Cursed Films - Season 1, Episode 1: The Exorcist TV Episode Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Premiered on Shudder

cursed films s01 poster large

Written and directed by Jay Cheel
2020, 29 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on April 2nd, 2020

Linda Blair as Herself
Eileen Dietz as Herself
Phil Nobile, Jr. as Himself
Vincent Bauhaus as Himself
Mitch Horowitz as Himself
Matt Miller as Himself

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Finally, we get a docuseries that takes us inside the most infamous of horror movies – the fabled “cursed films”. They’re the movies that we grew up hearing about on the playground (for my generation) or reading about on the internet (not my generation). Cursed horror films are the ones that give the genre that extra edge, but how much of the story is bullshit…and how much of the story is true?

Episode One kicks the series off with the mother of all horror films, the one that induced fainting and vomiting…and lines a mile long. It’s the film so shocking that priests sermonized outside and blessed those who entered for protection (this actually happened when my aunt went to see it). Lots of horror films have a reputation; this one is legend (or Legion, if you prefer the wordplay). I’m talking, of course, about The Exorcist.

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I don’t need to sell you on the film itself. It’s second only to Jaws in terms of adjusted lifetime gross for genre films, and it’s more of a “pure horror film” than Spielberg’s classic. It’s a literal part of the American psyche and the one movie that perhaps everyone has seen. The stories surrounding the difficult nature of the production – the set fire that miraculously spared the bedroom, Linda Blair’s back injury, the numerous deaths of cast and crew as well as their relatives – are all relayed here again. It’s not new material, but it’s certainly presented in an engaging and timely way. Occult author Mitch Horowitz and Fangoria editor Phil Nobile, Jr. are two wonderful “talking heads” with stellar presentation skills. Included is an interesting wrinkle on the curse about a cast member with a morbid secret that I’d certainly never heard before that deepens the aura by a couple of shades.

The two most important voices are that of the movie’s star, Linda Blair, and the actress who played Pazuzu (as well as some body doubling), Eileen Dietz. They corroborate both how brilliant and how famously challenging director William Friedkin was to work for. You can still see traces of the scars of that production when Linda Blair speaks of it; it’s almost a jumpiness. There’s a good deal of time spent with them and wisely so.

The scenes of Vincent Bauhaus, a real-life exorcist, and his ceremonies with the possessed are a tad hokey, but they still serve the purpose of both counterpoint and wraparound to theme that makes itself crystal clear by the end of episode. Cursed Films is operating in open debate/point-counterpoint style, and it’s a clever and fun way to approach what is essentially an unprovable subject.

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There’s a lovely angle that sends you down the rabbit hole about the depth of the research concerning Pazuzu. I knew that Pazuzu has a basis in historical text, but I had no idea they dug that deep. The idea that toying with a powerful demon for the sake of complete accuracy might have actually caused the curse is next-level disturbing and intense. It’ll screw with your head a bit, which is quite fitting given the movie being discussed. I saw The Exorcist as an eight-year-old Southern boy who went to church at least twice a week, and it fucked me up properly. It’s a freakishly powerful film with a freakishly powerful curse stuck to it.

That power is really the subject of Cursed Films: The Exorcist. It’s all about the power of belief. Whether you’re talking about the belief in God or the Devil, the effectiveness of a killer PR campaign, or the overreactive response of the faithful to a film that dared to give you a crucifix masturbation scene along with that damn spider-walk, the fact remains: It’s just a movie…unless you believe it to be more.

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Episode: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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