Cursed Films Director Reveals What’s Coming in Season 2 to Shudder [Exclusive]


Cursed Films arrived on Shudder earlier this year. The docuseries took a look at movies that have allegedly been cursed, such as The Exorcist and Poltergeist. Now, season 1 is making its way to digital and Blu-ray/DVD.

Cursed Films is a five-part documentary series that explores the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions. From plane accidents and bombings during the making of The Omen, to the rumored use of real human skeletons on the set of Poltergeist, these stories are legendary amongst film fans and filmmakers alike.

In honor of the upcoming release, we had the chance to speak with filmmaker Jay Cheel about the show, as well as the upcoming second season. We discussed the plans for Cursed Films season 2, what scared Cheel as a kid and much more. Enjoy.

So I guess we should start out by saying congratulations on Cursed Films season 2.

Jay Cheel: Thank you very much. We’re very excited. Just looking forward to the challenges of shooting a season of television during COVID. It’s gonna be interesting.

Yeah, I feel I feel like right now we’re in that situation where a lot of people are starting to go back. But everybody is still kind of figuring it out. It’s in this very odd, messy, into the unknown period.

Jay Cheel: Yeah, definitely. But it’s gonna be fun.

So, I know the show has been out on Shudder but because it’s coming out on disk, just for people that are perhaps going to discover this outside of Shudder, how would you describe the show?

Jay Cheel: Well, I mean, on the surface, it’s very basically a show looking at the various legends connected fo film productions that people consider to be cursed. So we look at the greatest hits, in a way, of these types of stories like Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Omen. As the series goes on it starts analyzing why we’re so fascinated by these cursed legends and looking at how the people involved in these productions feel about the stories that kind of came out of them, and how people have perpetuated them. So, we’ve always kind of described it as the show that explores the tension between the rational and irrational. It makes sense that a lot of these films are horror movies, because I think a lot of the cursed stories that are connected to them in weird ways kind of mirror some of the storytelling within the films themselves. Which is also an additional, fascinating element. So that’s a very long answer to that question. But it’s generally looking at these cursed legends connected to these films.

I thought it was cool because I grew up… I love horror. And you heard some of these stories, at least loosely. Obviously, you covered some of the big ones like The Exorcist but do you have strict criteria for what constitutes a cursed film? Is there a checklist or is it just a you know it when you see it sort of thing?

Jay Cheel: I think that the criteria was just that other people consider it to be cursed. When we’re looking at these films, it’s not that we’re making the claims that these films were cursed. It’s kind of how they’ve been talked about by the people who have perpetuated these ideas or these legends, and people connected to the films themselves. So, if you look at the first season, Twilight Zone: The Movie. There have been people that have attempted to connect a curse to that film, which we didn’t really explore in the series, because by the time… that’s our last episode, and I think the ark of the first season, once you get to that episode, we start looking more at the reality behind some of these productions and the idea of a curse. Maybe the meaning of that word. It slowly changes from something supernatural to just something meaning ill-fated. That there were just a series of incidents that ultimately led to a major disaster, and in many cases, these things could have been avoided. So there wasn’t any one criteria. I think it was mainly just how the films are viewed by the people who have perpetuated the stories surrounding them.

That makes sense. I would have to assume you have to be a big fan of horror to even attempt something like this. So, not so much just what scared you, but what movies when you were growing up messed with you? For me, The Exorcist messed with me. I’ve still only ever watched that movie once. What movies stuck with you in a way that got under your skin? That maybe even made you think they were cursed when you were younger?

Jay Cheel: Well, I mean, I can say that The Exorcist also really did mess with me. I watched a lot of horror movies when I was a kid, and the movies that got to me, sometimes weren’t even horror films. I remember The Day After, which is the TV movie that Nicholas Meyer, his essentially nuclear holocaust made for TV movie.

Oh, I remember that.

Jay Cheel: Yeah. Actually it was that and The Wizard of Oz as well. Which obviously had some weird imagery in it. But the idea of a tornado really freaked me out as a kid. So when I was a kid, I lived in a small town. We still had these air raid siren tests. I don’t think they were air raid sirens. I think it was mainly for just an emergency, whatever it might be. And ever whenever those tests would happen, I would freak out as a kid, thinking that either we were about to be annihilated by a nuclear strike, or we’re going to get hit by a tornado. It wasn’t necessarily horror movies that got me, but those two films really freaking out. And then, of course, The Exorcist. Black Christmas was one that scared me. And John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness was another that as a kid really got to me.

I love Prince of Darkness. Not that that has anything to do with anything. But that is definitely an underrated Carpenter for sure. So another thing I was thinking, do you see an opportunity for a narrative story here? For instance, Ben Affleck, it was recently announced he’s making that making of Chinatown movie. Do you think there’s a narrative feature to be pulled from one of these you explored in season one?

Jay Cheel: Potentially. I mean, I guess it would depend. Immediately, I think of something like the Poltergeist curse, which kind of very neatly mirrors the events that took place in the film because people suggested that the use of real skeletons on the set might have led to the production being cursed. So when you’re filming the movie about a family that lives in a house that’s built on a burial ground, and at the end of the film, these skeletons are popping out and attacking them, and the skeletons that were used on the set were real skeletons of people, it’s like this crazy meta cycle. The only problem is, I think you have to choose something that would be sensitive to the realities of what happened. Something like the Poltergeist curse, where there are people who died very young of tragic causes. In the show, I talked to Craig Reardon, the makeup effects person who used those skeletons. He is very sensitive about the idea that the use of these skeletons onset might have actually been the thing that caused this. So it could potentially get into some tricky territory in terms of treating it ethically and doing something that isn’t just completely exploitative. But perhaps there’s a story to be told. They made Dragon: The Bruce Lee story. I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday there’s a story, a film made about the life of Brandon Lee.

{bold|Especially because it feels like he’s one of those guys that, his mystique sort of continues to just permeate. That would make a lot of sense.

Jay Cheel: Yeah.

I feel like this project got quite a bit of steam. What’s your white whale? Is there a franchise you’ve got your eye on? Is there a pet project? What’s the thing that you really want to do?

Jay Cheel: I mainly work in documentaries so I’m excited to hopefully get a chance to shift into the genre, scripted zone. Because I’m a huge documentary fan, but I’m also a huge genre fan. So that’s something I would love to do. I’ve been trying to get this film off the ground for a while now about John Titor, who is this supposed time traveler who posted online in 2000, 2001, claiming to be from the year 2036. He told this very detailed, interesting story that plays like a science fiction film on its own, and it affected the people who came into contact with him in a very real way. So that’s been a story I’ve been trying to get off the ground. We’ve actually been making some progress with that and are hoping that we can be filming that in 2021 at some point. If I were to refer to something as my white whale it would be that because the first interview I did related to that was way back in 2005 for a film school

Oh, wow.

Jay Cheel: It’s been hanging around in my life for quite a while. So I’ll be very excited to not just get a chance to do that project, but just to kind of get it off the list [laughs].

Can I ask you, as a filmmaker, because this fascinates me. I’m a journalist. I turn around an article, I move on to something else. You just talked about a movie that you might get to shoot next year that you’ve had brewing for 15 years. What keeps you motivated? How do you not just go, “Forget about it” and just move on? What keeps you motivated with stuff like this when it takes that long to get something done?

Jay Cheel: I think when you’re in it, you don’t realize it taking that long because you’re working on other things. I spent a year and change on the first season of Cursed Films and while I’m in that I’m not thinking about this other project outside of maybe having a conversation here or there about what funding options I have or whatever it might be. So I think you just end up keeping yourself busy with other projects while the other one is simmering and it doesn’t seem like it’s taking that long. It would be different if that was a single, sole project that I was trying to get off the ground. I think that period of time would feel like 15 years. It’s been a long time and when it finally gets off the ground, hopefully, I think only at that point will I realize, “Wow. We’re finally doing it.” We’ve been waiting for this long. But in the meantime, it just felt like something that’s been in the works in the background. So it’s not as hellish as it sounds

What are we gonna see in Cursed Films season 2? What can you give me?

Jay Cheel: I, unfortunately, can’t say anything about the films just yet. But I can’t say that I think it’s a really exciting and diverse selection of movies. We’re starting production in hopefully September, and some of them will be taking us outside of North America, so that will be exciting. So it’s going to be kind of a wider perspective, which is great. I’m just thrilled for people to get the list and hopefully be as excited as we are.

Are you going to stick to the same format? Are you guys gonna change some things up? Did you learn some things in season one that are influencing how you go into season two?

Jay Cheel: Mostly the same format. But I think they’ll almost play more like individual documentaries about each production. Season one had an arc to it. That’s not to say we might not discover an arc in the process that we won’t lean into. The episodes are gonna be longer this season as well. They’re gonna be 45 minutes, like a TV hour. So the definitive TV hour version documentary of each of these films, the production of those films. That’s the goal.

Cursed Films season 1 is available on Shudder now and on digital, Blu-ray and DVD on August 18 from RLJE Films.

Cursed Films - Shudder

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