Cursed Films - Season 1, Episode 5: "Twilight Zone: The Movie" TV Episode Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Premiered on Shudder

cursed films s01 poster large

Written and directed by Jay Cheel
2020, 28 minutes, Not Rated
Premiered on Shudder on April 16th, 2020

Kane Hodder as Himself
Lloyd Kaufman as Himself
Stephen Farber as Himself
Richard Sawyer as Himself
Ryan Turek as Himself
Phil Nobile, Jr. as Himself

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It’s only fitting that the debut season of a much-anticipated show about “cursed films” on the premiere streaming horror service finishes off with the single most horrific tragedy in film history. Is that putting it too heavily? I don’t think it is. If you know the story of Twilight Zone: The Movie, then you know it’s some seriously awful stuff. I’ve been looking forward to this while simultaneously dreading it in equal measure.

I’ll lay bare the facts for the five people reading this that don’t know the story so we can continue on equal footing: The final redemptive scene of Twilight Zone: The Movie ends with a racist bastard (played wonderfully by Vic Morrow) saving two young Vietnamese children from a village that’s under attack. During the stunt, which involved a Huey helicopter and multiple close explosions, things went wrong, and the chopper went down ON CAMERA. Vic Morrow and the two children (both underage and working well past allowed times) were cut in half by the crashing helicopter’s blades.

It’s the ultimate tale of Hollywood gone wrong. That’s not an arguable statement; it simply is. As good as this episode is, it’s still hard to do the proper justice to just how screwed up this whole scenario is. Period. There’s a litany of safety issues that led to this. No one person was to blame, and Cursed Films does a frankly amazing (and respectful) job of highlighting this fact.

While some tales do indeed tell themselves, the job done on Twilight Zone: The Movie is nonetheless first-rate, especially when you consider the scant running time of 28 minutes. Author Stephen Farber and production designer Richard Sawyer both tell the story in achingly human terms, but they don’t really have to elicit the whole thing that well; their faces and the hitch in their words speak volumes without words. Richard Sawyer was the man responsible for the layout of the scene, and his recalling of the night of the shoot is legitimately painful. He doesn’t shirk responsibility or sugarcoat it where either he or John Landis are concerned. Mistakes were made, as they say…BIG mistakes. His pain will be painful for you.

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Things get deeper when the episode transitions to genre legend and stunt god Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th VI - Jason X). He talks at some length about being a stuntman and the way that things can sometimes just “go wrong” for no definable reason. If it sounds like a copout, it’s not. There are very few stuntmen more respected than Kane Hodder. Before you have time to catch your breath, though, Jay Cheel and company transition to Lloyd Kaufman, head of Troma Studios in NYC. Lloyd Kaufman is notorious for his dedication to safety (and financial frugality) in his approach to low-budget genre filmmaking. He counterpoints that safety always comes first and shows that through glaring example. It’s a heady comparison that does exactly what it’s supposed to – show that mistakes, whether in the name of movie magic or not, were made.

The actual footage of the accident (which they do show, by the way) is as hard to watch as I remember it. To call it moving would be a ferocious understatement. The finale of Cursed Films is a tale of tragedy that could only happen in Hollywood. What Cursed Films has done is show you that making that proverbial movie magic is akin to taming a monster. That monster has many moving parts, and each of those parts requires oversight and dedication.

No matter what side you fall on, the fact remains that certain films in the genre have been lightning rods for unexplained, bizarre, and tragic events. Is that the result of a powerful mingling of creative human energy, or is there something to this whole “cursed” stigma? Either way, Cursed Films does a relatively balanced job of keeping to the point/counterpoint format. Aside from a couple of minor missteps (like the “real life” exorcist that got too much screen time in the opening episode), the series excels at highlighting what you already know of the biggies of the genre while still giving you a fresh perspective.

Crazy things can (and will) happen on set. If anything, that’s been the takeaway and the moral of the story of the first season of Cursed Films – when you put that much creative energy and effort into one place, some unexpected results are bound to surface. You can choose to see that as “cursed”, or you can see it as a result of many uniquely powerful elements blending together at one time.

They don’t call it “movie magic” for nothing, right?

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Episode: 2.5 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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