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Top 10 Horror Films That Disturbed the Crew

by Avery Cohen
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

You’ve undoubtedly seen a movie so terrifying that you wanted to flee the theater, the room, or the planet entirely. As crew members of the film, these people were kind of stuck with the situation. Making a scary movie is a surreal experience in and of itself, but sometimes that experience includes being absolutely terrified or dealing with very disturbing situations. When a film scene is crucial, it might have to be created with an added dose of disruption, which may put a significant strain on the production staff. These are 10 movies whose film crews were deeply disturbed during production.

Related: Top 10 Ridiculously Over The Top Horror Movie Deaths

10 The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005) Official Trailer 1 – Laura Linney Movie

Having your surroundings begin to play with you is the surest way to make you feel like you’re actually in a real exorcism film. The 2005 horror film directed by Scott Derickson was a revivifying surprise, reimagining the genre and resetting our sense of terror to a whole new level. Derickson’s reputation as a filmmaker who favors works that create a lasting feeling of fear has been solidified by his work on such iconic horror films as Hellraiser, Deliver Us from Evil, and Sinister.

To ramp up the experience, paranormal activity reportedly occurred during the filming of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, leaving the cast and crew wondering whether they were at the right place at the wrong time. Jennifer Carpenter, who played the lead in the film, reported that the atmosphere on set was so stressful that her radio alarm would turn on and off randomly, always playing Pearl Jam’s “Alive.” In fact, according to the star, “I thought about that when it happened, and two or three times when I was going to sleep, my radio came on by itself. The only time it scared me was once because it was really loud, and it was Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive.’ Laura’s TV came on a couple of times.”

There have been other reports from other cast members of their radios and/or TVs turning on without any intervention. Like Carpenter, they had heard the hit song by Pearl Jam. Given the unsettling nature of these encounters, the cast and crew asked that their hotel eliminate all radios.[1]

9 The Lords of Salem (2012)

Lords of Salem Official Trailer #2 (2013) – Rob Zombie Movie HD

It’s no secret that Rob Zombie has made a name for himself as a filmmaker in both the music and film industries with his catalog of gory fright flicks. In this 2012 Rob Zombie picture, a “gift from the Lords” album is brought to radio DJ Heidi in a mysterious package. Memories of her town’s bloody history are brought back to her by the noises trapped inside the grooves.

Jennifer Spence, the film’s production designer, has revealed several eerie incidents that occurred on this and other sets. One of her friends saw something so terrible while they were filming that she remained silent and refused to return to the upper floors without Jennifer’s company, leaving her face as white as a ghost. The eerie atmosphere of the chamber and the rest of the building put her off from the start, she adds. During production, she said, weird sounds would often go off. Rob Zombie, a hard rock musician and filmmaker of all things spooky who enjoys bringing slasher, gore, and other terrifying elements to the big screen, surely didn’t mind hearing this tale.[2]

8 The Amityville Horror (2005)

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) | Official Trailer | MGM Studios

In this adaptation of the 1979 classic, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children move into a lavish Long Island estate and quickly learn that they aren’t alone. The film, directed by Andrew Douglas, is a high-quality representation of the supernatural horror subgenre at its peak in 2005. Some genuinely terrifying incidents occurred on set, however, making the cast and crew excessively scared to continue working on the film. So, what kind of eerie events then began to take place specifically?

For starters, shortly before the shooting began, the body of a dead fisherman washed up on the riverside adjacent to the main house, already an extremely bad sign. Other strange things happened to the cast and crew of the movie. Many of them reported that they would frequently wake up at 3:15 am throughout their week, which was the time that Ronald DeFeo, the Amityville killer, murdered his family in the house, which serves as the basis for the real story in the movie. The story of this movie has been recounted from many various perspectives, but the cast and crew’s perspective is one of the scariest. [3]

7 The Shining (1980)

The Untold Truth Of The Shining

In this classic film from 1980, novelist Jack Torrance applies for a job as the hotel’s caretaker at the stunningly remote and historically important Overlook Hotel. Jack, Wendy, and Danny assume they’re checking into a regular hotel, but they quickly discover they’re in a dire predicament. This Kubrick classic is a true cinematic landmark; upon its premiere, it changed the face of the horror genre forever.

While, as is generally known, a Kubrick picture is not your typical film, and some degree of obscurity is almost to be expected in a film created by the renowned filmmaker, the cast members were not only disturbed during the film’s production but they were absolutely pushed to the brink. Shelley Duvall, who played Wendy, has remarked in the past that “From May until October, I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great.” The problem wasn’t exclusive to just one instance on set. The set actually burned down at one point, leaving the crew quite disturbed, particularly given the nature of the film being produced. Everyone, that is, except Kubrick, who actually found it quite amusing.[2]

6 The Birds (1963)

The Birds | Attack on Bodega Bay

Speaking of directors who know how to push the limits of their work, famed director Alfred Hitchcock is no exception. The 1963 film The Birds tells the story of Melanie Daniels, a socialite who arrives in a town where the local bird population begins to display some unusual behavior.

Actress Tippi Hedren has made it clear that she was not treated kindly when filming the classic Hitchcock thriller. She recalled that Alfred Hitchock was rather aggressive and did some pretty disturbing things during filming, and she highlighted how unsettling some of Hitchock’s techniques for producing the picture were. She claims that he used real birds, not artificial ones and that he did things like tie a raven to her leg to make it seem like she was being harmed by the birds. Real birds were used in several scenes, and the actress was scratched and wounded, causing her to be visibly distressed on set.[5]

5 Insidious (2010)

Insidious: Elise Sees The Demon (SCARY SCENE)

Another great horror picture was released in 2010, and it was directed by James Wan, who also helmed SAW and Dead Silence, all of which are considered classics in the horror film canon. In this landmark picture, a family fights to prevent their sick child from being abducted by evil spirits and brought to a realm they call “The Further.”

Rose Byrne, who portrays Renai Lambert in the film, has remarked that the home was so frightening that she used to get creeped out while shooting. She claimed it made strange, creaking noises and had weird, odorous smells. She has described how unsettling it was to be on set during filming, particularly because of the constant noise and activity alongside the film team. For an actress who has been in several thrillers and horror films, this is a particularly chilling admission.[6]

4 Alien (1979)

Alien Chestburster – Art of The Scene

If you’re a lover of sci-fi and horror films or just like watching legendary classics, you already know that films from the 1970s set the bar high. This franchised classic follows suit showing us the crew of a commercial spacecraft as it encounters a deadly lifeform while looking into a mysterious signal. There were several twists and turns during the series, including one that disturbed many of the original actors.

In one of the most memorable sequences from the film, an extraterrestrial shoots out of a man’s torso, sending his organs flying in all directions. Veronica Cartwright, who is splashed with blood, had no clue the actors and actresses had been kept in the dark about the impending bloodbath. At this point, it’s easy to see why the cast and crew of a film that’s pivotal to so many people’s careers would be in disarray. The foul odor created by the animal intestines within the chest was intolerable to the actors and crew. It’s rumored that after shooting this scene, Yaphet Kotto went home and hid in a room for hours, refusing to discuss any of the scenes with his wife.[7]

3 Jaws (1975)

Jaws | “You’re Going To Need a Bigger Boat” | Shark Attacks Chief Brody in 4K HDR

For an unproven filmmaker like Steven Spielberg in his early years, the chaos that ensued on the set of Jaws was a formula for catastrophe. This classic film has a place in cinematic history not just for the contributions it made to the thriller genre but also for the widespread water phobia it spread. A local sheriff, a marine researcher, and an old sailor band together to track down and kill a killer shark that has caused havoc in a seaside hamlet off Cape Cod.

With an obsession to make the film as realistic as possible, the cast and crew endured a stressed-out director who wanted to do crazy things that hadn’t been done before, such as using a real arm for the scene where Chrissie’s body is found or using cables to actually almost drown actress Susan Backlinie, who struggles infamously in the water. Given that their boat, which housed Panavision cameras, actually sank at one point, causing them to nearly lose a ton of video, it is understandable that the crew was not just in distress but deeply disturbed by the eventual irresponsibility of making this film. Thankfully, all of these disruptions contributed to the making of one of the most legendary movies of all time.[8]

2 The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (1973) Priest scene part 2 (1080p HD)

The Exorcist cemented itself in cinema history by having people practically collapse in the theater at times out of utter shock at what they witnessed. If not iconically renowned as the archetypal horror picture or merely one of the scariest movies ever produced, a movie like this had simply never been done before. And if you thought Hitchcock’s Psycho was freaky, this movie was downright horrifying. This was due to the fact that, in addition to scaring audiences throughout the world, certain really disturbing things also afflicted the cast and crew while the movie was being made.

Some of these incidents included one in which Regan Macneil, who plays the actress who is possessed in the movie, really had her home burn down while the movie was being made, forcing a six-week production pause. This is in addition to the fact that several crew members died while filming the movie, and unbelievable injuries occurred, including Chris Macneil, Regan’s mother, having a spinal injury. In addition, the writers said that strange and unsettling scary things used to happen to them away from the set. This is a significant number of disruptions for one popular film, yet horror history will remember this iconic picture regardless.[9]

1 IT (1990)

More best of: IT (1990)

Clowns are terrifying, and the remakes of this classic Stephen King tale have reminded the world of this. Seven misfit preteens in 1960s America face up against a child-killing monster dressed as a clown. When the monster returns to their homeland 30 years later, they band together to destroy it.

In fact, many of the crew didn’t want to be near the original Pennywise (Tim Curry) since he was so terrifying and disturbing during filming. His make-up was so realistic that it scared the youngsters and the cast and crew of the set where the film was produced. In addition, the team was unsettled by the fact that certain props and equipment were so rusty that they had to be kept from being touched lest they get tetanus. Weird things happening on set are part of what makes these kinds of movies so entertaining, but the cast and crew deserve serious credit for rolling with the punches.[10]


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fact checked by Darci Heikkinen