The ghost story is a powerful thing. From the campfire tale to the urban legend whispered at a sleepover and historical accounts of ancient atrocities, we have been drawn to terror forever. In the contemporary age, horror films carry on the proud tradition of the scare and it comes as no surprise that the titans of the genre have developed a strange mythos all their own. Enter the Shudder original series, CURSED FILMS.

CURSED FILMS is a Shudder original limited series that explores the apparent “curses” surrounding such popular films as The Exorcist, The Omen, and others. The series confronts rumors surrounding the films and looks into the true horrors of these “cursed films.” CURSED FILMS is bolstered by first-hand accounts from filmmakers as well as horror genre experts and authorities in subject ranging from the occult to history and everything in between. The series had been meant to enjoy a premiere at the 2020 SXSW festival in Austin, TX.

CURSED FILMS is a horror buff’s playland. Regardless of how an individual viewer may feel about the alleged curses, the behind the scenes stories and creator interviews are absolutely fascinating. Each episode reveals something new and exciting about these classic films we know so well. The series is a delight for film lovers of all stripes, not just those of us obsessed with horror. 

In the opinion of this critic, CURSED FILMS takes a very clinical and critical approach to the alleged “curses.” A great deal of time in the series is spent demystifying and debunking the notions of a film being cursed. This may be a disappointment to some of you horror fans, but I promise the trade-off is worth it. 

What we lose in speculation and spiritual vengeance, we gain in very moving human perspectives. At the root of all the death and destruction were the actual lives of passionate filmmakers. People who were trying to create something wonderful. It’s a very human thing to see these people mourn the loss of their co-stars, recall strange stories from the set, and be impacted by the rumors of a curse years later.

So why make a series about curses, if CURSED FILMS is dissipating the mystery? This critic would argue that CURSED FILMS is not about curses that befall famous horror films. The thesis statement of the series is that horror is the perfect vessel for very human connection and social interaction.

Horror as a genre has always spoken to the very heart of humanity. It’s a simple formula that appeals to our very base needs. Horror films call out that primitive flight or fight response, they’re sexual, and they are built to reflect the current cultural and social landscape. The horror film is the genre of film that most closely aligns itself with our oldest forms of storytelling. 

A topic explored in CURSED FILMS is the long history of curses themselves. Curses have existed since the very oldest human civilizations. They’re woven into the fabric of our history and society. Psychologists on the show reveal how very human it is to believe in a curse and historians support the existence of occult practices and beliefs that stretch into the modern age. 

We’re hardwired to look for patterns and be willing to believe what we think will protect us. On the same hand, we’re exposed to a host of belief systems and cultural practices that put much of our daily lives into close contact with the occult. Essentially, humanity is already predisposed to be leery of the curse and horror films become a beacon for that. Our most primitive practices find a new and incredible home on the big screen with the icons of horror.

CURSED FILMS is a knockout documentary series and required viewing for lovers of film and horror. One of the most expertly put together views into an endlessly fascinating subject. It would be impossible to watch this series and not walk away with an even greater appreciation for the legends of horror.

CURSED FILMS will premiere on Shudder on April 2, 2020.

Caitlin Kennedy
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