Over on Soda and Telepaths, I recently had the opportunity to write about 2 episodes of the series Cursed Films, the episodes in question being about the movies Poltergeist and The Omen. I suggest you go over there and read it because in that I talked about the series as a whole and my hopes for it (also because it’ll make me look really good if people go there because of me… I can be a selfish promo whore occasionally). One thing I did lament about was that I wasn’t going to get to see the rest of the series because Shudder only streams in America and I had no chance to see the rest of it. Well, apparently Shudder are also big promo whores because they sent me another screener for the first episode of the series and my belief has always been that if you’re going to send me screeners then I’m going to watch and review them. Heck, I have 6 more films in my emails that sent me screeners that I will be getting to over the coming weeks, I’ve just been slow because of *gestures to the state of the world right now*
The Exorcist episode of Cursed Films is easily the best out of the three I’ve seen so far, possibly helped by the fact that The Exorcist is one of the best films in the genre and really lends itself well to any kind of documentary. Here they don’t even really need to talk about the actual alleged curses of the film because The Exorcist is so well known in part because of the publicity surrounding its cursed nature. They touch, lightly, on things like the infamous fire that only left Regan’s room standing or the deaths of several members of the crew before delving into three major elements. The murderer who was actually a part of the cast, the injuries sustained by the cast members and the actual idea of exorcism itself.
The information about the murderer is probably the most fascinating bit because it’s probably one of the least well known. With only a half-hour for the episode, the story of this murder only gets a few minutes but it’s fascinating to hear about and they don’t really sensationalise it. They don’t have long to go into detail on it but they also don’t need to, it’s there to show some more weird things that happened around this film. It’s also got some great little editing choices that made me smile.
The smile went away talking about the injuries to the cast and while I’m sure the director didn’t want anyone to be actually injured, the way his actions are described doesn’t paint him in the best light. It makes it very clear though that these weren’t actual curses but accidents, sometimes brought on by a director determined to get a shot (The image of Ellen Burstyn slamming into the ground after she’s slapped? That’s the one where she got injured and they used that take) and it’s helpful to put that curse rumour to bed.
Finally, when they detour and focus on an actual exorcist, this is the first time a detour on this series actually works for me. I mentioned in my review of the second and third episodes (Due out April 9th) that the detours that take up a full third of each episode felt like they were meaningless filler that added nothing but this time it actually presents us with a real-world counterpart. We get to see an actual exorcist doing actual exorcisms to actual people and it plays it dead seriously… until, as this series is prone to do, it pulls the rug out in the last few minutes and reveals the man behind the curtain. I choose not to spoil it, but you’re going to go out hating that exorcist.
There’s a good reason why this is the pilot episode for this series, it’s genuinely the best of the three they’ve supplied reviewers with and it’s the one that sets a perfect tone. You get a big reminder that a lot of this ‘Curse’ talk is really just PR for film companies who would love nothing more than to have you talk about their films in hushed tones to your friends. If you have access to Shudder, this is one to put on the watchlist to catch up with. If they end up sending me review copies of the last two episodes (The Crow and The Twilight Zone: The Movie) I’ll happily talk about them too. For now, this is a really great series that I hope they continue with in the future. Maybe talk about the curse that brought the movie Contagion to life, that’d be a fun curse to investigate.