When Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left came out in 1972, the trailer suggested that those who are terrified by its gruesome plot should remind themselves, "It's only a movie." And, sure, that might help some - but what if the behind-the-scenes happenings on the film sets of horror movies themselves are just as creepy as the flick?
Numerous classic horror films are said to have carried a curse with them, manifesting in spooky occurrences on set or terrible misfortunes befalling the cast and crew. Planes were struck by lightning, hotels caught on fire, and actors reported mysterious and unexplained occurrences while filming stories of demonic possession or ghostly hauntings. And on the scariest film sets, prop weapons weren't as fake as one might expect, resulting in serious injuries, close calls, tragic crashes and, in one case, the death of an up-and-coming star.
The Omen (1976) is about a couple that adopts a little boy, Damien, only to learn he's the Antichrist. Talk about a raw deal.
While filming, actor Gregory Peck and executive producer Mace Neufeld had their planes hit by lighting. Yes, planes - one carrying Peck and Seltzer, another carrying Neufield. Later, the hotel Neufeld was staying at in London was bombed by the IRA, and so was a restaurant at which several cast members had reservations.
The most chilling incident occurred in Holland in August 1976. John Richardson, the film's visual effects consultant, and his assistant, Liz Moore, were in a car accident. Moore was decapitated in a manner similar to a way that is depicted in the film. Richardson crawled out of the wreckage, looked around to get his bearings, and found a road sign reading, "Ommen, 66.6 km."
The Exorcist was plagued by bad luck, leading many to believe it was cursed. If you haven't seen it, the film revolves around the MacNeil family, whose daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is possessed by the demon Pazuzu.
Right from the start, the production was bedeviled by creepy problems. Filming was delayed because the set for the MacNeil home caught fire. It was mostly destroyed, but, eerily enough, Regan's bedroom was spared. The fire was attributed to a pigeon that got into a circuit box.
There were a number of deaths and injuries among the cast, crew, and their loved ones. Actress Ellen Burstyn, who played the matriarch of the MacNeil family, was injured by a mishap (in the video) with her harness during a fight scene; the scream she unleashes in the film is real.
Actor Jack MacGowran and actress Vasiliki Maliaros both passed away shortly after the filming. In 1973, MacGowran perished of the flu and Maliaros of natural causes. Linda Blair's grandfather and actor Max Von Sydow's brother both passed during production. The son of Mercedes McCambridge, who voiced the demon, took out his family before taking his own life after being accused of fraud in November 1987.
The Amityville Horror came out in 1979 and has its roots in truth. On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo took the lives of his mother, father, sisters, and brothers in their home at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, New York. George and Kathy Lutz later moved into the house and, over the course of 28 days, claimed to experience paranormal phenomena.
While the DeFeo slayings are true, the truth of the Lutzes' experiences, as documented by Jay Anson's book The Amityville Horror, have long been subject to debate. Of the various claims made by the Lutzes is that George woke up every night at 3:15 am, the time of the DeFeo slayings.
In 2005, Andrew Douglas directed a remake of the original film starring Ryan Reynolds as George Lutz. Shortly before filming began, a dead body washed up on the set. Reynolds claimed he and others working on the film kept waking up at precisely 3:15 am.
The Conjuring is based on a supposedly true story, as told by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, about a case they took on in 1971, at the behest of the Perron family. The film was successful upon its release in 2013, but the production was plagued by bizarre occurrences.
Lorraine Warren consulted on the film. When screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes tried to speak with her on the phone, they had a hard time getting through, which could be attributed to spirits attempting to get in the way of their storytelling. During production, the hotel the crew stayed at caught on fire. Director James Wan said his dog seemed upset by an invisible entity, growling and tracking something unseen around his office. And actress Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine, said claw marks mysteriously appeared one day on the screen of her laptop without any explanation.
The Perron family claimed that, when visiting the set, wind whipped around them, but nearby trees remained still. That same day, a member of the Perron family who elected to stay away from the set fell and broke her hip.