Cursed Films

3 out of 5

Created by: Jay Cheel

covers season 1

It gets better.  I say this as a “trust me” warning for those, like me, who find the first two episodes of this mini-series – which has some vague mission statement around documenting the Whats and Whys of horror / horror-adjacent films which have been discussed as being ‘cursed’ – to be rather trashy.

The thing is, the five films covered here – The Exorcist, The Omen, Poltergeist, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie – don’t have too much to actually discuss regarding their relative “curses.”  For anyone truly new to the concepts (which would seem to be how Exorcist and Omen’s episodes, the first two, are structured – as more of a mass appeal tone), you can explain the events that make up the curses within moments: accidents on sets; tragic deaths.  You could cover the factual occurrences from all five episodes in a few minutes.  And so, to start, our half hour episodes are stretched out by the ridiculous and exploitative: let’s bring in “experts” – practitioners of black magic, for example – to talk about whether or not these curses actually exist!  Let’s try to actually curse a film!  Let’s talk to a practicing exorcist (not affiliated with any church, of course…) because something something that movie has exorcisms in it!  …Elsewhere, more, eh, traditionally informed people – critics, people involved with the film – are cut short in their takes to focus on this kind of showy nonsense.

Thankfully, there’s a strong shift in tone and uptick in content quality for the last three episodes, which suddenly seem to accept that you probably don’t need the hand waiving presentation for this stuff: more than likely, you’re watching this on Shudder, you’re at least a casual horror fan, and you have some awareness of these “curses;” or, if not, you don’t need to be talked down to in a simplified reality TV format.  The structure is cleaned up; we spend time talking through the realities around these occurrences and pretty much immediately acknowledging that there are no spooky events surrounding these things, but often just very unfortunate sequences of events that have led to some true tragedies.  These episodes feel respectful – whether they were big name stars involved in massive mishaps or crew members, we get a sense of the effect of such things beyond headlines; that the “curse” is how this stuff can weigh upon those who actually lived through it.

I don’t think this needs a second series, if that’s on the table; it’s mentioned that the era of “curses” is likely past, as the ability to cover things from pre-production to post through the online news cycle diminishes the ability for word-of-mouth legends to perpetuate as easily, although that, in itself, might be an interesting concept for a one-shot special followup or something.  As far as whether or not we needed this first series, I do think that, once it finds a responsible way to approach the information by its third episode, it does provide a good outlet for covering the sobering realities behind its discussed films.