Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by Jay Cheel, Cursed Films is a new five-part documentary series taking a look at some of the most notoriously unlucky productions in all of horror movie history. While the premise will undeniably be intriguing for anyone who is interested in the horror genre, it doesn’t offer much in the way of new or revelatory information.
Each episode of the series explores a different movie that suffered from mysterious circumstances occurring during and after production, leading some of those involved to believe that the films were “cursed”. The validity of these “curses” has been debated, and the purpose of the series is to address this discussion.
The two episodes of the documentary that were screened for press centered around the films Poltergeist and The Omen. Both rank among the most iconic horror movies of all time, and fans will undeniably be familiar with all of the weird happenings associated with the films for which they would become notorious. As a result, much of the series’s information will already be known by its target audience.
The episode dealing with Poltergeist is particularly shallow, as it doesn’t offer much beyond a basic recap of the bizarre fates that befell the cast and crew. While the episode is a nice and respectful tribute to Heather O’Rourke, who passed away tragically at a young age, it doesn’t feature the perspective of anyone that audiences would really want to hear from (apart from Poltergeist III director Gary Sherman).
That said, the episode does feature a brief segment with interesting discussion of the psychological foundation of curses and how people use them as a means of justifying experiences that they can’t explain. Hopefully the rest of the series continues these interviews with expert psychologists that offer a scientific approach to the series’s concept.
On the other hand, the episode on The Omen explores a completely different aspect of curses — the occult side. This is probably the most unique and intriguing information that the documentary has to offer, as Cheel interviews black magicians that present their take on whether these events are supernatural or mere coincidence.
Cheel does a good job of incorporating footage from the movies that the episodes are exploring. Given the seeming lack of cooperation Cheel had from relevant parties (neither Steven Spielberg nor Tobe Hooper was interviewed for the Poltergeist episode), it is impressive that he was able to get access to the materials needed.
Although Cursed Films may not be the in-depth exploration of superstition that audiences will want, it is mostly entertaining nevertheless. With other episodes focusing on The Exorcist, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie, it will be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
Cursed Films debuts on Shudder on April 2, with new episodes on April 9 and April 16. Two out of five episodes reviewed.