“I couldn’t take it anymore”: films that made the audience faint and vomit

AAny good horror director will want their audience panting in their seats. Or cover your eyes. Even shouting. What no one is aiming for, however, is complete body collapse. But cinema history is replete with films that are so shocking, strange, or downright ugly that viewers simply ceased to be aware by watching them.

Coincidence or not, many of them appear to be French. But others are more classic. Take Saw III, a movie so gnarly that Bolton’s ambulances were put to sleep after reports of moviegoers fainting during brain surgery scenes. Cry babies!

As reports point to a new wave of blackouts courtesy of Parisian provocateur Julia Ducournau and her latest film Titanium – his 2016 film Raw did pretty much the same – here are 13 movies that literally stunned people.

Monsters (1932)

One of the most famous horror films in history, that of Tod Browning Monsters launch real actors with disabilities and physical differences to play carnival attractions. The test screenings for the film – which took place in 1931 – were so disastrous that many viewers passed out. One of them sued the MGM filmmakers, claiming the film was so grotesque that she miscarried. MGM naturally got cold feet and cut the film from 90 minutes to 60 for release. A graphic castration scene never saw the light of day. Probably for the best, that.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

For the pivotal scene in which John Travolta plunges a hypodermic needle into Uma Thurman’s chest after an overdose, the act was filmed backwards and then played backwards on screen. The eerie effect – sped up and accompanied by a morbid thump – proved too loud for a viewer at the film’s world premiere in 1994. “They stopped the film,” actor Eric Stoltz said. “We were all in a lodge on the balcony, and I was mortified.” The lights came back on, bailiffs flocked to the spectator in question, and he was brought back with a sip of Coca Cola. Director Quentin Tarantino was probably thrilled.

Saw III (2006)

“There were three separate calls to the Cineworld cinema in Stevenage on Friday night,” an East Anglian Ambulance Trust spokesperson said in a 2006 statement. The reason: that damn mass killer Jigsaw. Saw was the high priest of horror throughout the 2000s, with audiences plunged into seizures from needle sticks, eyeball pricks, and rib cage removal. Saw III, however, appeared to be the most destructive, with reports of fainting during screenings from Bolton, Cambridge, Peterborough and Stevenage.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

It wasn’t the dread that made Witch Blair the audience launches in 1999 – it was filming. After reports that the film was stomach-upsetting across the United States, theaters began displaying warning signs about possible motion sickness and fainting spells from using portable cameras. It was too late for some, however, with stories of moviegoers throwing up the aisles and collapsing in Atlanta, Portland, Georgia and Dallas.

Heather Donahue in “The Blair Witch Project”

(Moviestore / Shutterstock)

Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noé’s revenge drama features a 10-minute rape scene in a Paris underpass, and it’s the kind of thing the fast-forward button was practically designed for. For those who are trapped with it during a movie show, it is a nightmare. Take the film’s premiere in Cannes in 2002, which resulted in at least 250 people coming out and 20 people passing out. A spokesperson for the fire department said: “In 25 years of work, I have never seen this at the Cannes film festival. The scenes in this film are unbearable, even for us professionals.

127 hours (2010)

Who would have thought that a movie about a man removing his own arm with a pair of rusty pliers would be too much for some? This James Franco drama – based on the true story of climber Aron Ralston’s self-amputation – resulted in three people passing out and one person having a seizure when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010 Even Ralston himself hated looking at it, saying, “I was delighted to get out of there.

The Exorcist (1973)

In 1973, The Exorcist was such a smash that the audience stood in line for hours for the chance to see it. Many remained marked. As reports from the time show, moviegoers often walked out of screenings shaking, crying, and not knowing what they had just seen. The story of demonic possession was so terrifying to audiences in the ’70s that blackouts and vomiting were rife. “I just found it really horrible,” a shaky Briton told a reporter, as shown in the YouTube compilation below. “I could not any more.”

Antichrist (2009)

Somewhere between scenes of a baby falling to death and a later genital mutilation scene, the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist inspired a New Yorker to have a panic attack during a screening in 2009. Earlier that year – at the film’s Cannes premiere – four people passed out, while its Film Festival debut from Toronto made at least one person vomit. Von Trier was not disturbed. “I don’t have to justify myself,” he said that year. “You are all my guests, it is not the other way around.”

Prometheus (2012)

There have been reports of moviegoers passing out during the premiere Extraterrestrial in 1979, and the public had not become desensitized by 2012 either. At the exit of Extraterrestrial prequel Prometheus, at least one person has said she passed out during a scene in which star Noomi Rapace was aborting her own alien fetus. “The last thing I remember was watching her get stapled while the alien squid fidgeted in the narrow autosurgery room,” the person explained on a Extraterrestrial bulletin board.

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Poster illustration for ‘The Last House on the Left’, with a fainting warning

(American international photos)

The infamous Wes Craven rape revenge film sparked controversy even before its release, with a graphic sexual assault scene leading audiences to come out and pass out. Because the scandal sells itself, supporters of the film quickly exploited the horrified reactions and adjusted the film’s posters accordingly. His new slogan? “To avoid fainting, repeat ‘This is only a movie’, ‘… only a movie’.”

Raw (2016)

Julia Ducournau’s debut in 2016 revolved around a young cannibal. The character’s graphic nibbling led audience members to pass out at the Toronto Film Festival. Because he’s so good at his job, the film’s publicist Ryan Werner quickly released a statement confirming the story: “An ambulance had to be called to the scene because the film was getting too difficult for a few customers.”

Titanium (2021)

Manufacturing Raw looks like an episode of Junior Chef, the follow-up of Ducournau Titanium lined on the gore. Full of self-harm, torture and graphic violence, Titanium sparked mass hysteria when he performed at the Sydney Film Festival last year. In a statement, the festival confirmed that 13 people had passed out. Earlier in Cannes, other reports were of fainting spells. As for Ducournau, she suggested that most of the “fainting” stories may have been invented for marketing purposes. “I was in Cannes when Raw created and I haven’t seen anyone pass out or vomit, as many have said, ”she said Exberliner. Hmm.

Psychosis (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror flick turned out to be so shocking to ’60s audiences that it seemed to spark some sort of collective madness in those who watched it. Reports from New York at the time claimed that movie theaters had become hotbeds of hyperventilation, with police called in to deal with the mass blackouts. Requests to ban the film naturally followed, but were unsuccessful.


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