Horror movies remain endlessly popular, and everyone is looking for a good scare. While many new scary movies are coming to theaters, one of the best aspects of the genre is not seeing new releases but rewatching the classics. Whether you watch these movies for thrills or nostalgia, you can always be assured at the end of the night that everything you saw on-screen stays there. Or can you?
Unbeknownst to many, some of the fan favorites have dangerous and even deadly histories. From malevolent spirits to curses and inexplicable bad luck, horror movies young and old have been plagued with weird occurrences that will make the films themselves seem mundane in comparison. And so, dear readers, I present to you: 10 Terrifying Horror Movie Mishaps.
10 Twilight Zone: The Movie
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) encompasses four different segments, one of which involves Bill Connor, portrayed by Vic Morrow, and is based on the 1961 episode “A Quality of Mercy.” This specific segment of the film follows Connor as he travels through time to some of the most discriminatory periods in history. Because of this, the bigot decides to change his ways, resulting in him saving two Vietnamese children from American troops. Unfortunately, in real life, instead of lives being saved, lives were lost.
Director John Landis hired two children, aged six and seven, under the table to avoid California’s child labor laws. In the scene where Connor and the children take a helicopter to safety, many explosions occur, and because of these explosions, the helicopter crashed during filming. In turn, both child actors and Morrow were killed. Before the shot was filmed, star Dick Peabody recalls hearing Morrow exclaim, “How did I let them talk me into doing this scene?” along with remarking that he should’ve asked for a body double.
9 The Crow
Based on the comics, The Crow (1994), directed by Alex Proyas, follows Eric Draven, portrayed by Brandon Lee, who is brutally murdered alongside his wife and is resurrected from the grave in order to exact revenge on his killers. This film follows an extremely macabre story line, which is mirrored by the devastating tragedies on set.
At the beginning of production, a carpenter was severely burned when his crane hit a live power line. Later, a massive storm surged through the Southern United States, leaving machinery covered in icicles and almost all of the cast ill.
More tragic and severe than the aforementioned, Brandon Lee, son of star Bruce Lee, was meant to enter the apartment building on set, finding his wife attacked by thugs, only to be attacked himself. A thug, chosen at random, was to aim a magnum at Lee and shoot, causing Lee to fall forward. When the scene was shot, Lee fell backward, and minutes went by before anyone realized that he had actually been shot. Investigations were conducted, resulting in a baffling conclusion: a one-in-a-million instance of the wrong gun, wrong blanks, and wrong trajectory leading to Lee’s demise.
8 The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
Directed by Scott Derrickson, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) stars Dexter actress Jennifer Carpenter and follows the story of Emily Rose’s tragic death. Attorney Ethan Thomas (played by Campbell Scott) argues that Emily was plagued by schizophrenia, not demonic possession, and that the church’s unprofessional conduct ultimately resulted in her death. Alternatively, the defense lawyer (played by Laura Linney) argues that science cannot explain Emily’s condition.
While no deaths or outrageously dangerous feats occurred on set, actress Jennifer Carpenter told sources that every night, her radio would randomly turn on, playing “Alive” by Pearl Jam. Other cast members reported the same strange phenomenon, as well as televisions turning on, resulting in the radios on the set being removed.
As if the few glimpses we got of this creepy doll in The Conjuring weren’t enough, Annabelle (2014), directed by John Leonetti, came to theaters as a prequel to The Conjuring. This movie takes place during the 1960s and follows Annabelle as she enters a new home with expectant parents, as well as all that ensues after. And, just like its fellow movie, Annabelle had its own set of spine-tingling mishaps on set.
For starters, the first day that the actor playing the demon was given full makeup, there was an on-site injury. The “demon” walked down a hallway, and a light fixture fell, severely injuring an actor who was playing a janitor. Coincidentally, the demon kills the janitor in the hallway during the movie.
6 The Possession
The Possession (2012) revolves around the Jewish lore of a dybbuk box (a spirit box) and the true story of an eBay buyer who stumbles upon it. While the film itself revolves around the horrifying consequences of the dybbuk box, filming in a haunted location left the cast and crew with some skin-crawling experiences.
Cast member Jeffrey Dean Morgan referred to lights that would explode in the middle of scenes as well as cold drafts that would sweep through rooms, causing doors to slam shut. The odd part is that the shooting location was not a drafty one. Moreover, these mishaps only happened during essential scenes, never between takes or during setup.
Perhaps the weirdest incident happened only a few days after wrapping up filming. All of the movie’s props were put into storage in case anything would need to be reshot. This storage facility abruptly burned to the ground, destroying all of the movie’s props. One of the props destroyed was the dybbuk box that was used during production. Odder still, when investigated, there was no sign of arson or electrical fire.
5 The Omen
The Omen (1976), directed by Richard Donner, had accidents that many believed to be the work of the actual Antichrist. This movie depicts the adoption of a young boy named Damien, who is surrounded by death. From hangings to murder and miscarriage, this movie is riddled with tragedy—just like what happened behind the scenes.
There were a striking number of lightning incidents, for starters. Both Mace Neufeld and Gregory Peck were on planes struck by lightning, and producer Harvey Bernhard was nearly struck by lightning in Rome. Beyond this, Neufeld’s hotel was bombed by the IRA, Peck’s son committed suicide, and Peck nearly boarded a plane destined for Israel which crashed, killing everyone.
Perhaps the most disturbing event from The Omen is when SFX director John Richardson and his assistant Liz Moore got into a serious car crash. Not so bad, perhaps? Wrong. This crash took place on June 13, 1976, and Moore was cut in half in the accident . . . mirroring the decapitation shown in The Omen.
4 Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) centers around Rosemary, a pregnant woman, and her husband, who move to an old New York City apartment building. Rosemary quickly grows to believe that something is not right with her child, something demonic.
The film’s producer, William Castle, received multiple death threats for producing this movie, one of which said that he was a believer in witchcraft and that he would die slowly and painfully from illness. Not long after, Castle was hospitalized for a debilitating sickness and later died of a stroke at only 63. While in the hospital, he was quoted shouting for Rosemary to “put down the knife!”
Director Roman Polanski was not spared from the tortures of Rosemary’s Baby, either. Tragically, his wife and close friends were brutally murdered by the Manson Family. Furthermore, Krzysztof Komeda, the film’s music composer, slipped off of a cliff in LA, resulting in a coma that lead to his death only a few months later. Creepier still, it is reported that Komeda awoke from his coma only once, when “Rosemary’s Lullaby” (which he composed) was played.
Poltergeist (1982), directed by Tobe Hooper and revered as the most successful of the Poltergeist film series, is iconic for showcasing children speaking with sentient beings through their television set. If this movie wasn’t creepy enough on its own, the number of behind-the-scenes mishaps is sure to seal the deal.
Both Dominique Dunne (who played Dana Freeling) and Heather O’Rourke (who played Carol Anne Freeling) died before the release of their individual installments. At only 22, Dunne was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend. Only a few years later, O’Rourke died at age 12, succumbing to cardiac arrest from septic shock. Doctors reportedly misdiagnosed her condition, resulting in an easily treatable illness becoming fatal. Even more cast members died through more natural causes, only adding to this movie’s eerie vibe.
Oliver Robins, who portrayed Robbie Freeling, nearly died as well. The animatronic clown on set began strangling Robins, who was barely saved by Steven Spielberg’s speedy intervention. It is still unknown why the clown did this. However, it is worth noting that throughout the film, this clown continuously tormented the character Robbie Freeling. Creepy stuff.
2 The Conjuring
The Conjuring (2013), directed by James Wan, is a horror film based on a real-life paranormal investigation by Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970s. The Warrens are called upon to help the Perron family with weird occurrences in their new home. Initially, the apparitions are benign. However, as the film progresses, the manifestations become overtly hostile, which is only worsened when the Warrens learn of the farmhouse’s morbid history. While this film gives a good scare, what happened behind the scenes is where the real goosebumps begin.
For starters, it is noted that while screenwriters conversed with Lorraine Warren on the script, weird static and noises would cut off their conversations. Even worse, their connection would go dead only moments later. Not spooky enough? While the real-life Perrons visited the movie set in North Carolina, a strong wind blew through, which isn’t bad, except for the fact that none of the trees moved.
Perhaps the most terrifying event on the set of The Conjuring happened to Lili Taylor (portraying Carolyn Perron). While on set, she began to experience a dark, foreboding presence, much like the actual Carolyn Perron did in 1971. This feeling followed her, and Taylor later tripped, leaving her with injuries that put her in the hospital.
1 The Exorcist
The Exorcist (1973) is based off William Peter Blatty’s eponymous novel. Regan, the daughter of the MacNeil family, becomes possessed, which leads to Fathers Damien Karras and Lankester Merrin performing an exorcism. The film featured heart-stopping visuals, ensnaring demonic possession with Catholic rituals. Yet, what happened behind the scenes proved more terrifying than what happened on the screen.
Before the film even took off, shooting was delayed after a fire scorched most of the set. While the cause was nothing more than a pigeon getting caught up in the electrical work, there was one room spared from the devastation: Regan’s. That’s right, the young demon-possessed girl is the only one whose room was left completely intact.
Once filming finally started (you know things aren’t going well when you have to say “finally started”) Ellen Burstyn, playing Chris MacNeil, was hurt on set. In the scene where Regan throws her across the room in a possessed frenzy, the rigging malfunctioned, resulting in Burstyn injuring her spine. Director William Friedkin actually used this take in the final production, so those screams you hear when she hits the wall? They are her actual screams of pain. This isn’t the only incidence of rigging malfunctions; later, Linda Blair (Regan) was thrown from the shaking bed, leaving her with a back injury of her own.
When the film premiered, there was a 16th-century church across the street. This church was struck by lightning as moviegoers entered the theater, and the church’s large cross fell to the ground. Talk about terrifying.
As if these things weren’t bad enough already, this cake is complete with two deaths. Actors Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros died while the film was going through the stages of post-production. Both MacGowran and Maliaros’s characters also died in the film.
Well, if you had trouble sleeping after watcing horror movies before, good luck doing it now. There are many more terrifying and twisted things that happened on these movie sets as well as others. They’re well worth some research if you like being creeped out.
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