Horror movies are scary by nature — but horror movies with cursed sets? After being scared out of their wits by demons and ghosts, the last thing most fans want to read is that that movie you just watched had grave repercussions for those involved. But for some horror movies, that’s the case.
It’s not surprising then, that priests are often called to bless these sets. Nobody wants to invite evil into their lives, but for these cast and crew members, that’s exactly what happened. These movies aren’t just terrifying to watch; according to those involved in production, they were terrifying to work on as well.
Based on the hit Ira Levin novel of the same name, Rosemary’s Baby is Roman Polanski’s Oscar-nominated horror about a young pregnant wife named Rosemary (Mia Farrow), who believes her elderly neighbors are part of a cult that wants to sacrifice her baby. Famous for influencing the satanic subgenre, Rosemary’s Baby leaves another legacy as one of the most cursed movie sets in history.
The first to be hit by the curse was the movie’s composer Krzysztof Komeda, who was at a party when his friend accidentally pushed him over an escarpment. Komeda suffered brain damage from the fall and fell into a four-month coma from which he never recovered, echoing the death of Rosemary’s friend Hutch in the film. Producer William Castle was next to be hit when he was hospitalized with severe kidney stones and hallucinated scenes from the movie, yelling, “Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife.” But the worst affected by the curse was the director himself, whose wife, Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson family whilst pregnant with their baby in 1969. Rumor has it that Tate appears as a background character in the movie, and became obsessed with the occult during its production.
From director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist follows 12-year-old Regan (Linda Blair), who becomes possessed by a demonic entity after using an Ouija board. Her mother, Chris (Ellen Burstyn), notices her strange behavior and calls in two priests to perform an exorcism. One of the scariest (and most profitable) horror movies of all time (it was the first horror movie ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar) The Exorcist was bound to have a cursed history.
The first sign of trouble came in 1972 when the set for Regan’s family home burned down after a bird flew into the circuit box. The disaster set production back massively and unsettled the crew, as the only room that survived the fire was the bedroom used for the exorcism scenes. During production, both Blair and Burstyn complained of back problems, and although that isn’t too unusual, the passing of their co-stars Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros post-production is. Both of their characters die in the movie, and they aren’t the only actors who died before its release either: seven others passed over the course of filming, and one female reporter even died at the hands of an actor playing a nurse.
Another Oscar-nominated horror, Richard Donner’s The Omen follows American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), who decides to adopt the orphaned Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens) after his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), delivers a stillborn child. As Damien grows older and people start dying around him, Robert investigates the boy’s past and fears he may be the Antichrist.
The cast and crew of The Omen had many near-death experiences during the making of the movie. A stuntman was viciously attacked by a rottweiler; on three separate occasions, the planes of Peck, producer Mace Neufeld, and screenwriter David Seltzer were struck by lightning; producer Harvey Bernhard was on location in Rome when he himself was almost struck by lightning; and Peck narrowly escaped a flight that ended up killing all on board. And that’s not even the worst of it. Special effects designer John Richardson was working on another movie when he and his wife Liz Moore got into a head-on collision. Richardson survived the crash, but Moore was decapitated by a flying tire and left with injuries not unique the ones Richardson had prepared for theomen actor David Warner. Even stranger, Richardson recalls a sign at the scene of the accident stating the town of Ommen was 66.6 kilometers away.
Directed by Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist follows an ordinary family living in California, whose house is plagued by demonic ghosts. The Freelings — made up of Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), Dana (Dominique Dunne), Robbie (Oliver Robins), and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) — initially turn a blind eye to the supernatural goings-on, but when young Carol Anne goes missing, they turn to a parapsychologist for help.
In addition to three Oscar nominations, Poltergeist received a bucketload of blame for the tragedies that followed its making. The first cast member to pass away was Dunne, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend a few months after the movie’s release. Then, in 1985, actor Julian Beck died of stomach cancer; and in 1987, actor Will Sampson died of post-operative kidney failure. But the most famous victim of the curse was O’Rourke (Carol Anne herself), who passed in 1988 — just before Poltergeist III finished filming— from congenital stenosis. During a deposition, special effects makeup artist Craig Reardon testified that real skeletons were used in the movie, which many believe caused the death curse.
The first movie in the highest-grossing horror franchise of all time, James Wan’s The Conjuring stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, on a mission here to help the Perron family. After Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) move into a secluded farmhouse with their five daughters, the family are haunted by an evil entity; and when this entity latches itself onto one of them, they find themselves in serious trouble.
as if The Conjuring being based on a true story isn’t scary enough, reports from cast members are chilling. Joey King, who plays Christine, was covered in bruises after a couple of weeks of shooting, despite not performing any stunts; Farmiga would frequently wake up between “the devil’s hour” of 3 and 4 am on set and found claw marks on her thigh and laptop; and several people, including producer Rob Cowan, saw items move in the Warren’s artifact room. But the strangest thing to happen on set involves one of the original Perron girls, who told screenwriter Chad Hayes, “something really bad is going to happen out here today.” Sure enough, later that day, the girl’s elderly mother fell and broke her hip so seriously that she required an operation. Talk about spooky premonitions.
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