Revealing SHUDDER Documentary Series

Jay Cheel’s fascinating Cursed Films documentary series on SHUDDER tackles the curses supposedly associated with famous horror films, plumbing their production histories for possible explanations.

This first season primarily covers five such movies and the popular legends surrounding them: Poltergeist, The Omen, The Exorcist, The Crow and the infamous segment by John Landis for Twilight Zone: The Movie. From the disturbing deaths of two actresses in Poltergeist, to the simple prop mistake that cost Brandon Lee his life filming The Crow, the series views each film’s curse with a well-balanced and skeptical approach. Several of the films are associated with prominent deaths, including the set accident that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.

Going behind the scenes through interviews with industry experts, eye witnesses, critical cast and crew who lived through the real-life events, Cursed Films covers the odd happenings and tragic events that haunted their productions and aftermath. Were these films cursed as some fans believe, or were these sad tragedies the product of unfortunate luck? Each episode paints a definitive answer with proper nuance and insight. Even hardcore fans should pick up new knowledge on their favorite horror films.

Cursed Films is a well-made, slick documentary series that entertains while it informs

New interviews include thoughtful comments from Linda Blair and Richard Donner, among others deeply connected to these horror classics. Blair recounts her traumatic experiences working on The Exorcist for director William Friedkin. Probably the saddest and most moving interview is with Gary Sherman, director of Poltergeist III. Sherman practically tears up as he recalls the studio forcing him to finish the film after child actress Heather O’Rourke suddenly passed away while shooting the movie.

Each episode runs around 25 to 30 minutes, exploring each film’s supposed curse from different angles. This might be the only horror documentary that attempts to demystify and debunk some of the lazier legends that have arisen surrounding these films. Was Poltergeist cursed because it may have used actual human skeletons? Great information is offered on each production, slickly put together through film clips and contemporary news sources.

Cursed Films does wander into a few strange directions when looking to fill out the time slot with curious participants that add little value. Episodes for The Omen and The Exorcist heavily emphasize the occult, interviewing a “black magician” and what happens when they place a curse on someone. There’s also a possession clip that looks completely staged for the documentary. For a series heavily grounded in practical reality and sticking to the facts, they are out of place additions inserted for sizzle.

Cursed Films is a well-made, slick documentary series that entertains while it informs. It is probably the best original content that SHUDDER has produced yet for the horror genre. Delving into the myths and legends surrounding famous horror movies, every genre fan needs it for their collection.

Video

For a documentary series comprised of multiple film clips, archival footage, and new interviews, picture quality is remarkably crisp and stable. The variety of source materials come neatly packaged together in an excellent 2.40:1 presentation that exudes definition and sharp detail. The 1080P video offers a smooth contrast, rich black levels and top-notch clarity. Nothing problematic sticks out in the clean and consistent HD quality.

The newly-shot interviews have the best modern video quality but everything is done to preserve archival clips in their best possible appearance, from newspaper clips to SD-era television footage. RLJ Entertainment puts all five episodes of season one, running almost 140 minutes, on a single BD-50. The AVC encode is superb, perfectly capturing the source material.

Cursed Films looks surprisingly nice on Blu-ray by any standards, much less for a horror documentary originally made for SHUDDER.

Audio

Cursed Films is offered with 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. The documentary’s mix of interviews and archival clips doesn’t lend itself to an elaborate surround mix, largely focused on clean dialogue recorded by talking heads.

Film clips add a little more presence and atmosphere to the mix, though the audio is still primarily directed towards the front soundstage. The satisfactory track serves the material well without calling attention to its weaknesses.

Optional English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles play in a white font, inside the scope presentation’s primary frame.

Extras

RLJ Entertainment (they’ll always be Image Entertainment to me) includes a director’s commentary for all five included episodes. It is surprising that trailers for other SHUDDER productions weren’t included.

SHUDDER Promo (00:31 in HD) – A quick promo for the streaming horror channel precedes the main menu.

Audio Commentaries – Writer/Director/Editor Jay Cheel chats up each episode, breaking down his personal thoughts on many of the so-called curses and revealing tidbits that didn’t make the final cut. Engaging and informative, the solo discussions make for interesting fodder.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cursed Films
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

A slick and engaging documentary series made for SHUDDER on prominent legends and curses surrounding famous horror movies, loaded with thoughtful interviews.

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4 (1 vote)

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