Most cursed films of all time – The Exorcist horrors, grim decapitation, gun prop disaster
Ever watched a scary movie and found yourself looking over your shoulder? Well, just imagine filming them.
This week, Universal Pictures announced it is launching a new trilogy of films in 2023 to mark the 50th anniversary of horror classic The Exorcist.
The notorious 1973 fright fest is one of the scariest movies of all time, but behind the scenes, a series of unfortunate events led to claims the film was ‘cursed’.
At least four deaths have been linked to the hit, alongside a freak fire and string of unnerving phenomenons that made headlines across the world after its release.
And over the years, a number of infamous flicks have similarly sparked claims of a curse – with creepy fingerprints, deadly set disasters and some terrifying ghostly goings on.
William Friedkin’s freaky tale of a young girl, Regan, possessed by the devil scared the living daylights out of audiences upon its release – and not just over what happened on screen.
Shortly after its release, a 16th century church across the road from where the movie premiered was struck by lightning, causing the cross to fall to the ground.
It added to the legend of The Exorcist ‘curse’, which saw terrified viewers fainting and screaming during screenings, with one woman falling and breaking her jaw.
The production had already been hit by a freak fire that burned the film set of Regan’s family home to the ground when a bird flew into the circuit box.
Most chilling of all, however, was the string of deaths that tormented the crew.
Just before the film came out, Jack MacGowran, who played the doomed film director Burke Dennings, died from complications due to influenza.
Vasiliki Maliaros, who played Father Damien Karras’ mother, also passed away from ‘natural causes’ while the movie was still in production.
Meanwhile, Linda Blair, who played Regan, and actor Max von Sydow lost family members before shooting wrapped.
Dubbed one of the most ‘cursed’ movies of all time, Poltergeist similarly has an eerie string of deaths to its name.
The 1982 classic sees ghosts invade a family home, abducting their young daughter, and notably used real skeletons as props because plastic ones were too expensive to be made.
Due to a medical misdiagnosis, Heather O’Rourke, who played the little girl, tragically passed away aged just 12 in 1987.
Dominique Dunne, who played her older sister, Dana, was horrifically murdered by her boyfriend at her West Hollywood home the same year the film came out.
Fans of the movie have noted one scene that shows the sisters’ brother, Robbie, with a poster for Superbowl XXII in his room – which took place six years later.
Creepily, O’Rourke died the day after Superbowl XXII happened in San Diego, the city where the game was held.
While more of a dark superhero movie than a horror film, The Crow had one of the most harrowing set disasters in history.
The warning signs were there when an electrician was electrocuted on the first day of filming. Rushed to hospital after catching on fire, he suffered second degree burns and had to lose his ears.
Worse was to come for the 1994 film’s leading man, Brandon Lee.
The son of Bruce Lee, who himself died in mysterious circumstances, Brandon was due to be shot by a dummy gun loaded with blank rounds for a stunt in one scene.
Tragically, no one recognised that the dummy round had become lodged in the barrel of the gun, meaning that when ejected it struck him with practically the speed of a real bullet.
Brandon died in hospital from the shot, but producers nonetheless decided to release his film posthumously after rewriting the script.
They say lightning never strikes twice – but it did during filming of The Omen.
Gregory Peck, the star of the 1976 hit, and screenwriter David Seltzer were both travelling on planes hit by lightning during production, while a producer was almost hit by a bolt in Rome.
The iconic horror flick tells the story of the young Antichrist, and some film buffs have linked it to a number of gruesome accidents that plagued the crew.
Director Richard Donner was in a hotel bombed by the IRA, while Peck’s son, Jonathan, tragically died from suicide months before filming began.
Grisliest of all was a car crash involving special effects chief John Richardson and his assistant Liz Moore.
In a chilling echo of a scene from the film, Moore was decapitated following the collision – which occurred on Friday the 13th, 1976.
Rosemary’s Baby producer William Castle was sent a creepy letter after the film hit cinemas, reading: “Bastard. Believer of Witchcraft. Worshipper at the Shrine of Satanism.
“My prediction is you will slowly rot during a long and painful illness which you have brought upon yourself.”
Soon after, Castle was hospitalised with painful kidney stones, which made him hallucinate and convince himself the movie was cursed.
During one visit to the emergency room, he is said to have cried, “Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife!” – referencing the titular character who believes her neighbours are part of a Satanic cult.
In one of Hollywood’s most sickening killing sprees, director Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by members of the Manson family cult a year after the film’s release.
While no one thankfully died during the shoot for 2013’s Annabelle, executives behind the film have nonetheless pointed to some very strange goings on.
Director John R Leonetti said he saw “three fingers drawn through dust” on the set multiple times, echoing the three fingers of the murderous doll that haunts characters in the movie.
Producer Peter Sarfran also revealed an actor was nearly crippled by an on-set accident that played out just like a scene from the film.
“We shot in this amazing, old apartment building near Koreatown, and we had some funky stuff go down,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“In particular, the first day that the demon was shooting in full make-up, we brought him up in the elevator.
“He walks out and walks around to the green room to where we’re holding the talent, and just as he walks under, the entire glass light fixture falls down on his head.
“And in the script, the demon kills the janitor in that hallway. It was totally freaky.”
Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t a man easily spooked – in fact, as the terrifying Negan in AMC’s The Walking Dead, he’s rather used to causing the scares.
Yet during the shoot for 2012’s The Possession, he said a number of unexplainable occurrences haunted the set, with light bulbs exploding about their heads and a chilling breeze following them around.
The movie is inspired by the allegedly haunted dybbuk box, a wine cabinet that rose to fame when it was aucitioned on eBay, with the seller claiming it brought misfortune to its owners.
The prop ‘box’ used in the film was later destroyed in a storage facility fire, and Morgan made clear that while he didn’t believe in ghosts, he wanted nothing to do with the real-life box.
“I’m a skeptic, look I’m not going to lie. That being said, there was some weird goings on on set. Lots of light bulbs exploding,” Morgan told Gizmodo.
“Just overall kind of creepiness… ‘Don’t mock the box,’ was sort of the mantra that we lived by while we were filming this.”