It’s officially October! Now, with Halloween looming, we thought it’d be apt to compile a list of spooky Hollywood movies. Not only were they spooky, they were spooky with a “twist”.
Occasionally, thrill seekers in the general audience may enjoy a spooky/horror movie or two for its elements of shock or scare, or twists that will leave people walking out of the cinemas with their mouths agape. But what if we told you that while these movies send a shock through your system, some of these all-time popular Hollywood movies were cursed? Sure, anyone who doesn’t believe in paranormal activities might argue that it was probably just a streak (or many streaks) of bad luck but there are members of the cast and crew who lived to tell the tale.
After all, nobody believes in curses until the end up living in one – like them.
Here are the scary details:
1. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby is an American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. The cast includes Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Ralph Bellamy, Maurice Evans, Sidney Blackmer and Charles Grodin (in his first film appearance). It was produced by William Castle. Farrow plays a pregnant woman who fears that her husband may have made a pact with their eccentric neighbours, believing he may have promised them the child to be used as a human sacrifice in their occult rituals in exchange for success in his acting career.
The film was an enormous commercial success, earning over USD33 million in the United States on a modest budget of USD3.2 million. It was met with near universal acclaim from film critics and earned numerous nominations and awards. The American Film Institute ranked the film 9th in their “100 Years…100 Thrills” list. The official tagline of the film is “Pray for Rosemary’s Baby”.
In 2014, Rosemary’s Baby was turned into a modern 4-hour mini series adaptation.
The curse starts in April 1969. Days after receiving death threats and hate mail relating to the film, producer William Castle suffered kidney failure. He swore the movie was cursed after crying out, “Rosemary, for God’s sake drop that knife!” throughout his treatment. In the same hospital lay Komeda, the Polish composer who wrote the score for the film. He died of a brain clot before the month was out, the same way a character in the film dies.
But those stories aside, the curse is mainly built around the insanely shitty luck of Roman Polanski. In 1969, Polanski had bought a house for himself and his 8 months pregnant wife Sharon Tate. Unfortunately, Polanski had broken the first rule of real estate: never buy a house from someone who pissed off Charles Manson. The former owner of the house was music producer Terry Melcher, who had previously refused to record Manson’s music. Manson ordered a cult to go to the now Polanski’s house to re-negotiate. There, they killed Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and 4 others, stabbing the victims multiple times. One of the killers even took a rag, soaked up some of Tate’s blood and wrote “pig” on the front door with it.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
Known to be one of the scariest movies of all time, The Exorcist was directed by William Friedkin, adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel of the same name. The book, inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe, deals with the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl and her mother’s desperate attempts to win back her child through an exorcism conducted by two priests.
The film features Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, and (in voice only) Mercedes McCambridge. It is one of a cycle of “demonic child” films produced from the late 60s to the mid-70s, including Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.
The Exorcist was released theatrically in US by Warner Bros. on December 26, 1973. The film earned 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two (Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay), and losing Best Picture to The Sting. It became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, grossing over USD441 million worldwide. It is also the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture.
In August 1972, while The Exorcist was being filmed, many of the cast felt a presence on the set like something terrible was taking place. Everyone was tense and couldn’t wait for it all to be over as a lot of arguments started breaking out because of the anxiety. It got to the point that technical adviser Rev. Thomas Bermingham was asked to exorcise the set. According to Catholic doctrine, an exorcism has to be applied for and approved by Church authorities; a blessing with holy water is all that is necessary so it was never performed in this case. Rev. Bermingham gave a blessing instead and reassure the cast and crew.
Enigmatic manifestations were going on at the set of The Exorcist as they continually were also undergoing electrical glitches. In October 1972, the crew were all really spooked with speculation that the Devil himself was trying to hinder their production. They had just started filming when Max Von Sydow (who played Father Merrin), got a phone call to say his brother had died. January 1973 saw the mysterious sudden death of Actor Jack MacGowran who died of Influenza days after completing his scenes.
In one scene Regan Macneil (played by Linda Blair) is possessed, convulsing on a bed, she fractured her lower spine when the harness she was strapped to came undone. The scenes of her screaming are not acting; they kept filming because the director’s thought it would add to the realism. Then in the scene where Chris Macneils (The Mother) is slammed into the wall, she hit the wall so hard she to injured her back, and her screams in the film are real as well. Supposedly Linda Blair inadvertently predicted a crew member’s death during filming. Though some of these are just said to be rumours, Ellen Burstyn has indicated that a lot of these rumours are true in her 2006 autobiography “Lessons In Becoming Myself”.
The curse continued even after the film got taken off for processing at 666 5th Avenue and it affected people outside of the set. It is rumoured that after watching the film many people even went as far to kill themselves because they couldn’t get the horror out of their heads. This speculation is backed up by a steep increase in suicides around the time the film was released. Heart attacks were recorded all over the world during premieres. There was even a lightning strike that destroyed a 400-year-old cross during the Italian premiere at the Metropolitan Theatre in Rome.
3. The Omen (1976)
The Omen is a 1976 suspense/horror film directed by Richard Donner and starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern. It is the first film in The Omen series based on a horror novel by David Seltzer. A remake called The Omen 666, was released on the 6/6/2006.
The story is based on Robert Thorn and his wife Katherine who’s baby died at birth, to save his wife from heartache, Robert substitutes the dead child for a orphan Damien. For some reason events keep taking place as the boy gets older, Robert starts to suspect his adopted son is in fact the Antichrist.
The movie boasted a particularly disturbing scene, in which a character willingly and joyfully hangs herself at a birthday party attended by young children. It also features a violent decapitation scene caused by a horizontal sheet of plate glass.
No film in history has had worse luck than The Omen. Problems started in June 1975, just 2 months before filming was due to begin. Gregory Peck’s son unexpectedly committed suicide, killing himself with a bullet to the head without any real explanation. Gregory set off from London in September when his plane was hit by lightning high above the Atlantic. This became a growing trend as scriptwriter David Seltzer’s plane was also hit by lighting as was executive producers Mace Neufelds.
You would think that a wild storm would have put them off using planes in this film, unfortunately they were necessary for aerial filming. The plane they had scheduled to use was switched to another client at the last minute. It crashed on take-off, killing all on board.
Then, a hotel Neufeld was staying at during production was bombed by the IRA, as was a restaurant the director and actors were scheduled to eat at. Luckily no one died. An assistant to special effects consultant John Richardson on the other hand, wasn’t quite as lucky. On Friday the 13th of August 1976, Richardson crashed his car in Holland. His assistant was sliced through by the car’s front wheel. Scrambling out of the wreckage, Richardson looked up and saw a road sign: Ommen, 66.6km.
4. The Poltergeist Trilogy (1982 – 1988)
Poltergeist is an American horror film series distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer during the 1980s. The films revolve around the members of the Freeling family, who are stalked and terrorized by a group of ancient ghosts that are attracted to the youngest daughter, Carol Anne. The original film was co-written by Steven Spielberg. The Poltergeist films collected a total of approximately $132 million in the United States box office. Rumour has it that they used real human remains as props in the first Poltergeist movie, which supposedly angered the dead.
4 of the trilogy’s actors all died within 6 years of the first movie, giving rise to talk of “The Poltergeist Curse”.
Supposed deaths include child actor Heather O’Rourke, who appeared in all three films and died just before the third film was released. Suffering what was thought to be the flu, she was taken to hospital and later died on the operating table from complications. Then, Julian Beck, (who played the terrifying old man in Part 2), died of cancer. and Native American actor Will Sampson died during an operation (note that he was wanted at the time for the suffocation of a lobotomised Jack Nicholson and vandalism of state property).
Then we have Dominique Dunne (who played the oldest child in the first film) who was strangled to death by her boyfriend the same year the film was released. There was also word that JoBeth Williams (who played Diane Freeling) claimed she returned home from the set each day to find pictures on her wall askew. She would then straighten them out, only to find them crooked again the next day!
5. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
Twilight Zone: The Movie is a 1983 anthology fantasy-science fiction horror film produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis as a theatrical version of The Twilight Zone, a 1959 and 1960s TV series created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan and John Lithgow with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith, who starred in four episodes of the original series, took on Serling’s position as narrator. Unlike Serling, he did not appear on screen, nor did he receive screen credit, though his name appears in the end credits. In addition to Meredith, 6 actors from the original series (William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy, Bill Mumy, Murray Matheson, Peter Brocco and Patricia Barry) had roles in the film.
The film is a remake of 3 classic episodes of the original series and includes one original story. Landis directed the prologue and the first segment, Steven Spielberg directed the second, Joe Dante the third, and George Miller directed the final segment. Dante recalled that in the film’s original conception the 3 stories would be interwoven with characters from one segment appearing in another segment, but later problems with the film precluded this.
During the filming of a segment directed by John Landis, actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le (aged 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (aged 6) died in an accident involving a helicopter being used on the set. The helicopter was flying at an altitude of only 25 feet (8 metres), too low to avoid the explosions of the pyrotechnics used on set. When the blasts severed the tail rotor, it spun out of control and crashed, decapitating Morrow and Le with its blades. Chen was crushed to death as the helicopter crashed. Everyone inside the helicopter was unharmed.
The accident led to legal action against the filmmakers which lasted nearly a decade, and changed the regulations involving children working on movie sets at night and during special effects-heavy scenes. Hollywood also avoided helicopter-related stunts for many years, until the CGI revolution of the 90s made it possible to use digital versions.
6. The Crow (1994)
The Crow is a 1994 American supernatural action film directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and starring Brandon Lee in his final film appearance.
Based on the graphic novel by James O’Barr, this fantasy follows Eric Draven (played by Brandon Lee), a rock musician who is murdered along with his fiancée Shelly (played by Sofia Shinas) by a group of marauding thugs who terrorise the decaying city in which they live. One year to the day after his death (which happens to be Devil’s Night), a mystical crow appears at Eric’s grave; Eric rises from the dead and, with the bird as his guide, goes on a mission to avenge himself against Top Dollar (played by Michael Wincott), the leader of the gang who killed him.
On March 31, 1993, there were 8 days left before shooting of the film was to be completed. The scene being filmed involved Lee’s character Eric Draven walking into his apartment and witnessing the brutal rape of his fiancée by thugs. Lee’s character would then have been shot and killed along with his fiancée by the thugs. As the scene was being filmed, Brandon Lee was killed after Michael Massee (who played the villain Funboy) fired the gun at Lee as intended. The bullet unseated from a dummy round was lodged in the barrel of the handgun. When the blank was fired, the bullet shot out and hit Lee in the abdomen. After Lee’s death, a stunt double, Chad Stahelski replaced Lee in some scenes to complete the film. Special effects were used for digitally compositing Lee’s face onto the double.
The original footage featuring Lee’s actual death was destroyed immediately, without even being developed. It is yet to be known who was really responsible for the presence of live rounds in Massee’s gun.
Brandon Lee was buried next to his father, late martial arts film superstar, Bruce Lee, who also passed away during an unfinished film (1973’s Game of Death).
Coincidences or curses? You decide. If you really want to watch the above movies (at least once and then probably find it hard to forget about them since you now know the back stories), they should be available on DVD.
Also, don’t forget to check out our list of 7 horror flicks you need to watch in 2015. No guarantee that they won’t be (eventually) cursed though! You’ve been warned.