Shudder Presents: Cursed Films Episode 1 – The Exorcist
Horror fans have long shared stories of cursed productions on the set of some of the most famous and infamous horror films. It’s easy to shake many of these away as superstition or paranoia, but we are talking about the horror genre here, so is it too far out of the reach of our minds, that maybe… just maybe the films that scare us the most are cursed? That is the question being posed by Shudder, AMC’s horror streaming service, which unveiled today Cursed Film, its new 5-part series. The series covers Poltergeist (1982), The Omen (1976), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and The Crow (1994). Perhaps fittingly, though, the premiere episode deals with William Friedkin’s genre-defining classic from 1973, The Exorcist.
Most horror fans will rank The Exorcist near the top or at the top of their greatest/scariest horror films list. My dad recalled stories of seeing it in theaters as a 20-year old and having my uncle nearly pass out while people ran from their seats to throw up. But as crazy as the stories you may have heard about the theater experience are, behind the scenes it was even crazier.
The debut episode, written and directed by Jay Cheel, covers all sorts of on and off set horror associated with the film. For those living in the dark for the last 50 years, The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty’s book, is about a young girl possessed by a demonic entity. Actress Linda Blair, who famously portrayed afflicted young girl Regan MacNeil, was severely injured fracturing her lower spine in one possession sequence. The episode hints at Blair’s life post filming, having to hire bodyguards, but she didn’t want to delve too deep in her interview. Bad memories.
There were fires on set and multiple deaths of cast members and family of cast and crew. Eileen Dietz, who was Blair’s stand-in for the more violent scenes, is quoted as saying, “Who did we have to f*ck to get off this movie?” Meanwhile the PR behind the film were milking all the hysteria to drive ticket sales and The Exorcist became a box office and critical success.
The most amazing story deals with an extra in the hospital sequence who ended up confessing to murder years after production. Was it the work of the demon Pazuzu? Cheel also brings up the interesting relationship between horror and religion going as far back as 1926’s Faust from F.W. Murnau. At one point, one of the interviewees says, “Horror and religion are cultural siblings.” We even meet a real-life exorcist, Vincent Bauhaus, who performs exorcisms on screen and says kids can have psychological problems from watching horror. If that is the case, I am truly f’ed up!
Cursed Films continues next Thursday night, April 9th, with two episodes, Poltergeist and The Omen, followed by The Crow and Twilight Zone: The Movie on April 16th.
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