So sometimes, movies do kill. Mostly, they kill characters. Actors playing various roles are often bumped off to make the movie more interesting – like Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in the tearjerker Titanic (OMG), Martin Sheen hacking off Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now (gasp), Bambi’s mom (sob!), or Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being riddled with bullets in Bonnie & Clyde (nail-biting).
We remember these movies more for the deaths of these characters than for other things. But sometimes, movies don’t just kill off characters. They end up killing the very audience they are trying to make money off of. As Martin Sheen ironically says, “the horror, the horror” – horror movies often end up shocking some souls, especially the ones with weak hearts (and we mean that medically), into giving up their lives in the very theaters they were watching the films in.
And yet there are those times when people die on the set of the movies they are trying to earn their living in – sometimes in freak accidents, sometimes “cursed” by Satan as some would like to believe. We don’t know the whole truth about these deaths, for the dead carry their secrets with them to their graves – silenced forever!
The truth might be stretched here a bit here and there, giving way to a few superstitions but then the movies that have caused these deaths are mostly horror flicks, or at least dark, brooding and desperate films that may have made stars out of the actors, directors, and producers but spread plenty of grief otherwise. Could they actually be accursed? Well, that’s for you to decide.
15. The Warrens of Virginia: The One That Killed A Diva
In 1923, Hollywood was mostly about silent movies and vaudeville, and 24-year-old Martha Mansfield was well on her way to establishing herself as a top actress until a freak accident that killed her, horrifically. She was working in Texas on set for the movie The Warrens of Virginia, playing Agatha Warren, when she took a break from her scenes and sat inside her car.
No one can say what happened next but somehow a burning match landed on her clothing – she was dressed in her Civil War costume of hoopskirts and ruffles that ignited instantly. Despite the quick thinking of her chauffeur who tried to beat the flames with his hands, and the leading man Wilfred Lytell throwing his heavy overcoat on her, she sustained substantial burns on her body. Rushed to the hospital, she died less than a day later of burns and toxemia – a young life cut too short, too soon.
14. The Nightmare On Elm Street: Of Murders & Suicides
So no one is a more iconic villain than Freddy Krueger in The Nightmare on Elm Street. This misshapen villain is shown to be as vulnerable as an average Joe in the real world, more so because of his disfigured face – but has invincible powers in the dream world over all mortals. So basically, Freddy kills people by attacking them in their dreams and if they die in their dreams, well they die in real too. He’s this horrifying murderer, but to some, he became a hero!
In September 2004, a very disturbed young man named Daniel Gonzalez went on a killing spree and managed to kill four victims, injuring a few more. Daniel was a paranoid schizophrenic and on that fateful day, became high in a drug-induced rage that ended in him killing people and later describing the kills as “orgasmic.” Daniel was arrested and finally facing reality, and tried to commit suicide by biting through an artery in his arm. He was saved but was successful in taking his own life in 2007 after slitting his wrists with a broken CD case.
13. When Great Whites Turn Deadly For Audiences: Jaws
Before Spielberg became famous for dino drama Jurassic Park, there was his 1975 hit shark drama, when Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws was turned into a thriller. Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and Bruce, Jaws earned over $470 million worldwide, on just a $7 million budget! Oh, and in case you were wondering who Bruce is, it’s that nipping, biting, and perpetually killing great white shark…
So, despite shooting with Bruce, no one died on set, which says a lot about set safety and sharks as well. That said; not the same can be said of the viewers. On September 9, 1975, 45-year-old Elmer C Sommerfield decided to watch this shark flick with his wife at Ford City Cinema in Chicago, Illinois. 45 minutes into the movie, he collapsed. The ambulance was called, and CPR was administered but Sommerfield died on his way to the hospital. Too much of excitement, or too much horror – who knows?
12. Poltergeist At Work? You Decide
So in the 1982 movie, a family’s life is turned into a house of horrors when malevolent ghosts invade their home and abduct their daughter. In the movie, the little girl who is kidnapped, Carol Anne, is played by actress Heather O’Rourke and her older sister Dana was played by Dominique Dunn. Why we mention them above the rest is because both these actresses lost their lives to what is now believed to be the Poltergeist curse, for lack of a better name.
In the movie, brother Robbie has a poster for Super Bowl XXII in his room which happened six years later in 1988 in San Diego. Heather O’Rourke died of a medical misdiagnosis the day after this Super Bowl in an eerie AF coincidence – she was just 12! And eleven years later, in 1999, Dunne was strangled by her ex-boyfriend, John Thomas Sweeney, in the driveway of her home. Asphyxiation led to a coma and she died five days later, never regaining consciousness. She was 22.
11. Aliens Can Be Deadly: Even For Kids
So technically Aliens is not really a horror movie per se, and the first one is not the scariest of the franchise either. That said, when students of a residential school in South India were watching a horror movie marathon that included Aliens as well as three other movies (Blood, Ghost, and Atmakatha) in 2010, one of the class VIII students, M Prabhakar, went to the bathroom.
He came out screaming in fear and collapsed in the common room where the other students were still watching the movie – unfortunately, no one noticed his collapse. Once the movie marathon was over, the other children noticed him, and tried to wake him. When they failed to do so, they called the ambulance. At the hospital, this child was declared DOA. The cause of death was most likely cardiac arrest brought on by shock and fear.
10. When Crucifixion Kills: Passion of the Christ
A violent and gory biblical epic, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was criticized by some and applauded by others for its rather gratuitous amount of blood. And while it did basically do nothing more than show what it was to be Jesus Christ, the crucifixion scene was perhaps a little too realistic and bloody for the devout Christians to take in – and this move may have made two pious souls go join their Lord. In February 2004, during a screening in Wichita, Kansas, 56-year-old Peggy Scout suffered a fatal heart attack, and while a nurse present tried to revive her, it was to no avail and she as declared DOA at the hospital.
Just a month later, 43-year-old Brazilian pastor Jose Geraldo Soares rented out a theater to watch the movie with his congregation. During the film, this man of God lost consciousness, never to arise again. In similar circumstances, a nurse tried to revive him but he too was declared DOA when taken to the hospital.
9. Rosemary’s Baby: Of Mysterious Deaths & Murders
Roman Polanski made Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 and in it, it was rumored that the Black Pope, Satanist Anton LaVey would play the devil. While that didn’t happen, LaVey was friends with Susan Atkins, one of the murderers of Polanski’s 8-month-pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. If that is not enough to freak you out, the producer William Castle received many threatening letters, one of which specifically cursed him to “slowly rot during a long and painful illness.” Soon after, Castle did suffer from a long and debilitating illness that led to kidney failure and during one ER visit reportedly screamed “Rosemary, for God’s sake, drop the knife!”
And since no horror movie is complete without the horrendous, errr, horror-inducing music – let’s not forget the composer Krzysztof Komeda, who was pushed off an escarpment in a friendly rough-and-tumble, hit his head, had a hematoma, and died soon after, aged just 37!
8. Vampirical Inspiration & A Murder: Queen of the Damned
In 2002, vampire flick Queen of the Damned was released and sort of became a cult movie, more so because it was released after the death of its lead actress Aaliyah, who in true vampirical style, died when her plane crashed and burst into flames. Sad, tragic, creepy – all of that, yes. But this movie claimed two more lives.
After watching the movie innumerable times, Allan Menzies was apparently visited in the dream world by Akasha (the vampire queen played by Aaliyah in skimpy outfits) who apparently commanded him to kill someone and drink their blood – so that he could turn into a vampire and be granted immortality. Taking this to heart, Allan here murdered his buddy Thomas McKendrick by striking him in the head with a hammer about 10 times and then stabbing him to death. Yep, Allan then went on to drink his dead friend’s blood, ate a part of his, umm, face, and then buried the body in a shallow grave to hide his misdeeds. The body was discovered, Allan was arrested and his defense insanity plea was rubbished. Jailed for life, in 2004, Daniel committed suicide in his cell as well. I guess immortality never happened…
7. The Creeping Unknown: That Killed A Little Boy
The Creeping Unknown, the American title of the 1953 British film The Quatermass Xperiment, is a science-fiction horror film, where three astronauts are launched into space but only one returns. And this returning astronaut has been infected by an alien organism whose “spores” (yeah, like fungi or something) can destroy the earth. So okay, not a great plot to begin with and this film received an X-certificate in England, meaning it was not supposed to be viewed by audiences younger than 16. It was a big hit though and when it came to America in 1956, it was retitled The Creeping Unknown.
For some reason, Stewart Cohan, a nine-year-old boy of Oak Park, Illinois watched it. But okay, kids do watch things they are simply not supposed to sometimes, right? That said, he got so violently disturbed with this creepy tail of a creepy alien out to creep out the earth, that his poor little heart gave up. Sadly, he had a cardiac arrest in the theater and died there, not even making it to the hospital.
6. The Exorcist: Cursed Cast & Crew
The Exorcist was some scary shit, a bit ahead of its time perhaps, and the kind that sent people screaming and running out of theatres in mass hysteria. And frankly, forget the aftermath – this is one movie whose very production was plagued with eerie occurrences. On-set accidents and fires, sudden and unexpected deaths in the families of the crew members freaked the cast and crew so much that a real priest was brought in to bless the set and he in turn dictated that Satan didn’t want the film to be made. Talk about creepy!
The movie was made, as we all know, and forget killing the audiences – it started killing the cast! Burke Dennings is a character who dies in the movie, falling from a window and soon after the movie released, the actor Jack MacGowran who played Dennings died of nothing more than the flu. A series of equally sudden deaths in the families of cast members followed and cemented this scary belief!
5. Scream: One Who Should Have Died, And One Who Did
Scream was a 90s horror-slasher movie that has many fans. Some more than the others, who decided to embody the villain, literally. In 1996, the media was abuzz with the case of a truck driver, Thierry Jaradin, who brutally Scream-slashed his 15-year-old neighbor Alisson Cambier when she rejected his sexual advances. He stabbed Alisson 30 times and was soon arrested and sentenced for his crimes.
In yet another case, in 1999, 14-year-old Daniel Gill and 15-year-old Robert Fuller, hailing from abusive domestic background, decided to pull a Scream on the then 13-year-old Ashley Murray. They lured him up a hill and then stabbed their “friend” 18 times and left the young boy for dead. Murray used all the survival tactics he knew and survived for an excruciating two days before being found by a man walking his dog. He even had the strength to testify in court a few months later! True grit.
4. The Omen: And A Real-Life Decapitation
Three years after The Exorcist, then came The Omen, the Gregory Peck-starring film which was even more scary shit! Forget Jesus being reborn, this movie is all about the incarnation of Satan. A child is born with 666 on his scalp and then people around him begin to die: his older brother, his nanny, and even his mother. Gregory Peck plays the hapless father and basically terrifies himself and the audience with his creepy discoveries.
Yet again, this was one movie plagued with many supernatural happenings. Peck’s plane was struck by lightning, director Richard Donner was in an accident, and an animal wrangler was eaten alive by one of his own tigers! But the creepiest death involved special effects director John Richardson, who “designed” the decapitation scene. On Friday the 13th, he was involved in a car accident that decapitated his assistant Liz Moore. It is said that when he stepped out of the car, he saw a sign that said he was 66.6 miles away from a town called Ommen, in Netherlands!
3. Psycho: And Murdered By One Too
Who hasn’t heard of the Hitchcock hit Psycho? The shower scene with Janet Leigh, that music and of course, the slasher, Norman Bates! At the time, a certain acting-aspirant Myra Jones was the lighting check stand-in for the star of the movie, Janet Leigh (as opposed to the body double Marli Renfro, who is still alive and well). Myra Jones become Myra Davis later and became Hollywood’s favorite granny who appeared in innumerable commercials.
28 years after the movie, when Myra Davis was a 71-year-old grandma, she was raped and strangled with her own underwear in her apartment. It took the police another 10 years, and another similar murder to find out the murderer: Kenneth Dean Hunt, who was Myra’s handyman at the time, and just 22 years old when he murdered this quintessential granny. He was also a die-hard Hitchcock and Psycho fan.
2. The Crow: When It Killed The Star
Not truly a horror movie, but The Crow was a dark, if brooding, fantasy film that created so much true horror, that it might as well be a horror movie. On the very first day of the shoot of this Alex Proyas movie, a member of the team ran a crane into a power cable and was electrocuted and suffered fourth-degree burns. Plenty of other accidents happened on the set, but none more so tragic, as the freak death of actor Brandon Lee, the son of the legendary actor Bruce Lee.
A revolver that was supposed to be firing blanks somehow already had a bullet lodged in the barrel, and as a result Brandon Lee was actually shot in the abdomen while filming a key scene. The shooter was actor Michael Massee, and this was one accident he never really got over, despite a year’s sabbatical. Brandon was buried in a plot adjacent to his father, one that his mother had reserved for herself, but had to give to her son in a tragic and sad tale indeed.
1. The Dark Knight: A Eulogy For Many
The Dark Knight may not be a horror film again, but yet again with its death count, it might as well be. Of course, we all know and associate this Batman movie with being partly responsible for the death of Heath Ledger, who left behind a heart-broken girlfriend, a little daughter, and millions of shattered fans. The cause of his death was a fatal cocktail of prescription drugs, months after filming wrapped on this cinematic masterpiece – and it is said that his intensive study of the deep, dark character of The Joker partly caused him to be depressed and disturbed.
But there was another freak on-set death. Stuntman Conway Wickliffe was leaning out of a stunt car practicing a stunt when the driver was unable to clear a certain 90 degree turn, and accidentally collided with a tree. Wickliffe suffered severe head injury and died at the scene of the accident.
The saddest part is the Colorado shooting, when disturbed gunman James Eagan Holmes opened fire at patrons sitting in the Century 16 Theatre in Aurora watching this very movie, believing himself to be the Joker. 12 people were killed and more than 70 injured in an unprovoked and insane attack that left so many grieving, forever. RIP people, RIP…