on the side of the road saying the town of Ommen was 66.6 kilometers away. Unbelievably creepy and sad.
There you have it. Our list of most “Cursed Films” from top to bottom. Do you agree with our rankings? We want to hear which film you consider to the most cursed. Sound off in the comments or on social.
‘Cursed Films’ will be available on Digital HD, DVD & Blu-ray August 18, 2020 from RJLE films and Shudder.