tiff 2016

Raw and 15 Other Horror Movies That Physically Sickened Audiences

Photo: Black Fawn Films, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox

During its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, the French horror film Raw reportedly was responsible for more than just your average horror-movie freakouts: The film’s depictions of cannibalism were so heinous that some audience members lost consciousness during the screening. Considering it’s a movie about a young (vegeterian!) woman who gradually develops a taste for human flesh, gruesomeness is a predictable part of its DNA.

Raw is far from the first movie to solicit such physical reactions from audiences — Raw press agent Ryan Werner said he hadn’t seen such a visceral reaction to a film since Lars von Trier’s Antichrist — but there are plenty of other films throughout cinematic history that have shaken those with weak stomachs. Below, a brief history of movies that many audience members would have appreciated watching with a cold compress and a bottle of water nearby, just in case.

Dracula (1931)

What happened? Women were reportedly carried out of theaters after fainting.

Why? The genteel audiences of the early ‘30s weren’t prepared for Bela Lugosi’s (contextually dependent) terrifying turn as a seductive vampire. Just consider how terrifying this bat must have been 85 years ago. Cutting-edge stuff.

The Last House on the Left (1972)

What happened? A New York Times critic left the movie after less than an hour, calling it “repulsive” and “sickening.”

Why? Last House mainstreamed what would become the modern standard of violence in horror cinema. The villains of Last House gleefully stabbing a young girl in full view of the camera and subsequent similar assaults on morality were entirely shocking to an early-’70s audience, even if such things are commonplace now.

The Exorcist (1973)

What happened? Fainting, vomiting, leaving the theater, and even, allegedly, several heart attacks.

Why? What didn’t happen? The Exorcist is still gory even in the context of modern horror movies, so there are plenty of scenes that would have annihilated the baby-boomers: the head spin, the stairway, anything involving a crucifix.

Saló (120 Days of Sodom) (1977)

What happened? If you were able to even see Saló then you’ve already demonstrated your commitment to lurid cinema. The Italian movie was banned in many countries across the world, and its description page in the Criterion Collection notes that it was received as “nauseating, shocking, depraved, pornographic.” It’s still making stomachs turn today, lest you think this story from the Marquis de Sade has lost any of its punch decades later.

Why? Its relentless and unspeakable degradation of a group of young Italian men and women taken hostage by Nazis. People are treated as dogs, made to commit incest, and eat feces, and those are truly just a few of the atrocities going on in Saló.

Saw III (2006)

What happened? Horror fans in the U.K. couldn’t keep it together for Saw III, and at least five people had be assisted by paramedics after leaving screenings in distress.

Why? Could have been the Rack. Could have been the Chains.

Van Diemen’s Land (2009)

What happened? The director of this Australian movie said people were throwing up and passing out in early screenings.

Why? Cannibalism is not for those with a weak constitution.

Antichrist (2009)

What happened? Plenty of walkouts (though some may have been on moral grounds) and reported fainting.

Why? The sexual-mutilation scene was pretty intense.

Grace (2009)

What happened? Another Sundance entry where fainting was reported both in the theater and the lobby outside.

Why? A woman giving birth to a baby she’s told is dead inside her only to have it be alive and strictly craving human blood might rub some people the wrong way.

Prometheus (2012)

What happened? Another case of various personal accounts of fainting and even a seizure.

Why? Three words: Alien-fetus abortion.

Passion of the Christ (2004)

What happened? One woman died of a heart attack while watching it in Kansas.

Why? Extreme, borderline-fetishized torture of someone many consider to be their own personal Lord and savior.

127 Hours (2011)

What happened? Faintings and seizures took place at festival screenings all over the world.

Why? A necrotic arm pinned between two rocks was the only thing standing between Aron Ralston and freedom. And he had a pocket knife. One plus one equals amputation.

V/H/S (2012)

What happened? People were reportedly passing out, crying, experiencing seizures, and exiting screenings at Sundance.

Why? Self-surgery by a nonmedical professional. And surgery by a dubiously credentialed medical professional. Oh, there’s also the Succubus.

Bite (2012)

What happened? The co-director of the Fantasia International Film Festival said on Facebook that “2 people fainted. One girl is puking and another hit his head on stairs.”

Why? The film’s premise is that a woman slowly transforms into a bug and the process comes with a lot of scabs, pus, bile, and various discharges in the grand tradition of The Fly.

The Tribe (2014)

What happened? Fainting and walkouts reported at festival screenings.

Why? Tribe isn’t a horror movie, but the depictions of violence and debauchery among kids are more stark and unsparing — particularly one scene involving an unwanted pregnancy — than almost anything ever put onscreen.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

What happened? A man in India had a heart attack during the movie’s climax scene.

Why? The man was 65, so perhaps he had a preexisting condition that was exasperated by the sight of Valak, the evil nun and movie’s primary antagonist.

A Guide to Physically Revolting Movies