GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
CURSED FILMS- SERIES ONE ***
Directed by Jay Cheel.
Documentary Series, United States, 150 minutes, cert 15.
Released on Blu-ray and digital from Acorn Media International on the 27th February 2023. RRP £19.99.
Are the various tragedies and accidents that befell the unfortunate cast and crew of five classic horror films (POLTERGEIST, THE OMEN, THE EXORCIST, THE CROW, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE) really the result of curses or simply the consequences of unprofessionalism, and pure bad luck, mixed with a dose of spooky coincidence? Well, the slick and engaging Shudder Original documentary series CURSED FILMS examines the facts and fictions behind these allegedly cursed classics and now, for the first time, series one is available to purchase on Blu-ray from Acorn Media International.
Each episode, running between 25 and 30 minutes, focuses on a different movie. After presenting the legends associated with each so-called curse, the episode then switches to examining the more rational counter arguments as to what was really going on. It’s all very even handed and never gets too sensationalist by fully indulging in the ridiculous theories. After presenting interviews with people who believe in witchcraft and exorcisms there are then insights from experts talking about the science of why people believe in coincidences and magical thinking.
Throughout the series there are contributions, sometimes insightful and sometimes amusing, provided by host of recognisable talking heads from the horror community and beyond including writers and podcasters (April Wolfe, Phil Nobile Jr. and Matt Gourley) as well as those involved in the production of the films discussed such as Linda Blair, THE OMEN’s Richard Donner and POLTERGEIST III director Gary Sherman in addition to plenty of other assorted producers, actors and crew. Also, in case that wasn’t enough for you, there’s also an interview with a witch and another with an alleged exorcist who looks a bit like Stanley Tucci and makes a woman cough up a bit of demonic phlegm on screen (so something for everyone).
There are plenty of high-quality movie clips sprinkled through the series as well as production archive footage. It’s snappily edited, fast paced and engaging. However, most of the information discussed is readily available to movie fans who trawl the IMDB trivia section and, although presented here in a well-produced and easily digestible format, it overall doesn’t shed much new light that those interested in these movies wouldn’t have already been aware of.
By having access to those involved in the productions it gives this series more legitimacy and clout. When you see people such as the producer of THE CROW, and the production designer on TWILIGHT ZONE, getting genuinely emotional about the lives that were lost it prevents this documentary from feeling too crass and exploitative as it makes it abundantly clear that real people lost their lives and that this had a lasting effect on the survivors.
This does lead me to a slight qualm that I had about the series. Tonally it doesn’t always sit quite right. At times it wants to be a fun and spooky pop culture documentary touching on silly and patently ridiculous myths, and then at other times it is forced to be sombre and acknowledge real tragedies, especially so in the TWILIGHT ZONE episode. Also, the decision to show the actual accident footage in that episode was a choice I felt uncomfortable with, and I think it would have been more tasteful to leave it out.
This Blu-ray release contains director commentaries for each episode, adding additional context and insight, but otherwise there are no extras and so there’s no real incentive to purchase this if you already subscribe to Shudder and have access to the series on there.
Overall, this series isn’t anything ground-breaking but it’s a solidly well made and informative treat for horror film fans albeit one that makes the occasional questionable tonal choice. It’s definitely worth a watch for those who are curious, but it falls slightly short of being quite as good as it perhaps could have been.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans