The 8 Ball 4.08.14: Top 8 Cursed Movie Objects
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 04.08.2014
From the One Ring in Lord of the Rings and the Aztec gold in Pirates of the Caribbean to Hellraiser's puzzle box, the video tape in The Ring and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 cursed movie items!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Top 8 Cursed Movie Objects
Welcome back to yet another edition of the 411 Movie Zone 8 Ball! As usual, I'm your host Jeremy Thomas. This week we get a new horror film hitting theaters in Oculus, Relativity's film about two siblings who are convinced that a mirror is responsible for the deaths of others. This film follows in a long movie tradition of cursed objects, which may seem perfectly innocent but hide dark ulterior motives underneath the carefully-assembled surface. The trope is a staple of horror fiction, but has bled into fantasy as well a few times. This week we're going to take a look at some of the best cursed objects out there.
Caveat: Let's define the term here. By "cursed object," we are referring to an item which has a secret dark side, which is very likely not obvious without having foreknowledge of it, that can (and often does) result in the doom of those who use it. These curses can be the price for tempting the fates with such a powerful artifact, or it can be the intended purpose of the item in the manner of an insidious and evil trap. Note that to keep it specific to items created with a curse, I have eliminated haunted and possessed objects. This would include things like the car in Christine, any number of haunted houses, the dybbuk box from The Possession and the like. It's a fine line between the two but a distinction I felt was important to make.
Just Missing The Cut
Oni Mask - Onibaba (1964)
Possessed Parchment - Night of the Demon (1957)
The Basement Items - Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Jewel Box - Night Train (2009)
Black Flame Candle - Hocus Pocus (1993)
#8: Button - Drag Me to Hell (2009)
First on our list is the most innocent-looking of all the cursed items on this list. Let's face it; many (though certainly not all) cursed items on film look like they're cursed items and the people who choose to buy or use them are kind of asking for what they get. But in Sam Raimi's 2009 horror flick Drag Me to Hell, our protagonist Christine finds herself pursued to the ends of the earth by the Lamia after she is forced to deny a loan to an old Roma woman who bestows a curse on a button off her coat. It's really such a perfect situation; sure, you might be creeped out of the old gypsy intones a doomish-sounding proclamation at you but really, are you going to suspect that it's the button that you have to get rid of? It's a smart plot device by Raimi, who uses it to great effect in this underrated flick. The final act becomes a frantic race to try and get rid of the button before the Lamia drags her down to eternal torment. If you have believed that something so simple has a button can't be creepy, then guess again because by the end of this film you'll want to wear clothing with only zippers for a while.
#7: Bracelet of Anubis - The Mummy Returns (2001)
There are a couple items from Stephen Sommers' action-adventure update of the classic Universal horror franchise which could be considered cursed. There are the Book of the Dead and Imhotep's canopic jars, but both of these are situations where frankly you should damn well know what you're getting into. Evie is an Egyptologist, for Christ's sake, and who steals body parts from a cursed man expecting to get out alive. The Bracelet of Anubis, on the other hand, is a bit more insidious. Sure, no one should probably put on a 5,000 year-old bracelet belonging to an ancient warrior who made a pact with the god of the dead. But young Alex O'Connell is like nine. He's naive and so when he puts the bracelet on, it's at least somewhat understandable. From that point forward they have seven days to get him to the palace of the Scorpion King or it will kill him. This of course sets the plot in motion and puts Rick, Evie and Ardeth Bay on a collision course with Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun once again. Add in the fact that it acts as its own Google Maps (except without unnecessarily long routes) and it makes one hell of a cursed item.
#6: Aztec Gold - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
It's nice when a cursed object can be exploited a bit for the greater good. The gold that the crew of the Black Pearl snag in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film initially doesn't quite seem like a curse. After all, it granted Barbossa and his crew immortality and while they get really ugly in moonlight, it's otherwise a bonus right? Well, not so much as we find out. The gold, which as we learn was pillaged from the Aztec, leaves them unable to satisfy any desires that they might have. Food doesn't taste good, wine has no purpose to them; they have been condemned, now that they've spent it all, to a lifetime of empty existence and despair. It even affects Jack the monkey, as we find out at the end of the film when he steals a piece. But leave it to Jack Sparrow to manage to twist a curse to his own end. The good Captain Jack steals a piece of the gold so that he can be immortal for his fight with Barbossa and uses that to defeat his mutinous former first mate. The Aztec gold occupies a specific kind of curse; profiteering off the misery of others. That's a powerful thematic curse and karmic lesson, which the script behind this unexpected blockbuster used quite well.
#5: The Lament Configuration - Hellraiser Franchise
The Lament Configuration, also known as the puzzle box or (as a friend of mine so eloquently refers to it) the "Rubik's Cube of Doom," is the centerpiece of the Hellraiser franchise. Sure, the Cenobites are the terrors given humanesque form but they're fairly powerless unless you use the three centuries-old riddle in your pursuit of ultimate pleasure. And let's not forget that the chains that merge pleasure and pain into one indistinguishable mess come right out of the box. The Lament Configuration is one of the most sinister-looking cursed items in film thanks to the stellar design work by Hellraiser creative team member Simon Sayce. All of those intricate geometric designs are sharp angles and sudden turns, making for an illusion of sharp, dangerous edges. And the way it moves and comes apart doesn't seem logical which just makes it even worse. And of course, you don't even need to be seeking the Cenobites; all you need is to be good with a puzzle and you'll be sent to Hell. It's difficult to create something with a level of iconography that could compete with the horrific likes of Pinhead and Chatterbox, but this box certainly fits that bill.
#4: Videotape - The Ring and Ringu Franchises
Not all cursed items have to be antiquities. With The Ring and its source film Ringu, we see that modern technology is no safer from being cursed than anything else. Both films were based off of the novel by Koji Suzuki, who co-wrote both films as well, and focus on a cursed videotape that, when watched, appears to be no more than a series of random but creepy images. Once the tape is done though, the phone rings and you find out that you have seven days to live before Samara, a dead girl who drowned in a well, will come and get you. The Ring is terrifying not only because Hideo Nakata and Gore Verbinski knew how to ratchet up the tension and creeps effectively, but because the idea is so simple and yet has such wide-reaching implications. It's a self-replicating curse, spreading from person to person as it compels the potential victim to make a copy and pass it off to someone else to watch if they want to live. Imagine when some idiot puts it online; it's game over for pretty much everyone. I know people who can't watch this film because the video itself creeps them out so much; add in the curse factor and it definitely earns its place on this list.
#3: The Ark - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The Ark of the Covenant is one of those items that you don't initially think of as a "cursed object," but when you think about it for a bit it certainly applies. God can curse things just as well (better, really) as anyone else and the holy artifact sought in Indiana Jones' first big-screen outing certainly carried a curse on it, as the Nazis found out. Lawrence Kasdan's famous MacGuffin for the first film allegedly had the power to lay waste to armies and make its carriers invincible, setting Indy on a collision course with the Third Reich to uncover it first. Once it was opened, we found out that it had a legendary price: God's Wrath. Only Indiana and Marion, who don't look at it, are saved because they had the humility to not seek it for power. The best cursed items are sometimes those that become the centerpiece of the movies in which they are featured and this is a great example of that. It doesn't hurt that it looks bad-ass and that the special effects used by ILM to show off its power largely hold up today. People are still as traumatized by Toht's face melting off as they were in 1981, and that's a major achievement.
#2: Necronomicon - The Evil Dead Franchise
This is almost the quintessential cursed item, at least in terms of horror films. It takes a mighty stupid person to read from (or listen to recordings of) a book bound within human skin, but the Book of the Dead in the Evil Dead franchise is just intriguing enough that you might by it. And oh, what a hell it unleashes upon its victims. Where to start? There's the demonic possession via botanical sexual assault for one. That's the major one but as we learn throughout the course of the franchise, it can do all sorts of other terrible things including physically assaulting you itself and raising an army of the dead. The version of the book in the 2013 version doesn't have the face on the cover (that I recall) but it makes up for it with all sorts of terrible images and creepy writing on the inside. Of course the Necronomicon isn't a Sam Raimi creation; it was invented by none other than H.P. Lovecraft who gave us the Cthulhu mythos through his early twentieth century writings. But this certainly popularized the idea of the book. It's a perfect example of a cursed book, destined to bring hellfire and damnation on anyone who gets too close.
#1: The One Ring - Lord of the Rings Franchise
The One Ring tops my list for three simple reasons: legacy, simplicity and elegance. It's not in a horror film, but it remains the prototypical cursed item amongst all fiction. And the Lord of the Rings films brought it to wonderful, shining life. The ring of power was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron to grant him power over all of Middle-Earth and while it carries the power of invisibility and long life, it also carries a terrible corrupting curse. It isn't as in-your-face as possession and it doesn't make your head twist around; it doesn't kill you in a matter of days. It's the slow, insidious corruption that comes with its connection to Sauron and dark magics that make you paranoid. It twists your mind and brings physical corruption as well, making you obsessed over it to the point that you'll kill your best friend without a thought. And yet it looks so innocent, a little golden ring. It has all the best attributes of a cursed object in one complete package, and that's what puts it at #1 for me.
Disguise of the Episode
Current Series/Season:Season One (2001 - 2002) Episodes Watched: 16 Last Serial Completed:The Prophecy - Sydney is tested by the DSR to discover her mysterious link to a chilling 500-year-old picture and prophecy foretold in a Rambaldi manuscript. Meanwhile, after uncovering the identity of the rogue group leader, "The Man," Sloane learns through fellow Alliance of Twelve member Edward Poole that a close friend may be in cahoots with the enemy. Episodes Remaining: 89
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.