Keeping secrets about upcoming films may be incredibly hard these days, but it was a lot easier pre-Internet. Nowadays, every person out there can pontificate about EVERY TOPIC IMAGINABLE. Therefore, we have a lot of speculation about everything, movies included.
But even before the World Wide Web existed, movie fans started rumors about upcoming films. Horror films, big budget franchises, no topic was safe from speculation.
Let’s take a look at seven wild rumors about movies that ran rampant over the past 40 years.
1. The Shining was really an exposé of a faked moon landing
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of the Stephen King novel polarizes audiences in a big way. The eerie silence of the secluded hotel that Jack Nicholson manages is enough to drive anyone crazy … which is exactly what happens. All the while his wife and son are stuck in the mountain retreat with him for the entire winter. His son Danny has visions of past horrors that occurred at the hotel and his wife attempts to make a home of the creepy, large hotel. Jack is also working on a book because he’s a writer. So he thinks the job watching the empty hotel will be perfect to get in the writer’s mindset.
There’s a scary documentary out there called Room 237 all about just what the movie "really" means. One very strange conspiracy theory about The Shining is that Kubrick intended for the film to be a secret apology for his role in producing fake footage of the 1969 moon landing. Evidence includes: canisters of Tang—an astronaut's favorite beverage—prominently displayed in the hotel pantry, and Danny dressed in an Apollo 11 sweater. Theorists also claim the Grady Twins represent NASA's Gemini mission and that the "All" in Jack's "All work and no play..." mantra of madness actually looks like A11.
2. Cannibal Holocaust depicted real murders
Another film from 1980… Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing Cannibal Holocaust? This Italian exploitation splatterfest was marketed as a found footage film about a film crew that ran into a tribe of cannibals in the Amazon. Think The Blair Witch Project, but natives in the South American jungle killing and eating a camera crew instead of annoying 20-somethings in the woods being chased by a ghostly creature.
Cannibal Holocaust was incredibly controversial when it was released, even leading to bans in Italy and Australia. Despite the uproar over its subject, there are actually several films with similar premises. A recent entry into the canon was 2013’s Green Inferno directed by Eli Roth.
The director of Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deodato, was actually taken to court because some folks believed that he had people murdered on camera. Obviously, that did not happen, and charges of the movie being a snuff film were ultimately rejected, but some of the onscreen animal deaths in the film were real.
3. The curse of Poltergeist
Poltergeist was one of the most popular and scary horror movies of the 1980s. Frequently mentioned in the same breath as classics such as Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, this haunted house tale left a permanent imprint on moviegoers upon its release in June 1982.
Tobe Hooper’s creeper about a family dealing with a serious haunting in their home has had rumors swirling around it for years. In short, some believe that the film was cursed and that people associated with it suffered untimely deaths. For proof, they point to two actresses from the film who died after the film's release: 22-year-old Dominique Dunne was murdered in November 1982, and 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke died of septic shock in February 1988. Supposedly, the curse was caused by the skeletons used in the pool scene, which were not props, but the remains of dead people. According to Snopes, actual human remains were indeed used on set. It's claimed that the spirits of these bodies exacted revenge for their undignified use. Don’t disturb the dead, people.
4. The Han/Vader fusion in The Empire Strikes Back
WAY before the Internet got involved, Star Wars fans speculated about rumors, theories, and what was coming next in the film franchise. Before The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, rumors swirled that Han Solo and Darth Vader would engage in an epic battle and their “life forces” would be fused.
This would cause Luke Skywalker to have a major dilemma. If he killed Darth Vader, would he also kill his best buddy Han? This obviously never happened, but the rumor about Han dying persisted, possibly because the plot point of his being frozen in carbonite was leaked to the public and took on a life of its own.
5. Halloween vs. Hellraiser
We would have paid big bucks to see this one. At some point, Pinhead and Michael Myers from the Hellraiser and Halloween movie franchises were supposed to appear in a film together… and raise hell. But the Akkad brothers, who produce the Halloween series, ultimately didn’t want their villain mixing it up with another horror heavyweight.
And maybe we can’t blame them, because it kind of screams of desperation when a well-worn film series throws its fans a major curveball. It’s kind of like when a TV show introduces a new character because they’re running out of ideas. Remember when Oliver joined The Brady Bunch? Not cool.
But it might have been a horror movie mash-up that worked. Both villains are pretty popular in the horror world, and seeing how Michael Myers fares when matched up against another slasher sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. Freddy vs. Jason did manage to be pretty enjoyable, after all. Regardless, the Halloween series will live on again in 2018 with a new reboot. We’ll have to wait until October to see how this new direction for the iconic horror franchise works out …
6. Jaws as a 3-D comedy?
Some films should just never be remade, and Jaws is one of those. But that didn’t stop the rumor mill from spinning in 2010, when word of a remake of the classic 1975 film surfaced. The shocking part? That Jaws would be remade as a 3-D movie and rely much more on humor to lure the young people in.
I mean, have you ever seen Jaws 3-D from 1983? It has a good cast, including Dennis Quaid, Lea Thompson, and Louis Gossett, Jr., but that movie is painful to watch. I will say, however, that seeing that one as a kid kind of freaked me out because the killer shark somehow infiltrates SeaWorld, and as a six-year-old, I totally bought into it. But now I’m much wiser (kind of) and I tried to watch it within the past couple of years. Wow, what a snoozer. And I think Jaws: The Revenge, released in 1987, might be the worst of the bunch. Take my advice: just stick with the original Jaws and you be good to go. Trust me.
7. The death of the Dark Knight
Director Christopher Nolan has always said he would only make three Batman films. But before The Dark Knight Rises was released, speculation was rampant that Christian Bale’s Batman would be killed off. The trailer for the film only added fuel to the fire, as Bane was throwing Batman’s broken mask on the ground. But Batman did not kick the bucket onscreen … yet.
So, will he or won’t he? And what’s in store for the Caped Crusader in future films? It's safe to say that the franchise has had a bit of a strange path over the last few decades. There was the beloved Adam West TV show version of Batman in the 1960s, and of course, Tim Burton’s 1989 movie version reintroduced the hero into our lives after a hiatus. The sequels to the ’89 film were pretty bad (let’s be honest), but then Nolan’s revamped versions beginning in 2005 made many of us love Batman again. Then, there's the animated Batman movies... but maybe we're all just waiting for another take on the iconic character from Nolan.
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Featured still from "Poltergeist" via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)