The urban legend series you have to see on Shudder

Does JoBeth Williams encounter real skeletons in “Poltergeist?” Find out in Shudder’s “Cursed Films” series. (MGM/MovieStillsDB.com)

“Cursed Films” dives into the mysteries and incidents behind horror’s famous films

If you’re looking for quality over quantity in your streaming service, there are few better choices than Shudder. This horror-themed platform carefully curates its library to highlight the new while recognizing the genre’s past. Viewers can enjoy both the new and old with the return of the Shudder original series, “Cursed Films.”

Now in its second season, “Cursed Films” focuses on the urban legends behind many famous movies. Were the productions behind 1973’s “The Exorcist” and 1976’s “The Omen” bedeviled by the supernatural? What led to the deaths of some of the actresses in the Poltergeist movies, including the young girl Heather O’Rourke? Did an ancient curse on his family lead to the on-set accident that killed Brandon Lee in 1994’s “The Crow?”

Each episode goes in deep on individual films by sharing the details behind the productions. The series also explores the techniques, history, and phenomenon surrounding the mythology that inspired these stories. In the case of “The Exorcist,” that means interviewing occult specialists (including an actual exorcist) to discuss the existence of supernatural evil and what kinds of things can lure the devil to us. Another episode that focuses on the tragic on-set accident that killed three people (including two children) in 1983’s “The Twilight Zone” gives us insight into stuntwork production.

The first season is five episodes that run about a half-hour each, while the new second season has an expanded runtime of about 45 minutes each. It’s easy to binge the entire series to catch up in a day or two, but I recommend watching these episodes if you’re on the fence because of interest or time.

“The Exorcist” (S1E1): The term “elevated horror” is thrown around a lot these days in attempts to class up the genre; “The Exorcist” set the standard for it even before the discourse came up with the word. The first episode of “Cursed Horror” gives you one of the best views on what the series is going to be like: A troubled production led by a demanding director (in this case, William Friedkin), an exploration of the occult themes that bled into real life, and finally, a potential debunking of everything you’ve just seen. One of the highlights includes the real exorcist assisting “possessed” victims, letting the audience know it’s probably best to keep one skeptical eye open when learning about these curses.

“Poltergeist” (S1E2): Lightness and tragedy mark this particular episode, which covers the 1982 suburban supernatural blockbuster and its two sequels. The first half of the episode has fun exploring the neighborhood where the original “Poltergeist” house still stands and detailing the urban legends regarding the graves seen in the movie. However, the stories behind the deaths of actresses Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rouke (the young girl behind the most iconic moments in the films) leave both the documentary participants and viewers heartbroken.

“The Wizard of Oz” (S2E1): The first episode in the new format, “The Wizard of Oz” takes its time going into the many incidents and rumors behind the classic 1939 movie, including the speculation behind a visible background suicide and what the Munchkin cast did after hours. The episode also explores the difficult life of star Judy Garland, as producers pressured her on her appearance in the film to the later struggles she had with addiction. It’s another poignant illustration of the series theme: The “curses” behind these movies are usually because of the unforgiving Hollywood system that dehumanizes its actors.

New episodes of “Cursed Films” premiere Thursdays on Shudder.

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Mark Ciemcioch

Mark Ciemcioch

Movie enthusiast. Follow and subscribe for exclusive content!

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