Shudder Presents: Cursed Films Episode 4 & 5 – The Crow & Twilight Zone: The Movie
Shudder’s new documentary series Cursed Films came to a conclusion this Thursday with two episodes surrounding movies that are notorious more for tragedy than for supernatural cursing. Those films are 1994’s The Crow and 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie. As he did with the Poltergeist episode, series creator Jay Cheel interviews people who were on set and worked with actors who died during production of the films. Their stories are harrowing and devastating and make the series a necessity for any horror film fan or cinephile in general. Here’s hoping for a season two.
Episode 4 – The Crow
Brandon Lee. There’s no sense pretending that isn’t the main crux of this episode. In late 1993 with only a few days of shooting left in production, Brandon Lee, star in the titular role and son of iconic martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, was shot and killed on set when a prop gun loaded with blanks fired. It was a horrible accident. The curse of The Crow started much earlier when an electric fire broke out injuring several early in production. But Lee’s death elevated The Crow’s curse to legendary status. After all, Lee’s father died mysteriously in 1973, and a scene in one of his films involved Lee being shot by an “empty” gun.
Cheel is best during this series during interviews in which he allows those there to tell their stories. He also reveals things that some fans may never know. Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) was cast as the “Skull Cowboy” and did early scenes with Lee. After the accident, his character was cut from the film. He speaks eloquently about what a great young man and actor Lee was and his anger comes out when discussing what he feels were cost-cutting measures on set that perpetuated the accident. As someone who grew up loving The Crow, and still has the soundtrack and VHS to this date, this episode holds a special place in my heart.
Episode 5 – Twilight Zone: The Movie
When you get Steven Spielberg after Jaws, Close Encounters, and Raiders of the Lost Ark and John Landis after Animal House coming together to make a horror anthology, you rejoice at the prospects. Unfortunately the results are a film marred by one of the most horrific on-set accidents in film history. On July 23rd, 1982, veteran actor Vic Morrow and two young children were killed when a helicopter crashed on set. It was Landis’ segment in the anthology film, and a Vietnam rescue sequence was planned. Landis, a veteran of the crazy 1970s where there were few rules on film sets, wanted bigger explosions and louder stunts. The result was a disaster that ended three lives and nearly derailed Landis’s career, and some say it should’ve.
Cheel does a phenomenal job getting to the nitty-gritty of stunt work in general. Kane Hodder, known to the horror community for his portrayals of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th franchise details, how no stunt is guaranteed to succeed and we get details about his infamous fire stunt gone wrong. Lloyd Kaufman, the head of the longest running indie film studio out there, Troma, talks (mostly in drag from his own set) about how even on his low budget horror films, safety is prioritized, even over quality of the film. Most devastating though are the interviews with Richard Sawyer, the Art Director on Landis’ segment. Between this interview, and Gary Sherman’s in the Poltergeist episode, you feel total loss and the true horror of the tragedies. I felt so horrible for Sawyer who struggled through tears. A budding Art Director and Production Designer in 1983, Sawyer hasn’t worked on a film according to IMDb in nearly 20 years.
As a gorehound and horror geek, Cursed Films was a fantastic little series. It was informative and did more than simply rehash the stories most horror fans already know. I really hope there is a season two and my only complaints were that the episodes were not longer.
All the episodes of Cursed Films are available on Shudder now. You can get a 7-day free trial and the best horror catalogue available is only $4.99 a month after that. Go to shudder.com to sign up!