4 Famously Cursed Films

Whether it’s real life tragedy, or the stuff of legends, the concept of cursed movies has been around since the advent of the media itself. Is it a series of unconnected coincidence, or is there something darker afoot? Something demonic perhaps. 

Decide for yourself as we take a look at four frightening cursed movies.

The Exorcist, 1973

The Iconic Frame

When Regan MacNeil is possessed by a demonic entity, her mother enlists the help of an Exorcist.

What is often forgotten about The Exorcist is that the novel it is based upon was also based on true events. The alleged exorcism of a 13 year old boy known only as “Roland Doe” inspired author, William Blatty’s characterisation of Regan MacNeil. So, with the possibility of a real life demon in the mix, is it really surprising The Exorcist is one of cinema’s most famous allegedly cursed films? Supposed happenings include:

  • An extra, X-Ray technician Paul Bateson, turned out to be a killer. He was sentenced in 1979 for the murder of film critic, Addison Verrill, after a date together. He later confessed to the murders of six gay men, although he was never convicted of these.
  • At least nine people with links to in The Exorcist met an untimely end soon after the film was released. This included actor Jack MacGowran as well asLinda Blair’s grandfather and Max Von Sydow’s brother.
  • Linda Blair needed a bodyguard for around six months after the film’s release due to receiving multiple death threats from people convinced she was a real demon.
  • A fire destroyed the set of the MacNeil house, but left Regan’s room completely untouched.
  • Mercedes McCambridge, voice actress for the possessed Regan, was hit with nothing but bad luck since The Exorcist. She was initially uncredited in the film and thus sued Warner Bros. Then, in 1987, her son was the subject of a financial scandal and murdered his wife and two daughters, before killing himself.
  • When the film premiered in Rome, 1974, a storm spooked viewers, as the raging wind sounded like “demonic cries”. To top it off, lightning then struck a nearby church, which caused the cross above it to fall to the ground.
  • The cast and crew allegedly witnessed paranormal events, including spontaneously moving objects. Fears were so strong, that the film’s religious advisor, Reverend Thomas Bermingham was asked to bless the set. He apparently refused to do so, until he too was spooked by the fire on set.
  • Both Linda Blair and her on-screen mother, Ellen Burstyn, suffered injuries on set.
  • Tales of audience hysteria around the film was rife, with viewers said to fall victim to fainting, vomiting, and screams of terror. News articles began to report heart attacks and even miscarriages amongst audience members.

The Omen, 1976

The Omen Poster, with tag line encouraging it’s cursed reoutation

After a series of strange happenings centre around their young son, American diplomat, Robert Thorn and his wife, Kathrine begins to suspect their child may be the Antichrist. 

When discussing cursed films, The Omen is amongst the first to spring to mind, and not without good reason. Just as misfortune follows young Damien in the movie, the production of The Omen was rife with danger. Many believe the Devil didn’t want his exploits to be exposed, while others suspect the passage of time has exaggerated a host of unconnected misfortunes.

  • Gregory Peck, David Seltzer and Mace Neufeld, actor, screenwriter and producer respectively, were travellers on a plane struck by lightning. Three separate planes, that is. Allegedly, the incident on Peck’s flight was so severe that none of the plane’s engine caught fire. Lightning strikes on planes are not particularly uncommon – this happened to me on a flight from Vienna to Sarajevo, which was a breeze compared to what happened on the flight from Heathrow to Vienna an hour before. What is stranger still is the claim that fellow producer, Harvey Bernard, was “almost” struck by lighting while filming in Rome. The film itself includes a lightning storm with grizzly consequences.
  • The Rottweilers in the infamous graveyard scene got a little too frenzied and injured the scene’s stuntman.
  • According to legend, the animal trainer responsible for the frenzied baboons, who attack the family’s car during a drive-through safari, was killed by a tiger, a day after shooting. This was allegedly stated by producer Harvey Bernhard.
  • John Richardson, special effect designer was supposedly involved in a head on collision which resulted in the decapitation his special effect sculptor, Liz Moore. Coincidently (or not), Richardson designed a decapitation scene for The Oman. Stranger still is the claim that a road sign directing to the town of Ommen, 66.6 km away from the scene of the incident. Whether or not this creepy addition is true, but it has become part of the legend, all the same. 
  • On two separate occasions, cast and crew narrowly missed falling victim to IRA bombs.
  • In what may be considered a stroke of luck, a plane set to be rented by crew for aerial shots had an unexpectedly switch, when it was instead rented to a group of Chinese businessmen. As it took off, it struck a flock of birds and crashed.
  • A stuntman was seriously injured when a fall from a building went wrong. Allegedly, when he awoke in the hospital, he claimed that he felt as though he’d been pushed.

Atuk, Incomplete

Cover of the Original Novel

You’d be forgiven for having not seen the film adaptation to Mordecai Richler’s 1963 novel, The Incomparable Atuk, because it never made its way out of development Hell. The story itself centres around an Inuit man and his attempts to adapt to life in New York City. Unfortunately, several actors who have said to be associated with the film’s main character have died, as such, the script is said to have caused their early passing. Alleged victims include:

  • John Brlushi, who died from combined drug intoxication, aged 33.
  • Sam Kinison, who died aged 38 in a drunk-driving incident. 
  • John Candy, who had a fatal heart attack aged 43.
  • Michael O’Donoghue, passed away from a cerebral haemorrhage at 54 years old.
  • Chris Farley, who died from a combined drug overdone at 33.
  • Phil Hartman, who was tragically murdered by his wife, aded 49.

Critics of the curse say that many of the actors who have died prematurely have fallen victim to their unhealthy lifestyles, rather than the curse itself, and are quick to point out many who have survived the supposed “curse”, such as Will Ferrell and Jack Black. Whether or not the tragically premature deaths of these actors is due to coincidence or curse, there is one curse Atuk has certainly fallen to – Hollywood Whitewashing.

The Conqueror, 1956

Questionable Historically accuracy

Mongol chief, Temujin, fights an army for the hand of princess Bortai and becomes Genghis Khan along the way.

Speaking of Hollywood whitewashing, the 1956 film, The Conqueror, is one of the few films we can say for certain is cursed. Probably. If we use the term “cursed” to mean a series of misfortunes resulting from a single accident, then maybe.

Apart from the film being a massive commercial failure – in fact, it has the honour of being considered one of the worst movies ever made – the film is also renowned for the unfortunate deaths of many of its cast and crew, including: 

  • John Wayne, who died from cancer in 1979
  • Susan Hayward, who died from cancer in 1975
  • Agnes Moorehead, who died from cancer in 1974
  • Pedro Armendáriz, who died sadly committed suicide age 51, after being told the cancer he had developed was terminal.
  • Dick Powell, the film’s director, who died aged 58, from cancer

Are you seeing the pattern here?

The Conqueror had a total of 220 cast and crew. According to Dr Robert C Pendleton, of the University of Utah, a group of this size may expect to see 30 of its members develop cancer. For those who took part in The Conqueror, there was 91.  

Unlike the other entries on this list, there is an undeniable fact that ties these deaths to the film in question, and that’s it’s filming location. Filming took place in Utah, less than 150 miles away from the Nevada Test Site that saw the detonation of 11 above-ground nuclear bombs, no more than a year before.

The fallout from these blasts were likely to collect and be trapped in the dust of the canyon, where filming took place. Even scenes filmed back at the RKO studio included 60 tons of the radioactive dirt, which had been shipped there for consistency’s sake.

Despite Dr Pendleton’s calculations, other’s argue that the statistics of cancer development amongst the 220 is largely in line to the overall US population – with 43% said to develop cancer, and 23% dying of it – the presence of nuclear fallout in the area is generally considered a contributing factor, cementing the infamous legacy of The Conqueror with it.

Is there more famous films you’d like to cover? Poltergeist or Rosemary’s Baby, maybe? Let me know your favourites and maybe they’ll make their way into a part two. 

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