Additional to the first two episodes which covered The Wizard of Oz and Rosemary's Baby, the three additional episodes examine the dramas and problems faced by those making Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow and one of the most controversial films ever made; Cannibal Holocaust.
Films being ‘cursed' has always been part of cinematic mythology of course. But these three final episodes take a different approach to previous ones. Focusing less on rumours, dramatic deaths and secret images hidden in the frames, and more on context, corruption, and misplaced intents.
With Stalker, we are told in the opening frames that some scenes were filmed in Ukraine prior to the conflict with Russia. This, combined with the subtext of the film and the seeming prescience around the Chernobyl disaster makes for fascinating viewing. Tarkovsky is shown as an obsessive but fair director, who will do anything to fulfil his vision. The nature of creating a film in the soviet era is examined, and the politics of creating a science fiction story in order to hide greater subtext surrounding free speech. Now of course even if you haven't seen Stalker, it is part of cinematic history, mimicked in the films of Alex Garland (Annihilation especially) and shown in the background of action movie Atomic Blonde. Not so much a cursed film in the traditional sense as one made despite constant issues with budget, politics and toxic locations, it immediately makes you want to watch the film in question.
The Serpent and the Rainbow is again place in an interesting context. The Haiti locations being used at the same time as political upheaval. Acting as advert for the film, a love letter to Wes Craven and an exploration of the issues faced on set. Various famous faces talk about their experiences, including star Bill Pulman, who sensibly holds back on certain opinions around Voodoo and what he experienced on the island.
Cannibal Holocaust skates an interesting line, initially making the notorious film sound interesting. You'll probably be tempted to watch it if you haven't already. There's elements of animal cruelty, and the cruelty to the actors. The director, Ruggero Deodato appears. Although he initially seems fair, he openly admits to abusing his actors and by the end he strikes a pretty terrifying image.
Each episode seems to explore the movies in more depth with context and subtext than previous episodes. This isn't gossip so much as analysis and it shows that showrunner Jay Cheel is really starting to come into his own in knowing how to really examine and present these stories.
The variety of settings (the first series focused entirely on Hollywood) adds another dynamic, allowing for more nuance and less repetition between themes and the variety of exploitations actors and crew are exposed to.
Despite showing less famous stories, Cursed Films season two acts as a more mature version of the format. A fascinating look at a world behind the glitz of Hollywood, or the blood and mud of it's more obscure entries.
Cursed Films Season Two is available on Shudder now.