For some people, horror films themselves are frightening enough. For others, the lore behind these terrifying classics is often just as compelling as the movies themselves, particularly when you get into the legends of scary movies that may also carry scary curses. That fascination is at the heart of Cursed Films, a new docuseries from horror streaming platform Shudder that promises to dig into the legends behind five of the most famous movie curses.
That journey begins this Thursday with the Cursed Films premiere, centering on The Exorcist, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive clip to get you ready for this dark tale of the possibly supernatural happenings behind the demonic classic. In the footage below, Exorcist star Linda Blair explains, with the help of some behind-the-scenes footage, the story of how a loose harness led to a grave real-life injury on the set of the film, which resulted in a horrifying performance that you can still see in the movie.
The Exorcist is the first of five horror classics that will be the subject of half-hour Cursed Films episodes in the coming week. April 9 will see the premiere of episodes revolving around Poltergeist and The Omen, while episodes devoted to The Crow and Twilight Zone: The Movie premiere April 16.
If you're a horror fan who's spent a lot of time researching the making of these films and their often grisly behind-the-scenes tales, you may think you know everything that Cursed Films is about to throw at you. After viewing screeners for two upcoming episodes, though, we can assure that's not the case. Creator Jay Cheel has infused these stories with a new sense of meaning and intrigue through both careful exploration of the curses themselves and interviews with experts ranging from directors and stars, to film critics and podcasters, to horror fans and even some real occult practitioners.
"There are a lot people practicing their crafts online and they are very open to discussing their work," Cheel tells SYFY WIRE of some of his expert interviewees. "I was lucky enough to find a group of occult practitioners that were not only willing to participate in the series, but were some of the nicest people I've worked with. It was an interesting experience."
Cheel, an acclaimed documentarian whose past films include Beauty Day and How to Build a Time Machine, says he was approached with the idea of Cursed Films by Shudder, and was able to use the concept to dig deeper into many of his own interests.
"They brought it to me and I pitched my take on the material, which used the cursed legends as an opportunity to explore our fascination with these stories and why horror films prime us for this brand of supernatural thinking," he says. "It was a perfect fit for me as I'm a huge horror fan and at the same time, conversations surrounding faith and belief systems fascinates me."
Cheel's ability to convey his personal fascination with systems of belief, as well as the personal investment of his interviewees, makes Cursed Films into an experience that can instantly morph from a fun story about the clown puppet in Poltergeist to a meditation on the nature of good and bad luck, or take a creepy tale from the set of The Omen and pivot into a discussion of magical energy and how it can perhaps be manipulated. Each episode plays like a deep dive both cinematically and philosophically, and makes us think about why we're so fascinated by horror stories in the first place.
"I think that the cursed legends attached to these films offers us a different form of escapism that extends beyond the boundaries of the cinema screen," Cheel offers. "It suggests that perhaps the stories told on film are not so far off from reality, and even though some of those ideas are horrific, they suggest that there's something out there that might possibly explain the randomness of life and loss."
Cursed Films premieres Thursday on Shudder, and if you're into a more in-depth experience, Cheel will also be hosting a Twitter live-watch of the first episode followed by The Exorcist beginning Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST under the hashtag #ShudderShutIn. Don't have Shudder? You can grab a 30-day free trial right now if you head over to their website and use the promo code SHUTIN.