As part of “Halfway to Halloween Month”, Shudder is offering a five-part documentary series about infamously cursed movie productions. Films that freaked people out so badly they were convinced of a supernatural influence. Properly titled Cursed Films, each episode dives into the history of one of five renowned horror films that have developed dark reputations over the years.

So far, only one episode is available, but it’s nothing like I expected. Most discussions about cursed films work to hype the fear rather than explain it. Similar to those alien shows on the Discovery Channel, they work hard at convincing people that films like The Crow and Poltergeist might actually be touched by evil. Because who wants to hear that it’s all a hoax? Ambiguous, demonic forces are much more interesting.

Cursed Films is nothing like that, and I love it for it. Episode 1 is The Exorcist. From 1973, The Exorcist is a film by William Friedkin that’s an adaptation of the novel by William Peter Blatty. The doc series does a marvelous job of analyzing the fear behind the film. Neatly stripping away the many rumors, religious arguments, and frightening speculations to get to the root, and in this case, the root is a marketing technique.

Why do people think The Exorcist is cursed?

In just 29 minutes, Cursed Films crams in everything we need to know about The Exorcist‘s “cursed” nature. Aside from the fact that it’s supposedly a true story, it all boils down to an ingenious marketing plan.

About a little girl named Regan (Linda Blair) who becomes possessed by a demon and can only be saved through an exorcism, the film is full of disturbing images that churned people’s stomachs and haunted their very subconscious. To put it bluntly, it freaked people out! Their reaction was fueled by rumors of people fainting and throwing up during showings and public warnings against pregnant women seeing the film. According to the press, people went insane after a single viewing and children got ill. Word quickly got around that the movie was cursed. However, this was all a publicity stunt to peak people’s interest.

The episode, however, does point out some compelling evidence of conveniently coincidental bad luck. There was definitely a plague of darkness that shadowed over the production. The set caught fire, several people involved unexpectedly died, and apparently, Friedkin was a brutal perfectionist that unintentionally injured some of the actors. Then there’s the infamous cameo of serial killer Paul Bateson in the hospital scene.


So far, Cursed Films is incredible. If there’s one single message I can get from the show it’s that movies are powerful. In the episode, we meet a real-life exorcist who serves as a demonstration for the film’s power. Through him, we see the way people’s concept of possession has changed since the release of The Exorcist. A single film that continues to influence people after nearly 50 years, becoming the source of knowledge for demonic possession. It’s quite actually disturbing.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
About the Author

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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