After the success of the first series, Shudder has once again commissioned a series of documentaries exploring the hidden underworlds of some of our favourite films. The first series (already available to watch) focused on the usual examples, The Exorcist, Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Omen, Poltergeist and The Crow. Six episodes of satanic interference, native American burial grounds and accidental deaths.

As of yet, only two films for the second series have been revealed. The Wizard of Oz and Rosemary’s Baby.

The Wizard of Oz may seem a surprising choice given its reverence. With the focus of previous episodes generally being on cult classics and horror, angled squarely at Shudder subscribers for sure. It’s an entertaining watch though. It’s possible that most film fans will know the myths surrounding the production, the hanging munchkin in the background of the yellow brick road in particular. The most compelling aspect of this is the fans who believe it, chosen to represent a particular breed of paranoia. Possibly aided by illicit substances, who can say? They seem to struggle themselves, despite throwing in mentions of lizard people in between stumbling over convoluted myths.

MGM

The genuine accidents on set are more shocking, with injuries and exploitation being central and essential to getting The Wizard of Oz made, with well known long term effects on Judy Garland.

The second episode on Rosemary’s Baby is much more compelling. There is once again a lot of conjecture here, who is to say whether a street is cursed? Or is it simply that there are a lot of very troubled people living in a very small area? Outdated fears over burial grounds once again fall flat, thanks to them presenting no evidence to back it up. And the cultural relevance of blaming white people’s problems on the races they’ve stolen from can’t be overstated. As such it’s a myth that really people need to walk away from.

Where this episode really lands on its feet is the exploration of certain true events that honestly seem stranger than fiction. Those familiar with Rosemary’s Baby will remember the character Terry (Victoria Vetri), the ward of the Castavet’s at the centre of the films devilish plot. What has happened to her since making the film is pretty mind blowing, though not entirely relevant or connected to the movie itself. Further exploration of the horrors that have befallen Polanski both in his childhood and adulthood are compelling. Offering some relatively new insight via interviews with a previous member of the Manson Family. Again, this isn’t directly relevant to the film, but it is pretty gripping viewing.

Paramount

There is no mention of Polanski’s crimes that led to his exile from Hollywood and America, which seems a strange choice, especially given how broadly they consider what is relevant. What it does do though is critique Rosemary’s Baby as a cultural reflection of late 60s paranoia. Weaving together aspects of the Swinging 60s, Helter Skelter, The Beatles and Anton LaVey’s Satanism. This thread is constructed very well, and it is both shocking and compelling.

Of course, underpinning all of this, is Hollywood’s worst habit: exploitation and the temptation to attribute sad events to curses and demonic intervention, ignoring the corruption at the core. If you give damaged people who are desperate for attention, love, and admiration prescription medication, expose them to tabloid news, exploit them, take them for everything they’re worth and then throw them aside, are these negative events such a surprise?

Cursed Films Series Two is now available on Shudder

By Erika Bean

Blogger at screeningviolets.wordpress.com Occasional guest and host on the FILM & PODCAST. New cohost on Mondo Moviehouse. Likes arguing on the beach, long walks on the internet, intersectional feminism and neurodiversity.