NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on April 1st, 2020. This was the first of several reviews regarding episodes of Cursed Films
Every fan of genre cinema has a favourite cursed films story, one that they would gleefully pull out at the drop of a hat to show how much they love certain films. Legendary cursed horror films like The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Omen, The Crow and Twilight Zone: The Movie have been sources of fascination for fans who want to talk about just why certain films seemed to be magnets for sorrow.
Well, here comes the horror streaming service Shudder who are releasing a new docuseries about cursed horror films. Specifically about the five horror films that I mentioned earlier, what a coincidence, I didn’t plan that at all.
Cursed Films is an interesting docuseries that decides that instead of just sensationalising old myths, it’s going to try and end them. By talking about them in such open emotional terms, it tries to remind the audience that the people who died were actually people who shouldn’t have their passing turned into campfire stories for the entertainment of the masses. While some parts of the episodes are a little disjointed, on the whole it still works and will make for a good easy binge session when it comes out.
For the purposes of review I had access to the episodes of Cursed Films on Poltergeist and The Omen, both due to premiere on Shudder on April 9th, a week after the series premieres with its The Exorcist episode (which I did not get to view). The series will conclude on the 15th with episodes on The Crow and Twilight Zone: The Movie (didn’t get to view either of them) so any information I give is based on the middle of the series.
Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.
Episodes of Cursed Films begin with a recitation of what the curses actually are, what happened on set that has led to the reputation of the films as being cursed. For Poltergeist this belief was caused the deaths of Heather O’Rourke and Dominique Dunne along with the infamous clown strangling scene where the effect malfunctioned and the clown actually almost strangled the kid. With The Omen, the curse allegedly involved things like Gregory Peck’s plane being hit by lightning or a horrific car accident that killed one of the effects people.
Cursed Films talks about each event and for a while it feels like we’re going to just wallow in the weirdness of all these strange events happening around a singular film. They even talk about what might’ve caused the curse, from use of actual skeletons to the devil thinking the film might be bad PR, pulling the audiences in with the sensationalism of a recitation of events… before the rug is pulled.
At the 2/3rds mark of both episodes of Cursed Films, suddenly the tone shifts and it’s not about the strange lurid details of the alleged curse. For the last third of each episode, they very bluntly dispel as many of the curse rumours as possible by either showing how dumb it is to believe certain things happen due to a curse or by pointing out how genuinely harmful it is to blame things like murders and congenital defects on cursed films.
After a ton of build-up, each episode is eager to burst the bubble of sensationalism and just let the audience remember that these are real people who went through real horrors and it’s not right to turn those real moments of pain into gossipy cursed film anecdotes.
The part that didn’t work for me was in the middle of both episodes where everything just stopped dead for about 5-10 minutes while we went off on location to talk about something else. In the Poltergeist episode, for example, we ended up going to meet a collector of film props, including the infamous clown doll, and see the exterior of the Poltergeist house.
There’s a similar idea happening in the middle of The Omen episode and both just feel pointless, like they’re there to give the audience a bit of a mental respite from the story we’ve just been told except with every episode only being 30 minutes long, there’s no need for almost a full third of it to be given over to this tangent.
This house is clean
The series itself (based on the 2 episodes I have seen) seems to be asking why we even need to label these films as cursed when we could just admit that some bad things happened during each one. Instead of lessening the reality of the horror by pinning it on some mysterious curse, we could just look at the sad reality and face it head-on.
Cursed Films is an interesting little series that will certainly be a good one to binge when it comes out. The first episode of the series releases on Shudder on April 2nd, with the remaining episodes coming out on April 9th and 16th. Mark it on your calendars – this is one worth checking out!