Every few years, it happens. A film released is linked to a specific disaster and, in severe cases, to several disasters. They can occur on or off the set, to those involved in making the film, and in exceptional circumstances, even to those watching it. A movie like this can quickly get the definition of “cursed.” Indeed, there have been quite a few such films over the years: suffice it to mention “The Wizard of Oz” for its many tragedies, “The Dark Knight,” “The Crow,” and others.
When this happens in a horror film, the result is even more chilling – some would say ironic. In some of these movies, the plot came out of the screen and came true in reality. So is it a “curse,” a coincidence, or “just” stories that have been warped or blurred over the years to fit the narrative? You are welcome to read this review of 5 cursed horror movies and decide for yourself.
Which Cursed Horror Movies Are There?
“Poltergeist” is a term from the worlds of parapsychology or folklore that expresses some evil entity – for example, a ghost or a demon – that causes physical disturbances: you know, like television that flickers and makes child say “they’re here,” trees that attack poor children, and so on. The plot of this famous film trilogy may have reached the world of reality. Some even claim a real curse in the film, perhaps because of that scene in the pool where they used real skeletons.
Even if you don’t believe in buzzwords like Poltergeist Curse or even cursed movies in general, it’s hard to remain indifferent to the list of disasters associated with this excellent 1982 film, considered one of the greatest classics in the world of horror. The Poltergeist curse starts while filming the first film, in the scene of one of the children being suffocated by the monstrous clown (which, as you know, is one of the most famous dolls in the horror world).
According to reports from the set, the clown “stepped into the role” too much in this famous scene and choked the unfortunate boy for real. The people on the set thought the boy was acting and cheered him on, but the producer – named Steven Spielberg – apparently noticed something was wrong, approached the boy, shouted “cut,” and possibly saved his life.
From there, the disasters just started, and this time there was no one to stop them. Here are some Poltergeist curse facts which are quite bizarre. Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister Dana, was murdered shortly. Her boyfriend, John Sweeney, came to her house after discovering she would break up with him. After an argument developed between them, he strangled her. The unfortunate Dunn, who was supposed to celebrate her 23rd birthday a few days later, went into a five-day coma. Then, when they realized there was no more hope, she was disconnected from the devices.
After those involved in the making of the film became concerned following these cases, and as a reminder of the scene of the real skeletons from the first film, one of the actors – Will Sampson, who played the Indian who came to the family’s aid in the movie – decided to perform an exorcism on the set of the sequel, “Poltergeist 2: The Other Side” from -1986. It didn’t help. As the shooting of the sequel ended, two bodies joined the number: the first was that of the film actor, theater actor, and artist Julian Beck, who played the evil spirit of preacher Kane in the film. Beck died of stomach cancer in September 1985, at 60, after being diagnosed two years earlier. Sampson himself died of a complication of kidney surgery in 1987, aged only 53.
Even if such deaths can seem natural, it is difficult to remain indifferent to the story of Heather O’Rourke poltergeist curse. Heather O’Rourke played the younger daughter, Carol Ann, who took part in all three trilogy films and is mainly associated with THAT famous TV scene. In February 1988, O’Rourke complained to her mother that she was not feeling well. She was taken to the hospital with suspected flu, but it quickly became clear that the situation was much more complex.
O’Rourke suffered from an intestinal malformation and died the next day from a complication of the disease, being only 12 years old, towards the end of filming the third film. The film’s director, Gary Sherman, was devastated by the death of the young actress. He did not want to continue shooting the film, but due to pressure from the studios, he agreed, having no choice. The last scene was rewritten, and a substitute actress and even a doll were used in practice.
The list of disasters, or near disasters, does not end here. Richard Lawson, who played the small role of Dr. Ryan in the first film, was saved from a light plane crash. As a result of the collision, 27 out of 51 passengers died. In 1992, Lou Freeman, who played another small role, was murdered at his doorstep, in an ax attack, by a released prisoner who was drunk.
The Exorcist (1973)
William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” is considered by many to be the scariest movie of all time. However, many say it’s one of the cursed horror movies out there. It seems the movie’s boundaries of horror between the film and reality have blurred. The result is what is known as the Exorcist curse and it is just as strange, so you can see it in every list of cursed horror movies.
During the film’s shooting and in the following months, about ten people close to the production team died. The Exorcist curse on set begins with the decorated Swedish actor Max von Sydow, who played the memorable role of Father Lankester Merrin, who performed the exorcism on the Regan (Linda Blair). A few hours after filming began, he received a message that his brother had passed away. During filming, Linda Blair’s grandfather also died. The house of Jason Miller (who plays the priest Damian Karas) died at an intersection, and the baby of one of the photographers died while sleeping.
The production got complicated partly due to a fire on the set that almost destroyed it, except for Regan’s room. The budget was triple compared to the initial plan, and the filming lasted about nine months. It’s a period where a lot can go wrong, especially in a movie that may very well be “cursed.”
Unfortunately, death did not spare the actors either. Jack McCrogren played Bark Jennings – the director for whose film Chris, aka Regan’s mother (played brilliantly by Ellen Burstyn), works. About a week after filming his death scene in the movie, he died at 54 due to complications from the flu. Actress Vasiliki Maliaros also passed away during filming, although you can find a more “logical” explanation for this – she was 90 years old when she died.
According to The Exorcist curse rumors, it may have some mental influence. According to the stories, some of the people involved in the production of the film went crazy, no less: from the director’s secretary, who was diagnosed with a mental disorder during filming, to the director’s assistant, who got into a psychiatric hospital after allegedly going crazy during one of the exorcism scenes. Several unusual events happened on the set, such as double exposure (optical distortion) in one of Regan’s photographs.
Today, now and then, we hear about movies making viewers faint, vomit, and have panic attacks. These descriptions are often exaggerated or distorted to create an unjustified buzz around the film (did someone say Netflix’s “Veronica”?). In the case of “The Exorcist,” there may be a little more truth to these reports. Along with numerous reports of vomiting, fainting, and panic attacks during the screening of “The Exorcist,” there was a case of lightning striking a cross in Rome during the film’s premiere screening in the Italian capital.
Here is a short video that shows the true story behind the Exorcist curse, apparently or not:
The Omen (1976)
“The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, presents the story of an American diplomat in Rome who replaces his dead baby with a live one – if you can call Damien that, who quickly becomes apparent that he is connected to the devil itself. The myths of the devil, including the number 666 associated with him, are also expected to appear in the reality of the people of the film, creating The Omen Curse.
One of the most memorable scenes in this masterpiece (well, well. And also in the rather unnecessary American remake from 2006) is the tragic death of the priest, Father Brennan. After he tries to escape a storm, lightning strikes a large, sharp stand on the church’s roof. The same pole falls straight on the priest’s chest, killing him. Even in reality, lightning threatened the crew members.
They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but in the case of the film crew, it almost struck four different people associated with the production four times – thankfully, without injury. The plane on which the actor Gregory Peck flew to London was struck by lightning, as were the planes of the film producer and screenwriter. Producer Harvey Bernhard was close to death when lightning missed him by a few meters during the filming in Rome.
In what may have been an attempt by malicious forces (Damien?) to prevent the release of the film, quite a few strange cases were published around “The Omen” that are more reminiscent of the “Final Destination” films. On the first day of filming, some of the camera crew were injured in a car accident. Sure, accidents happen, and all the people involved survive. Is it enough to call this movie an example of cursed horror movies? Indeed not, but we are just starting.
A more unusual case occurred before filming one of the action scenes. Gregory Peck would arrive on the set in a private plane for filming. During one of the filming days, there was a delay, which meant inviting Peck was no longer necessary. He and the crew canceled the flight at the last minute, only to discover quickly that the same plane had struck birds and crashed. The entire team of the aircraft was found dead, and what is most strange: the plane crashed on top of a car driving simultaneously on the nearby road. In the car were the pilot’s wife and two children. They didn’t survive.
It doesn’t end here. Mike Neufeld, the film producer who survived the lightning strike on his plane, was going to make a reservation for lunch at the restaurant – he didn’t make it because shortly after, there was an attack in the same restaurant. A bombing also occurred at the hotel where the film director, Richard Donner, was staying.
Even the animals that took part in the production were not satisfied, some would say because of The Omen curse. The rottweiler dogs from the movie got out of control, attacked their trainers, and seriously injured one of the special effects men. In one scene, Damien and his family visit a wildlife park, only to discover the animals are terrified by him. The baboons in the safari driving scene craft were aggressive and almost genuinely threatened the cast, so their horrified reactions may be authentic. The zookeeper, who helped in the scene with the baboons, was attacked about two weeks later by lions (or, in some versions, tigers) and killed.
One day, about a year after shooting the film, the film’s special effects designer John Richardson was driving in Holland with his assistant, Liz Moore. The two were involved in a fatal car accident. While Richardson escaped with only minor injuries, the unfortunate assistant was killed when a tire that exploded into their car hit him in the head. The first thing that is chilling here is that Richardson himself was responsible for one of the memorable scenes in the film, in which a journalist who helps the main character to investigate the case is killed similarly: a derailing vehicle near him causes a sheet of glass to fly in his direction and take his head off.
Equally interesting is that the accident occurred on Friday, the 13th of August 1976, near where a sign indicates a distance of 66.6 kilometers from a small Dutch town called “Omenn.”
Even the documentary showing the same curse, and even the 2006 remake, had some strange events. But this is already a topic for a review in itself…
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
French-Polish director Roman Polanski is considered one of the most reviled figures in the film industry, and it’s not hard to understand why. In 1977, he was convicted of the rape of a 13-year-old girl. Shortly before his sentencing, he fled the United States and has never returned. Since then, he has lived between countries that maintain extradition agreements with the United States, which did not prevent him from continuing to make films and even winning an Oscar in 2002 for “The Pianist.”
What is essential to know about Polanski, in the present context, is the curse that may be surrounding his masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby. The film, as you remember, is about a pregnant woman (Mia Farrow, who should have maybe won an Oscar) who struggles with the attempt of cult members to sacrifice her intended baby to Satan. Somewhat ironically and very tragically, about one year after the film’s release, Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate, was murdered by four members of Charles Manson’s gang. Tate, who was eight months pregnant, was stabbed 16 times, including in the stomach. The intended mother and the fetus did not survive one of the murders that shocked the United States.
To the mix of coincidences, we can also add John Lennon, a Beatles member linked to Polanski and Manson. The members of Manson’s cult named the series of murders they carried out after one of the Beatles’ songs (“Helter Skelter,” or in slang, “disorder”), which they claimed inspired them to murder “white” people. Lennon’s murder in 1980, by Mark David Chapman, was carried out on his doorstep in the Dakota apartment building in New York. The movie “Rosemary’s Baby” was filmed in the same building.
In this case, and like in other cursed movies, some crew members were also vulnerable – even if significantly less than in the other cursed horror films we reviewed here. A few months after the film’s filming ended, the composer Kristof Komdem fell off a cliff in Los Angeles and suffered a severe systemic injury, including a blood clot in the brain. He went into a coma and finally died, reminiscent of the fate of Hatch, a friend of Rosemary’s, in the film’s plot.
At the same time, the film’s producer, William Castell, was hospitalized in the same hospital due to kidney stones. He survived the hospitalization, but in his later published autobiography, he wrote during the operation that, he suffered hallucinations, which included scenes from the film. During one of the hallucinations, he shouted: “Rosemary, for God’s sake, put the knife down!”.
Studio 666 (2022)
The latest addition to our list of real cursed horror movies – Maybe – is “Studio 666”, the 2022 rock horror comedy starring the Foo Fighters, fronted by Dave Grohl. Trivia lovers will already recognize the first tragic case linked to this film, the suicide of Nirvana’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain, in April 1994 (to this day, there are theories – not too well founded – that it was a murder and not a suicide). Dave Grohl was Nirvana’s drummer at the time. It disbanded after her death, Grohl founded the “Foo Fighters” and, after about three years, added drummer Taylor Hawkins, who is considered one of the most identified figures with the band.
“Studio 666”, which deals with recording the Foo Fighters’ tenth album, was filmed in the estate where the band recorded the album. In the film, Grohl arrives in the mansion’s basement, loaded with satanic objects, and plays a demo tape. From that moment, he is possessed by the evil spirit of the one who was the lead singer of the heavy metal band who recorded an album in the same mansion. Grohl starts murdering the band members one by one. At one point, he implores Hawkins to finish the long song. After the mission is completed, Grohl decapitates Hawkins… with cymbals.
Near the film’s release, this scene took on a tragic meaning. During the Foo Fighters’ tour in South America, the body of Taylor Hawkins was found in the hotel room where the band members were staying in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. In the examination of the body, traces of ten different types of drugs were discovered in his body. In an article published soon after, it was claimed that Hawkins was under enormous mental stress during the band’s intense touring tours, which included about 50-60 three-hour shows each year, and allegedly asked Grohl to stop. Although these reports have been denied, it is impossible not to ignore the similarity between the film and reality.
Currently, the Foo Fighters continue to perform, even without Hawkins. The band held two large tribute shows dedicated to Hawkins’ life and work in London and Los Angeles. Family members, his close friends, and his musical heroes attended the shows, among them Paul McCartney, Elton John, Liam Gallagher from “Oasis,” Miley Cyrus, and even Hawkins’ son, who came up to drum in his place in a moving performance of the song My Hero (“There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes”). When the band played the Foo Fighters’ hit, “Times Like These,” whose chorus includes the line “Its times like these you learn to live again,” Grohl struggled to keep singing.
You see, the thing in cursed horror movies is that the myth keeps on growing from year to year, as strange things appear time after time. Let’s hope that the ending of the film, in which the haunted Grohl appears alone after the rest of the band did not survive, will not make it into reality.