Six Horror Films That Were Just As Horrific To Make

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt

By Steph Cannon · @SCannonWrites · May 19, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT
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THE SHINING (1980)

Horror films are a medium that can be so immersive, it's easy to forget you're in the safety of your home and not in the middle of the terror and carnage that the characters are experiencing on screen. Fortunately, it's all just make-believe, and the people you see going through hell are all actors who escape entirely unscathed. Or at least, that's what we are led to believe. However, there are some productions where the cast and crew didn't necessarily fare so well. From extreme elements to rampant injuries, demanding directors, to overblown budgets, here are six horror films that are rumored to have been just as nightmarish to make as the stories they were based on.

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The Shining

Director Stanley Kubrick had a reputation as a perfectionist when it came to filmmaking, often resulting in arduous reshoots to capture a scene the way he envisioned.

This held true during the making of The Shining, where the director employed multiple avant-garde and unorthodox methods to get the most out of his actors. There are many reports and rumors about the practices used, including serving Jack Nicholson (who plays Jack Torrance) nothing but food he hated for weeks on end to tap into his inner anger.

Most talked about is the gross mistreatment of actress Shelley Duvall, who played Jack's wife, Wendy. According to accounts from Duvall and others on set, Kubrick wanted as authentic of a portrayal of a tortured, terrified character as possible. He reportedly asked the rest of the cast to separate themselves and not speak to her, isolating her from any kind of human contact. Duvall has stated that the experience was so stressful that she began losing her hair.

The Evil Dead

The Evil Dead

When director Sam Raimi set out to film The Evil Dead in the middle of the Tennessee woods, he had every intention of creating a fun and inviting experience for his crew. As well-intended as he may have been, filming turned into anything but for all involved.

A low budget meant the entire cast and crew had to stay together in the tiny cabin, which had no running water or plumbing, in addition to undergoing long hours of filming each day.

Raimi has later admitted to the inexperience of himself and those involved, which inadvertently led to several injuries for the actors. Costuming and props had to be as inexpensive as possible, including the use of real glass contacts to be worn during the scenes involving characters becoming the demonic "Deadites."

The most significant cause of misery may have been the weather conditions. Filming began in November and lasted most of the Winter, when temps routinely fell below freezing. With no heat, uncomfortable costumes, and long hours exposed to the elements, many involved have since spoken about the discomfort experienced during those twelve weeks.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

On the opposite end of the temperature spectrum, conditions for filming Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre during a sweltering Texas summer were so brutally hot that it affected the health of most of the cast. It would regularly reach over 110 degrees, with little to no cooling elements to help relieve the oppressive heat.

The production used real meat during the filming of the famous dinner scene, and thanks to those high temps, most of it went bad, creating a putrid smell that purportedly caused everyone on set to be sick.

Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface, later said that he was forced to wear the infamous leather mask and costume in the extreme conditions, and that it wasn't washed in between shooting because production was afraid of ruining it. Hansen stated the mask and costume began to smell so terrible that no one else wanted to be near him.

The movie had a notoriously small budget, which meant it needed to be made as quickly as possible, resulting in sixteen-hour days. When considering all the aforementioned difficulties, this meant very little downtime or escape for all involved.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

William Friedkin's controversial shocker about the demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil (played by Linda Blair) is regarded by some to be the scariest movie of all time, while others have condemned it as sacrilege.

Along with its polarizing nature, the cast and crew paint a picture that includes uncomfortable conditions, tense filming days, and even rumored curses.

Blair spent a large percentage of her time in the thin nightgown seen during the exorcism scenes, but Friedkin wanted to keep the set substantially cold so that the actors' breath could be visible. While the other actors were dressed warmly, Blair was subjected to the cold with barely any clothing. She also reportedly received injuries when strapped into the bed to achieve some of the movie's more violent scenes.

Friedkin was also allegedly known to have a prop person spontaneously shoot off blanks near the actors just before starting a scene to keep them on edge and obtain a frightened demeanor.

The strangest occurrence, though, was a fire that ravaged the set and shut down production for six weeks, sparking rumors that the production was cursed.

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Jaws

Steven Spielberg was just twenty-six years old when he set out to direct what would become one of the biggest blockbusters in film history. Young and ambitious, Spielberg insisted on shooting the movie at sea versus an indoor water tank to capture the most realistic experience possible. Unfortunately, this caused a multitude of problems for the film, spurring unintended misery and a prolonged shoot.

For starters, filming in open water meant contending with other boats in frame, bad weather, and a seasick crew. The now well-known mechanical sharks, nicknamed "Bruce" after Spielberg's lawyer, constantly broke down, causing significant delays. Several cast members stated that there would be days stuck at sea waiting for repairs, with nothing to do in the meantime. Tensions ran high, causing several feuds between actors, including the notorious bickering between Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.

All of this resulted in principal filming ballooning from an estimated 55 days to nearly 160 days and an overblown budget that took the movie from $4 million to a whopping $9 million.

Psycho

Psycho

Arguably, Alfred Hitchcock's most renowned film, Psycho, contains one of the most famous moments in movie history: the shower scene in which actress Janet Leigh's character Marion Crane is brutally stabbed to death.

Though the entirety of the scene is 45 seconds long, it took nearly a week to complete, complicated by exhaustive reshoots and copious camera angles to properly capture the attack.

Psycho also faced difficulties acquiring financing, with Hitchcock putting in much of his own money in order to get it made. It faced backlash from censors, who pushed back on the shower scene, the opening exchange between Marion and her lover, Sam, and even for showing the flushing of a toilet - a first for film (post-Hayes Code at least).

It's impressive that these films managed to get made at all, considering the anguish and misery felt by those on set. Of course, these all would eventually become some of the most beloved horror films of all time. Perseverance through the difficult moments becoming a thing of beauty.

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