The world is fucked right now. So instead of going out and getting sick just watch some TV. That’s what I did. My editor asked me if I had a subscription to horror streaming service, Shudder. I then remembered that I got it for Creepshow back in October, forgot about it, and kept paying for it without using it. Boy, am I smart! My editor then asked me if I had watched their new series, Cursed Films. While I had heard about the series, I had forgotten about it. But it’s an interesting idea. A documentary about the film’s that many people consider to be cursed. So I decided to give it a shot. Why the first episode isn’t about all the dead Superman actors is beyond me.
The first episode in this little docu series is on The Exorcist. A favorite for horror fans all over. The first time I saw the movie I was actually quite disappointed by it. For this little review I decided to watch the film again to give me some more context for the episode. With this recent viewing I actually grew very fond of the movie. I don’t just want to give a full review within this review, but it got me interested in what this episode might have to offer. I watched the episode and I have some mixed feelings about it.
Firstly, there is some really interesting information in here. There’s lots of info about one of the sets catching fire and the only room that didn’t burn was that of possessed Regan, how one of the extra roles belonged to that of a killer, and the deaths of certain crew members or their family members. Also the details about how Warner used all these incidents and the controversial content within the film to market it and even exaggerating the impact of the film by claiming it will make people sick and setting up the theaters to have ambulances waiting outside.
Where I have issues with the episode is where the episode decides to spend a good amount of its time. There is a point it decides to follow an actual exorcist and talks about the real life basis of the film.
I should actually mention that I don’t really believe in any sort of religion, so I don’t believe in any of the possessions or demons being talked about here. So I’m going to keep my criticisms around structure and stay away from belief as much as I can.
Anyway, at this change of focus it feels like it stifles the overall progression of the episodes. It felt like the overall purpose of the episode was to actually show that the production wasn’t cursed, Warner Bros. just wanted to use the idea to help promote the movie. Once we shift focus it feels like they’re just trying to find a way to fill out time for the episode. Even this portion of the film feels artificial because it focuses on multiple real life people being exercised. Because of this lack of focus, it feels really impersonal. While I do understand that The Exorcist is based around an actual exorcism, no part of this feels like it’s actually important to the “curse” of the film. I feel like this portion was added to make it feel like there was another supernatural factor behind the film, but nothing that physically happens in this portion directly relates to the production or the marketing of The Exorcist. It also doesn’t help that the most interesting part of making The Exorcist isn’t really anything that happened on the film’s set. What’s really interesting is how the marketing of making the film seemed taboo turned it into an icon. It’s even more upsetting that it felt like there was more ground to cover in this area. Why not go into the detail on the legacy that this left for other movies or how it helped cement the film as a classic? There was plenty of more ground to cover but it just didn’t do it.
The ending of this episode also left me very confused. When we actually return to the film a lot of the interviews indicate that no one still alive really thinks the film was cursed. One actor even said that she believed that people create their own evil, likely in reference to people believing in curses or possession (coming from the film, not me). Yet the way that it was edited seemed to want us to believe that there was a supernatural factor to making the movie. There is no moment where anyone involved in the film is asked if they thought if the film was cursed. As it stands I would assume that everybody (except the exorcist they interviewed) would’ve just said: “Shit happens,” in reference to all the tragedies that happened to those involved. But I’m not very satisfied because we never get a candid moment from any of the subjects on what they thought. If there was a moment like this I think it would’ve made the ending much more satisfying.
Ultimately, I wonder what this series wants to be. Does it want to be a series about troubled production or does it want to be about what is actual hauntings that took place on film sets? I think their intention is to just give you enough to make your own conclusion, which is fine, but it feels withholding to not really have a moment where we get the opinion of those actually involved.
I’m still glad I watched this, though. It got me to revisit and enjoy a movie that I probably wouldn’t have gone back to otherwise. I also got a lot of new information, I just feel like the info that I looked up after watching this episode was more interesting than the episode itself. I’m going to keep watching Cursed Films, I just can’t recommend that you should yet.