The boundaries of cinema are constantly being pushed with directors finding new ways to shock and enthrall audiences.
Recently, horror flick Terrifier 2 shot to public attention after it was reported the film has caused multiple viewers to vomit and faint while watching it.
The American slasher movie, which was released in the US last week, sees Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton) return to terrorise a teenager and her younger brother on Halloween night.
The film, a sequel to 2016’s Terrifier directed by Damien Leone, sees Art return from the dead to wreak more havoc – but the graphic, gory scenes were too much for some.
This is not the first time audience reactions have caused controversy surrounding a film – in fact, there is a rich and terrifying history of people suffering visceral reactions to what they see on screen.
From puking to passing out and even worse, cinema sometimes goes beyond a simple fright.
Here are 20 films that did just that when they were released.
See if you can withstand them all… if you dare.
The Exorcist (1973)
Religious horror classic The Exorcist is one of the most notorious films for garnering an extreme reaction from cinemagoers.
Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, it tells the story of Regan, possessed by the ancient demon Pazuzu, whose mother desperately searches for answers to her daughter’s condition.
Part of the hype that sent film fans to see the flick in droves was the tales of people suffering from panic attacks, vomiting, and fainting during screenings.
Reports claimed several audience members ran from the theatre in hysterics, while others fainted or vomited during an early screening of The Exorcist in New York.
Following the hysteria surrounding the film in America, when it opened in the UK, ambulances waited outside theatres with stretchers at the ready.
Alfred Hitchcock shocked audiences with the release of Psycho which saw actress Janet Leigh slain by Norman Bates’s ‘mother’ while taking a shower at the Bates Motel.
Psycho sees a woman on the run who takes refuge in a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother, though all is not as it seems as she uncovers the horrors behind closed doors.
Various sources claim people were seen running out of theatres, and police in New York had to deal with cases of ‘mass fainting’.
Many called for the film to be banned at the time of its release, though these pleas proved unsuccessful.
In 2001, Leigh told The New York Times that she was still scared of showers after filming the now iconic opening scene of the film.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Regularly listed as one of the best films of all time, Pulp Fiction propelled director Quentin Tarantino to stardom upon its release.
The gangster flick, released in 1994, follows the lives of two hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits as their stories intertwine.
One scene, in which Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is injected with a hypodermic needle, proved too much for one audience member who had to receive medical attention after fainting during the film’s world premiere.
‘They stopped the film, we were all in a box seat in the balcony, and I was mortified,’ actor Eric Stoltz said at the time, before detailing how the audience member was attended to by ushers.
Another of Tarantino’s films, Reservoir Dogs, also evoked a shocking reaction with Scream and Nightmare On Elm Street director Wes Craven admitting some of the scenes were too much even for him.
‘I have a hard time with torture; I mean, I walked out on Reservoir Dogs,’ he told The Wall Street Journal.
‘I saw it at a film festival, and when I was out in the lobby, this kid came pounding out of the shadows and said, “You’re Wes Craven, right?” I said yeah, and he said, “and you’re leaving because you can’t take it?” I said yeah, and he said, “I just scared Wes Craven!” It was Quentin Tarantino, and I didn’t know who he was at that time. But I just don’t like watching [that].’
127 Hours (2010)
Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours told the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who got his arm trapped in a remote canyon in Utah.
The nail-biting film, which sees Ralston (James Franco) amputate his arm with a pocket knife, saw many audience members faint at screenings across the world.
During the premiere at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, three people fainted and one person reportedly suffered a seizure during the screening.
Even Ralston himself was affected by the film, telling the press at the time of its release: ‘I was ecstatic to be getting out of there.’
When Alien was first released there were reports of audience members fainting in theatres.
More than 30 years later, audiences hadn’t become desensitised with Alien prequel Prometheus also receiving fainting reports.
The film sees a team trying to uncover the origin of mankind, finding a structure on a distant moon – though they soon realise they are not alone.
One person shared on an Alien message board that a scene in which Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) aborts her own alien foetus caused them to pass out.
They wrote: ‘The last thing I remember was watching her being stapled back together whilst the alien squid-thing lashed around in the tight auto-surgery chamber.’
The scene also reportedly caused a teenage boy in Australia to suffer a seizure.
The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life proved controversial at the time of its release.
Not just because of its runtime or graphic scenes of torture: it may have caused the death of one audience goer.
Peggy Law, a 56-year-old woman from Kansas, reportedly had a fatal heart attack while watching the graphic crucifixion scene during a screening in Wichita.
A spokeswoman for KAKE-T said at the time the woman did not have any existing health problems, and that ‘it was the highest emotional part of the movie.’
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project changed the face of found footage films, and the horror genre as a whole, upon its release in 1999.
The mockumentary sees three filmmakers travel to the Black Hills to tell the story of the Blair Witch, quickly discovering it could be more than just a myth.
If its jaw-dropping marketing campaign didn’t entice viewers in, the tales surrounding its screenings would.
The shaky style of the film left many audience members suffering from motion sickness, with reports of vomiting in the aisles.
Bonnie Hunsaker, the managing director of AMC Colonial at the time, was forced to post a warning for screenings of the film when the theatre experienced at least one audience member vomiting at every showing.
She said: ‘This past weekend we put up a sign that said the hand-held camera can create motion sickness, and if you’re susceptible to motion sickness you may want to rethink your viewing choice.’
Saw III (2006)
The Saw franchise is renowned for its graphic violence and intricate traps in each installment.
However, it was Saw III that garnered the most extreme reaction from viewers when it was released in 2006.
In the third addition to the series, Jigsaw abducts a doctor in order to keep himself alive while his new maniacal apprentice puts yet another unlucky member of the public through some brutal tests.
The BBC reported three separate ambulances were called to UK theatres on the night of the film’s premiere after multiple people became sick or fainted.
The incidents were mostly attributed to the graphic brain surgery scene in the film’s final scenes.
The Conjuring II (2016)
One of the most chilling tales in our round-up comes from The Conjuring 2.
The sequel to the original terrifying Conjuring film sees supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren travel to North London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house haunted by a spirit.
During a screening of the horror film at Sri Balasubramaniar Cinema in Tiruvannamalai, a town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a man began experiencing ‘chest pains.’
He later died after being taken to the nearby Old Government Hospital, but that’s not where this story ends.
The Telegraph reported that after his death, the man’s corpse and the person in charge of transporting it have vanished.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Despite not being able to stand the violence in Reservoir Dogs, Wes Craven is no stranger to creating his own controversial films.
The Last House on the Left sees two teenage girls kidnapped and brutalized by a gang of psychopaths.
The shocking film faced backlash before it was released due to a graphic scene of sexual assault.
This very scene led to reports of audiences walking out of screenings in droves as well as fainting.
The film’s marketing team quickly exploited the reaction, adding a new tagline to the film’s posters reading: ‘To avoid fainting, keep repeating “It’s only a movie”, “…only a movie”‘.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
Master of filth John Waters outdid himself with the release of Pink Flamingos in 1972.
The film, starring Divine, sees a famous criminal go up against a sleazy married couple who try to steal her title of ‘The Filthiest Person Alive’.
Pink Flamingos includes many gory and gross-out scenes that saw audience members throw up – including THAT infamous dog feces sequence.
Because of this, in some theatres, patrons were given their own ‘Pink Phlegm-ingo Barf Bag’ when attending screenings.
The film went on to be banned in several countries, though it became a cult classic and in 2021 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.’
The Human Centipede (2009)
With each new Human Centipede film, viewers have been left shocked and outraged by the content within.
The basis of the film series is a mad scientist who kidnaps and mutilates an increasing number of people to create a human centipede, stitching their mouths to each others’ rectums.
In fact, the third installment almost never saw the light of day after those who previously worked on it were so disgusted by the script alone.
The first instalment quickly became the stuff of film legend with tales of people vomiting while watching it or being forced to leave the cinema.
Like Pink Flamingos, some theatres handed people barf bags during screenings for the second Human Centipede film due to its graphic content.
Audience reaction can become part of the legacy of a film, and this is certainly true for Tod Browning’s Freaks.
The classic horror film follows a travelling circus and the drama within as a beautiful trapeze artist plans to defraud one of the circus’s sideshow performers.
Several people could not bear to watch the movie, citing Browning’s casting of real circus performers as one of the driving factors.
A pregnant woman who screened the original version of the film sued MGM, claiming the movie forced her to miscarry.
The studio was forced to make several cuts to the film because of this, though it still ended up banned in several countries and effectively ended Browning’s career.
The Green Inferno (2013)
Master of gore Eli Roth shocked audiences once more with cannibal flick The Green Inferno in 2013.
In it, a group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rainforest, stumbling upon a cannibalistic tribe in the process.
The poster for the film was banned, there were calls to ban the film itself and a petition was launched, and Roth excitedly announced the film’s ‘best review ever’ when an audience member fainted during a showing at the Deauville American Film Festival in France.
‘It’s official! We had a FAINTING at #Deauville2015 screening of @TheGreenInferno!!!!’ the director wrote on Twitter.
The film received a glowing response from horror novelist Stephen King, who wrote that the film is ‘like a glorious throwback to the drive-in movies of my youth: bloody, gripping, hard to watch, but you can’t look away.’
Antichrist is widely regarded as one of the most shocking films in the history of the Cannes Film Festival due to the reaction it received when it was screened in 2009.
Directed by master of the macabre Lars Von Trier, the screening at Cannes saw four people faint and one critic call the film ‘an abomination’.
The film, part of Von Trier’s depression trilogy, follows a grieving couple as they retreat to their cabin in the woods following the tragic death of their son.
Its debut at the Toronto Film Festival also led to at least one person vomiting, though Von Trier was unbothered.
‘I don’t have to justify myself,’ he said during the event.
‘You are all my guests, it’s not the other way round.’
The film was also banned in France seven years after its release due to complaints from a Catholic group.
Goodnight, Mommy (2015)
Less than 10 days after the fainting fiasco surrounding Green Inferno, Goodnight Mommy began to terrify audiences.
The disturbing film sees two twin boys question whether their mother is actually their mother when she returns home from facial surgery displaying strange new traits.
The creators of the Austrian psychological horror reported that multiple people had fainted during its runtime.
Co-director Severin Fiala told Indiewire: ‘Two people fainted. That’s the best compliment we’ve had so far.’
It was selected as the Austrian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated.
Raw first gained public attention when paramedics had to be called during its screening at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival.
This was reportedly because many patrons were left feeling physically ill during screenings of the horror film, directed by Julia Ducournau.
And it’s easy to see why, with Raw telling the story of a young vet who develops a taste for human flesh.
Following the release of Raw, Titane, also by Ducournau, has also sparked controversy.
When it played at the Sydney Film Festival in 2021, a statement issued by the festival confirmed 13 people had fainted during its screening.
When this French psychological horror premiered at Cannes, a whopping 250 people reportedly walked out of the screening with a vast majority of them requiring medical attention.
In reverse-chronological order, Irréversible follows the traumatic events of one night in Paris after a young woman is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger.
According to the BBC, fire wardens had to administer oxygen to 20 people who fainted during the film.
Many attributed this to the film’s low-frequency score which was used to invoke feelings of unease and confusion.
Others also put this down to the film’s graphic 10-minute rape sequence near the start.
At the premiere of the film at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival, the crew handed out barf bags as gifts.
Many assumed this was a cute marketing ploy until they ended up utilizing them mid-way through the screening.
The official Bite Facebook page posted a quote from Fantasia co-director Mitch Davis, who said: ‘I leave the BITE premiere for all of ten minutes and the following text lights up my phone: “2 people fainted, one girl is puking and one man hit his head on the stairs” Truth’.
The film, released in 2015, takes place at a bachelorette party where bride-to-be Casey in bit by an unknown insect, changing her life forever.
Shocked to see this James Cameron epic on the list? Us too.
However, Avatar could have caused the demise of one man when he saw the fantasy blockbuster in cinemas.
The 2009 hit film follows a paraplegic marine who is dispatched to the moon Pandora, though he quickly becomes conflicted between completing his mission and protecting the inhabitants of the moon.
A 42-year-old man in Hsinch, Taiwan, identified only by his last name Kuo, reportedly felt sick watching the movie and later passed after suffering a stroke..
His doctor said, ‘Over-excitement from watching the movie triggered his symptoms.’ The man had a history of high blood pressure and died 11 days after paramedics got him to the hospital.
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