There are certain films that have gone down in history as containing the most terrifying imagery ever put on screen.
If you ask many children of the 60’s and 70’s, films like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen routinely come up as the scariest films ever.
These are some indisputable classics of modern horror, but the stories behind the creation of these classic fright flicks can be even more bizarre.
Taking a closer look at the stories behind the production of these films, the rumors of curses become increasingly convincing.
Some claim them to be cursed by otherworldly spirits ; others see them as victims of terrible coincidences.
So the saying goes that nobody believes in a curse until they are living under one…
5) Twilight Zone : The Movie
During the shooting of the first story in the anthology, “Time Out”, Landis reportedly decided to eschew safety regulations and child labor laws to get the shots he wanted. It was a late night shoot of a climactic scene where Bill (Vic Morrow) was rushing two Vietnamese children (Renee Chen and My-ca Le) to safety as the village burns with warfare behind them.
At 2:20 AM on July 23, 1982 the explosive sequence began, but a series of complications with the special effects crew and helicopter pilot caused the malfunction and crash of the helicopter. The downed helicopter killed both of the children and Morrow, who was reportedly decapitated by the blade of the helicopter.
Landis and several executive members of the production were tried and acquitted on charges of manslaughter in a nine-month trial in 1986 and 1987, but it could be said that the “curse” of this horrible accident has followed the director since then.
The video below contains the graphic unused footage of the accident. Watch at your own risk.
4) Rosemary’s Baby
In 1968, after making a name for himself with horror films like Repulsion and The Fearless Vampire Killers, Polanski was hired by producer William Castle to direct an adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-selling novel Rosemary’s Baby.
Most famously, Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the followers of Charles Manson on August 9th 1969, while the director was in London. Was this the result of the “evil unleashed on the world” he had created with the release of the very controversial film? Or just horrible coincidence coupled with very bad luck?
Another subject of speculation came years later when John Lennon was murdered outside the hotel used in several scenes of the film.
After all, the Manson family had scrawled “Helter Skelter” on the walls of Polanski’s home in blood, and that is the name of a Beatle’s song…
Oddball coincidences or curses, who can say?
However, it is interesting to consider that legendary “king of the gimmicks” William Castle considers the film to be cursed.
He claims to have suffered through protest calls and hate mail from religious zealots after the release of the controversial film. Reportedly accused of “unleashing evil on the world” and called a “believer of witchcraft and Worshipper at the Shrine of Satanism”, the angry letters began to get to him. Especially one that predicted ” you will slowly rot during a long and painful illness which you have brought upon yourself.”
At the time, Castle began suffering pains in his abdomen and eventually collapsed and was brought to the hospital to remove a blockage in his urinary tract. The process was repeated several times, and the legend goes that one time he shouted out “Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife!”
He began to believe that the events of the film were happening in real life, and truly became unnerved after two members of the crew of the film died of bizarre accidents. He began to fear for his own life, convinced that he would be struck down next.
Castle became reclusive after that, in his last years writing, “All my life I had yearned for the applause, approval and recognition of my peers; and when the awards were being passed out, I no longer cared. I was at home, very frightened of Rosemary’s Baby.”
Many strange happenings surrounded the production, and several of the stars of this series met with untimely deaths as well. Most notably, young Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three films died suddenly in 1988 due to complications arising from sudden cramps and septic shock. She died on the operating table after a cardiac arrest at the age of 12.
Dominick Dunne, who played older sister Dana, was tragically murdered by a jealous ex-boyfriend just months after the film’s release. Furthermore, veteran actors Julian Beck and Will Sampson both passed away shortly after the release of the film, due to health problems.
Odd occurrences during the production included rumors of haunted hotel rooms of the cast, a real exorcism of the set performed by Sampson, and a strange malfunction while shooting the terrifying clown scene which was actually strangling child actor Oliver Robbins.
2) The Exorcist
While critics were appalled by the film, audiences were lining up around the world to have a look at the shock and spectacle, many dramatically affected by the film. Reports range from a deranged patron charging the screen in an attempt to kill the demon to a priest in Harlem attempting to exorcise drugs from his neighborhood. in Boston, a woman was reportedly carried from the theater repeating: ‘it cost me four dollars but I only lasted twenty minutes’. Evangelist Billy Graham claimed that “an actual demon lived inside the celluloid reels of the film” and one man reportedly fainted and broke his jaw on the seat in front of him during one screening. Heart attacks at screenings and lightning strikes at theaters fueled the rumors that something evil was trying to stop the film from being seen.
The production itself is noted as being truly hard on the cast and crew, with many bizarre happenings during filming such as an unexplained fire which destroyed the set. Rumors have it that a number of people died during the production of the film, beginning with actor Jack MacGowran, who died of Influenza just days after completing his scenes. As many as nine deaths occurred among the families of the cast and crew while the film was in production.
Director William Friedkin was notoriously hard on the performers, going to extreme lengths to capture the scenes we all know and are terrified of. The set where they filmed the scenes of Regan’s bedroom was kept below freezing to achieve the effect of seeing the breath of the character. In one scene where Linda Blair (as Regan) appears possessed, she apparently fractured her lower spine when her harness came undone. Her screams of pain and terror are real. It is said that Ellen Burstyn suffered a similar accident in one scene where she is thrown against the wall so hard that she also injured her back, and her screams are real as well.
The film was processed and edited at 666 5th Avenue, and the curse is said to have continued among the numerous sequels, including 2004’s “Exorcist : The Beginning” when director John Frankenheimer died just days after stepping down from the production.
1) The Omen
Said by director Richard Donner to be nothing more than a string of horrible coincidences, many others involved in the production believe the tragedies surrounding the film were nothing less than the devil trying to stop the film from being made.
Even Bob Munger, who is credited with the original story for the film, said “If you make this movie you’re going to have some problems. If the devil’s greatest single weapon is to be invisible and you’re going to do something which is going to take away his invisibility to millions of people, he’s not going to want that to happen.”
The show went on, despite the warning, and the film was plagued with a laundry list of horrible happenings, beginning with the unexplained suicide of the son of star Gregory Peck, just weeks before the film’s production.
The first day of filming, several crew members were involved in a horrible car accident. Another near miss occurred when a car swerved into Donner’s car as he was getting out, ripping the door from the vehicle and trapping him between them. Subsequently, two crew members’ planes were struck by lightning just days apart, and a third airplane trip for the production was rescheduled to save costs. That flight, according to Donner, hit a flock of birds causing engine failure and crashed into a car on the road outside the runway, killing the wife and children of the pilot.
Early incidents on the set involved Rottweiler’s that suddenly turned on their trainers, and, during the filming of an unused zoo scene, an experienced animal trainer was pulled into a cage and eaten by a lion!
Filming in London at the time of widespread IRA bombings affected the production as well, as near misses happened often. The restaurants they ate at and subways they used were blown up, as well as a hotel where the producers were staying.
The most bizarre story about the production of The Omen occurred about a year after the film wrapped, on Friday the 13th 1976. Special effects coordinator John Richardson was involved in a tragic car accident in Holland. In the accident, his girlfriend Liz Moore was horribly decapitated much like the design he had created for the film a year earlier. A sign at the scene of the accident reportedly reads : Ommen, 66.6km.