Over the last couple of years, Shudder has made a name for itself as the best place to stream original, classic and exclusive horror content. In 2019 their original documentary Horror Noire: The History of Black Horror scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and received tonnes of praise from critics and audiences alike. The desire for non-fictional horror content was clear.
Shudder’s next documentary was then announced – Cursed Films, a five-part series that explores famous horror films with mysterious myths and legends surrounding them. Each episode features bizarre stories from the cast and crew of some of the most famous horror films of all time.
The Exorcist, based on the novel of the same name, follows the mother of 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair) who has been possessed by a demon. With the help of two priests, she must find a way to save her daughter before it’s too late.
Horror fans alive in the 70s may remember that the release was surrounded by controversy and hysteria. Reports of audience members passing out and throwing up were all part of the marketing for this legendary horror that had people genuinely believing it was the work of Satan himself. This episode explores whether the film itself was evil, or whether something evil was just awoken by the telling of the story to the masses. It also features interviews with Linda Blair who discusses injuries she sustained during filming. Linda also talks about her experience of being a child star who so many truly believed had been possessed by the devil – including how grown adults would shout at her in the street and cross over to avoid her.
The Omen is the story of a young boy Damien who, unbeknownst to his mother, was replaced as a child by his Diplomat father Robert. However, unbeknownst to his father, the boy is the prophesied Antichrist. Strange and disturbing occurrences surround Damien – his nanny hangs herself publicly, animals react aggressively to him at the local zoo, and he has a violent reaction to being taken to church. Soon, Robert is in a fight for his life against the child with 666 branded on his head.
One of the most convincingly ‘cursed’ films in the series, The Omen episode details a number of unfortunate events that affected the life of lead Gregory Peck around the time the movie was filmed. There were also several accidents and even deaths that befell other members of the cast and crew in the following months. Producer Harvey Bernhard said “The devil was at work, and he didn’t want that film made” and reportedly started bringing a crucifix to set during filming.
The first tear-jerker of an episode in the Cursed Films series covers the infamous curse that was rumored to surround the production of 1982’s Poltergeist (And the subsequent sequels). Poltergeist is the story of the Freelings – a family whose house is haunted by a dangerous spirit. When their daughter Carol-Ann is kidnapped by the spirit, the Freelings hire a local medium to help them contact her and bring her back.
Real human skeletons were used as props during the film, which many people believe caused the untimely deaths of several members of the cast and crew, including lead star Heather O’Rourke who was just 11 years old when she died. Gary Sherman, Producer of the third installment in the franchise, shares particularly moving memories of his time working with Heather, as well as the difficulty he faced in finishing the film without her.
The Crow stars Brandon Lee, martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s son, as Eric Draven – a man who is brutally murdered but comes back to life to avenge his own death and the death of his fiancée.
After Bruce’s death in 1973, rumors swirled about the cause being an intentional hit by a Chinese crime syndicate or, more widely believed – a curse upon his family. When Brandon was then killed in a tragic on-set accident during the filming of The Crow, these rumors were once again given new life. Cast and crew share heart-warming stories about Brandon, and discuss the strange similarities between the way he died and scenes pulled from one of Bruce’s earlier films.
The 1983 adaptation of the tv show Twilight Zone comprised 4 segments by different directors. This episode focuses on the shocking, disturbing, and probably least well-known cursed film in the form of John Landis’ segment. The segment follows a racist man bitter over a failed promotion. As he sits in a bar angrily blaming America’s problems on people of color and ethnoreligious people, he is transported into several scenarios – Nazi-occupied France as a Jewish man during WWII, rural Alabama as a man of color facing the Ku Klux Klansmen and finally the Vietnam War.
The cast and crew in this episode share their emotional accounts of how questionable decisions lead to a horrific accident. What happened that fateful day, and the memory of the incident, has impacted their lives and careers forever onwards.