13 Cursed Productions
Article By: Tyler Doupe
So called ‘cursed productions’ are not exclusive to the realm of horror. Feature films like Superman and The Wizard of Oz have been labeled as cursed. But it seems that scary movies often garner more media attention when the production process leads to malady of any kind. Rumors begin to swirl and the superstitious start putting two and two together and coming up with six.
In reality, most of us believe that there’s no such thing as a cursed production but there are certainly some uncanny coincidences that have occurred on or around the production of some of our favorite horror features. With that in mind, we are looking back on 13 of the most notoriously troubled productions in horror cinema. Read on for our top picks and be sure to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.
1. Rosemary’s Baby
Easily the most tragic and shocking incident associated with the so-called curse that hung over the production of Rosemary’s Baby was the tragic murder of director Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate. The Manson Family killed Tate on August 9th 1969, roughly one year after the film’s theatrical bow. Moreover, composer Krzysztof Komeda died of a brain clot a year after the picture’s release. Producer William Castle was also deeply impacted by the controversy surrounding the film. He was once quoted as saying: “The story of Rosemary’s Baby was happening in life. Witches, all of them, were casting their spell, and I was becoming one of the principal players.”
2. The Poltergeist Trilogy
It has long been rumored that the first film in the Poltergeist franchise used real human remains and that has often been cited as a potential reason behind the tragedies affiliated with the franchise. In the span of five years beyond the first film’s release, four cast members from the trilogy died. Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne), Julian Beck (Kane in Part II), Will Sampson (Taylor in Part II), and Dominique Dunne (Dana) all passed away during the span of those five years.
3. The Omen
The Omen was plagued by a variety of strange coincidences and various tragedies. One such incident involved the zookeeper who had been brought in to handle the animals on set being eaten by a lion. Gregory Peck and executive producer Mace Neufeld were both aboard separate flights that were struck by lightning while traveling between the US and England. In addition, the IRA bombed Richard Donner’s hotel during the production process. There were also several family members that lost loved ones during or around the time of production and several cast members died within the span of three years after the film’s theatrical release.
4. The Exorcist
A rash of deaths plagued The Exorcist both during and after the production. Jack McGowran (Burke Dennings) died shortly after the film’s theatrical bow. Valsiliki Maliaros (Father Karras’s mother) passed away not long before the release of the picture. Lee J. Cobb (Lieutenant Kinderman) suffered a heart attack and died three years after the project’s theatrical debut. There are also a large number of reports regarding cast and crewmembers losing loved ones throughout the film’s lengthy production. Several members of the production were hurt on set. Among them was star Ellen Burstyn who injured her coccyx during one of her stunts. AD Terrance Donnelly also reported that part of the set spontaneously burst into flames. But that luckily occurred while it was not in use. All of the onset shenanigans reportedly resulted in the production team requesting an exorcism for the set. It is said that the request was denied. But a priest apparently agreed to bless the set and the cast.
5. The Conjuring
Screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes often called Lorraine Warren (the film is based on her and her husband Ed) to discuss the actual events on which they were basing their screenplay. During their conversations, the line would frequently go dead and their communications were routinely interrupted by static. Warren was quick to attribute the interference to the supernatural. Director James Wan reported that one night when he was working late, his dog began to growl and run around his office. When he turned around to see what was the matter, Wan saw that there was nothing visible and became quite frightened when his dog continued to exhibit strange behavior. Actress Vera Farmiga (who plays Lorraine Warren in the film) says that she opened up her laptop to read the script one day and found claw marks through the screen with no logical explanation as to their origin. Also, Carolyn Perron (the matriarch of the afflicted family depicted in the feature) reportedly suffered a serious fall that left her hospitalized while her family was visiting the set. She had refused to go with them due to serious reservations.
There were at least two documented unexplained occurrences that transpired during the production of the Conjuring spinoff Annabelle. First: a light fixture spontaneously fell from the ceiling and hit a handyman on the head. A character that plays a janitor in the film is killed in that very same hallway. Second: Director John Leonetti reported finding what appeared to be three-fingered claw marks on a dusty set window. What makes that even more interesting is that the demon in the film also has three fingers and three talons. Leonetti told THR that he still has a picture of the incident.
7. The Dark Knight
Although technically not a proper horror film, The Dark Knight definitely falls under the broader heading of genre film. And it is definitely not without its fair share of horror elements. Certainly the most famous tragedy tied to The Dark Knight is the untimely passing of Heath Ledger. According to some sources, the actor was in a bad headspace after completing work on the film. Some have suggested that he got too deep into his character. But there is more to the alleged curse of The Dark Knight than that. Another instance of malady surrounding the production involves actor Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) getting into an automobile accident shortly after the film’s release. In addition, a member of the crew lost his life while filming one of the project’s more harrowing action sequences.
8. The Amityville Horror (2005)
The production of the 2005 Amityville Horror redux may not have done enough to set itself apart from the original but it certainly had its own set of unsettling occurrences transpire during the production process. Perhaps the most shocking of the goings on was the corpse that washed ashore where the picture was being filmed. Star Ryan Reynolds also reported members of the production team waking up at 3:15 every morning (the same time that his character in the film would regularly awaken).
9. The Innkeepers
Director Ti West is a self-proclaimed skeptic but he couldn’t deny that there were a series of very strange occurrences that took place on and around the set of his film The Innkeepers. He has detailed strange goings on involving lights burning out in his hotel room, television sets turning on and off on their own, and the entire crew having strange, vivid dreams. The film’s female lead Sara Paxton also reported frequently waking up at night believing that there was someone in her room.
10. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Star Jennifer Carpenter has relayed concerns that she brought something home with her from the set of the film. She was once quoted as saying: “When we were shooting, my stereo kept turning itself on in the middle of the night. It freaked me out because it started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ — just the ‘I’m still alive’ part. It stayed with me for a while.”
11. The Possession
Ole Bornedal’s 2012 tale of a malevolent Dybbuk Box is yet another example of a supernatural horror film that was plagued by a series of unexplained events during the production process. I recall interviewing Natasha Calis (who plays Em) in advance of the film’s release and she described an incident where a storage shed unexpectedly caught fire and badly burned the Dybbuk Box prop. Moreover, Jeffrey Dean Morgan also detailed cold breezes, exploding light bulbs, and a general sense of foreboding always lingering on the set.
12. The Crow
Of all the feature films on this list, The Crow likely has the most tragic story behind it. And it is certainly the only entry on this installment of The Friday 13 that involves the loss of a leading man during production. Star Brandon Lee was filming a scene where his character is shot. The prop gun malfunctioned and a bullet fragment ultimately killed him. In addition to Lee’s tragic and untimely death, a carpenter was injured during a construction accident and another carpenter drove his automobile through the set’s plaster shop. A stuntman broke multiple ribs while performing a dangerous stunt, as well.
13. The Twilight Zone Movie
A helicopter that lost control tragically decapitated Vic Morrow and two child actors during the production of the ‘Time Out’ segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Many have speculated that director John Landis is partially responsible for the tragedy. He reportedly instructed the helicopter pilot to fly lower and lower, eventually causing the horrific incident that occurred on July 23, 1982. What makes the situation even more eerie is that Vic Morrow has been quoted as saying (while working on Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) “I'm not getting up in the helicopter. I have a premonition that I'm going to get killed in a helicopter crash.”