If you have a Shudder account, no doubt you've checked out what makes the channel really worth having: the documentaries. There are now two series of Cursed Films available, with our review of the second series appearing here. However the first series now has a physical release, for those of us who are still clinging to physical media with a stubborn death grip.
It makes sense really, those who are interested in the nooks and cranny's of the productions of these older films are probably those more likely to buy into disc rather than signing up for a streaming service. And Cursed Films is a solid series that warrants watching a couple of times to get all the ridiculousness out of it.
Examining the productions of The Omen, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Crow and The Twilight Zone: The Movie, we start by looking at the two satanic entries.
The cursed nature of these two films is examined in a somewhat amusing way, with interviews from Anton LaVey (writer of the satanic bible), real exorcists and black magicians among others. There is a slightly mocking tone on the part of the makers, as those involved in the production itself mention occasional coincidental accidents, and these followers of the dark arts insist that unknown forces are at work in any production that dares to mention “things they don't fully understand”.
The later 3 episodes are more grounded. Dealing with deaths that occurred during or close to production, with exploration of how they happened and saddening interviews with those who witnessed the deaths or knew the deceased.
Many film fans will know what happened to Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow of course, and the terrible “accident” on the set of The Twilight Zone. The fascination with the latter in particular is the amount of things that went wrong, or was done wrongly, to lead to that awful disaster. You may never look at John Landis the same way again.
There is something verging on the exploitative here of course, as each of these short documentaries leans into tragedy for entertainment, but they are, fundamentally, entertaining. And perhaps in some cases it's important to show why there are so many rules and regulations around these productions to maintain health and safety now. Even with those in place, accidents still happen.
One of the true highlights is an interview with Troma director Lloyd Kaufman, a man who embraces his eccentricities in his films with relish, but has signs all over his sets insisting on protection of people, then property and then beneath that in small letters “make a good movie”. A self indulgent auteur he is not, with a much healthier view on the rights of his cast and crew than Friedkin and Landis. One other strength of Cursed Films is the concise runtime. Each episode is only 25 minutes and it's easy to blitz through the lot as one chaptered 2.5 hour doc if you want to.
Perhaps somewhat disappointingly, the only bonus features included are commentaries for each episode. It would have been nice to see some extended interviews with some of the more interesting talking heads in particular.
Cursed Films may be something you watch in secret, not wanting to show the enjoyment you get from the tragedy it speaks of, but enjoy it you will.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Director's Audio Commentary for all 5 Episodes
Cursed Films Series One is released on Blu-ray on 27th of February