Monday, April 2, 2012

Movies that Make You (Literally) Sick

Last week, The AV Club asked its writers to share the works of art that have made them nauseous. Not, “Oh that was so gross I could puke,” but, “Wow, that was so gross, I puked.”

The writers produced many amusing answers, everything from Fraiser to American Psycho (the book) to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life to The Help to Bambi. They all had their specific reasons as to why these movements of pop culture make them sick to their stomach, which got me to thinking… what films have made me actually vomit? My two personal instances are shared below, but more importantly, I want to hear from you.

If the shaky camera in Cloverfield or The Hunger Games made you rush out of the theater to plop your head in the closest toilet, then that counts. If the close-up of Joe Pesci getting hit in the face for the 58th time with a baseball bat in Casino made you hurl, count it.

Me personally? I have an incredibly strong stomach, and as it relates to film, I am hardly ever brought to the point of nausea. Sure, I can be grossed out and be forced to turn my head, but rarely do I have to actually look away in fear of vomiting. Two such films were that very rare exception.

Disclaimers: I’ve never thrown up as a result of a movie, but these two films got me as close as I can get without actually hurling. I had the shakes, the spins, the sweats – everything was there, but I managed to keep it in. Secondly, nausea was only produced during my first viewing of each of these films. I have since seen both movies multiple times, and have been (physically) fine. Finally, a few spoilers lurk under the “Chaos Reigns” section.

Searching for Le Tenia
I was 17 the first time I watched Irreversible, and when I started it, I assumed Netflix had issued me a faulty DVD. The camera spun and spun and spun within the dark, crowded walls of the Rectum. Distorted views of men pleasing other men in every possible sexual way were hinted at, then barely shown, then revealed all out. The gay sex was fine, and the moving camera wasn’t all that bad either. But that noise, that goddamn noise.

There’s an incessant, never-ending hum that plagues the first 30 minutes of Irreversible. It’s nearly impossible to articulate in print, but if you’ve seen (or heard) the opening of the film, you know exactly what I mean. mmmmMMMMmmmMMMMMMmmmMMMMmmmMMMM, like that.

But there was something else. The uneasiness of the film’s execution that I felt was overtaken by legitimate nausea. A few times, I seriously considered pausing (or stopping) the film to vomit, but I held out. And by the time Albert Dupontel bashed that poor man’s head to oblivion with a fire extinguisher, thus ending the scene, I was inexplicably relieved.

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered what the fuss was about.

For the first 30 minutes of the film, director Gaspar Noé (that batshit ass crazy genius that he is) plays a low frequency, almost inaudible noise in the background of his film. The 28Hz frequency heard in the beginning of the film is said to produce the same noise as an earthquake, and anyone who’s been through a quake knows, once the shaking stops, your center of gravity is way off, and you may even feel physically ill. Basically, the intentional noise Noé put in the beginning causes nausea in humans. So there you go. (For the record, this low frequency noise is NOT the same as the humming. They are two different effects.)

Chaos Reigns
The second film, which will produce a far less scientific explanation, is Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

I’m a fan of Lars von Trier. I get him. I get the rape, the unsimulated sex, the murder of dozens of children – I get that the man aims to disturb. And that’s fine. But, for whatever reason, when I saw his Antichrist in the theater, I all but walked out during its final act.

I didn’t almost run away because the film was bad, quite the contrary, in fact. I completely dug the cold, dark world von Trier immersed us in. But late in the film, you know, when things start to go really bad and (spoilers) Charlotte Gainsbourg smashes Willem Dafoe’s penis with a wood block, then jerks him off until he ejaculates blood – yeah, by then, I was nearly forced to leave. Interestingly enough, by the time Gainsbourg cut off her own clitoris, I was physically fine, again, fully aware that the scene would soon be over, and I would soon be able to breathe fresh air.
Keep in mind, I hold both of these films, particularly Irreversible, in the highest regard. I think Irreversible is one of the best, most gut-wrenching, most oddly beautiful films ever made. It’s worth it, if you can stomach it.

Now, for what I really want to know: tell me the film (or films) that have made you nauseous, and/or caused you to vomit. Anything goes, for any reason. Let it fly.

47 comments:

  1. I was damn close to puking my guts out after seeing In Bruges, which is unusual coming from someone who saw films by Scorsese, Tarantino and Peckinpah without such a reaction.

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  2. @MovieNut14 Really?! That's so bizarre. Was it because of the clock tower jump and the shooting(s)?

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  3. Never puked. Strong stomach for the win.

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  4. @Sam Fragoso Nice, me either. Damn close though. Damn close. Also... have you seen Irreversible and/or Antichrist?

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  5. @Alex WithrowMore so the ending. Really don't know why.

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  6. I have never been so close to vomiting from a movie as when I watched Salo. By "close" I mean, I gagged audibly and stood up for a run to the bathroom.

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  7. @MovieNut14 Gotcha, and who knows, you know? Sometimes these things just... happen.

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  8. Funny you should post this, because I've actually been feeling sick all week. It subsided by Sunday, so I could go and see the Pro/Am golf tournament that me and my Dad look forward to every year, but I'm still feeling iffy today.

    As for films, I have seen a number of incredibly visually graphic and disgustingly excessive movies, including the two you mention, Antichrist and Irreversible.

    I felt pretty sick during the shit-eating sequence of Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (which I maintain is not a bad movie, and that opinion gets me a lot of worried glances).

    I also felt ill during A Serbian Film, which has sex and violence so deliberately provocative, it seems almost paedophilic that so much of it involves children. I do not recommend that film.

    The ones that probably got me the closest to upchucking were Cannibal Holocaust and Pink Flamingos. Both are really bad movies, and incredibly graphic. I don't care how strong stomached you are, unless you're heartless the scenes involving the muskrat and the turtle in Cannibal Holocaust will scar you. And while I appreciated the humour in ending Pink Flamingos with a scene in which the lead actress consumes real dog shit (the soundtrack of "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window" made me chuckle more than I expected), the scene itself will have vomit stirring in your stomach and plunging for your oesophagus. At least the shit-eating in Salo was faked.

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  9. @SJHoneywell Salo. Fuck. I don't think I was nauseous during that because I all but knew what to expect. Still though, not my cup of tea.

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  10. @Tyler Glad you could make it to the Golf Tourney with your pops, I'm actually feeling a little under the weather as well, so that may have contributed to this post.

    Salo isn't a bad flick, it just doesn't feel that necessary for me. I get what Pasolini was trying to do, but a lot of the gruesomeness was lost on me.

    I had heard about A Serbian Film, and I watched it with caution. Turned it off after 30 minutes. Fucking pointless. Cannibal Holocaust nearly made my list, but not because I felt nauseous during it, but because I couldn't eat the pasta dinner my mother had prepared directly after it. Those poor fucking animals (which, I've heard are the only scenes Deodato regrets shooting). And the guy impaling the woman by inserting a very large object into her vagina wasn't much better, either... but at least that was fake.

    Pink Flamingos is a lot like Salo to me - I knew what to expect, and I get what the Waters is trying to do, but I don't see the point in it.

    Great picks, hope you're feeling better!

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  11. Good two choices, I think it's interesting how the two sexes react to Antichrist. You reacted badly to the part with the penis, the women though mostly don't mind it and turn their heads only when she takes the scissors. The two movies that made me sick, though I never puked, was Human Centipede during the swallowing scene and "Alien VS Predator Requiem" during the scene where Alien was forcing eggs down the pregnant's woman throat. The idea of having something awful forced down your throat is just repulsive and the circumstances of those scenes didn't help. What also doesn't help is that these two movies really don't have any redeeming qualities.
    I also noticed it's interesting how the response to the movie and something awful going on is nausea but in real life it is fainting. I hear stories about people puking during a movie all the time. Yet when my group from forensic medicine attented autopsy nobody puked, but few people fainted. Had they seen it on cinema screen they would mostly likely escape to the bathroom.

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  12. @Sati. Hmmm, very interesting point you make about the different health effects real life situations and movies can have. Me, personally, I've witnessed acts of violence in real life that were not nearly as intense as similar acts in movies. That sounds odd, because real life is... real, but with proper sound effects, blood, acting, etc, a fight in a film can be much more gruesome than a fight in real life.

    Anyway, there's definitely something to be made about your Antichrist point; the value of knowing what can be missed, I suppose. Human Centipede was a lot like Salo and A Serbian Film to me - knew what to expect and didn't see the point in it. I've never seen A v. P Requiem, but that sounds gross.

    Good choices though!

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  13. I can't say I saw anything that has made me literally sick as I enjoyed both Irreversible and Antichrist. Though I did get squeamish in the latter.

    I do get dizzy by watching some of those awful action movies like the ones by Michael Bay. They're so terrible.

    I'm eager to see Salo. I just want to see how far I can go and not throw up.

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  14. @thevoid99 The whole shaking camera bit, as pioneered by Janusz Kaminski, has definitely worn out its welcome. It serves a purpose when executed properly, but Michael Bay is just doing it to make his films seem more realistic, which is absurd. If you're trying to test yourself, watch Cannibal Holocaust as well. That film is fucked up.

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  15. Never puked either. I go alright.

    Not a surprise, but the two films that have made the most uncomfortable are...Irreversible (almost unwatchable - fast forwarded bits on my first viewing, but had to watch it again for an assignment, sigh) and Antichrist (which I saw in a cinema).

    I had bad dreams for a week after the latter - because the image of that fox and hearing 'Chaos Reigns' stuck in my head and scared the shit out of me.

    Nice write-up, man. Two very worthy choices.

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  16. The trivia about noise as an earthquake was news to me, thanks for that!

    Funny story, I went in to see Indy 4 in the theatre, which we all know is a family movie. Fat guy I was sitting next to had a simply terrible foul-smelling, unpleasasnt odor, I came close to vomitting, and it seriously affected my enjoyment. Yuck! Luckily the film was poor anyway! ( :

    I remember I saw Lost in space (1998) on a ferry once, so the fact the boat was rocking obviously contributed. The quick-cut editing of that film was exhausting, and was also factor in making me all dizzy.

    Probably these examples are more about the screening environment, than the contents of the movies. Anyway, that's my two cents!

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  17. @Andy Buckle Ha thanks buddy. That goddamn fox... creepy little bastard.

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  18. Irreversible didn't make me sick, but it did make me want to kill Gaspar Noé. I'm being 100% serious when I say that; if Noé had been at the screening I attended, I would've physically attacked him. I knew about the 28Hz tone (apparently it's used for crowd dispersal in riots or something), but didn't expect it to affect me quite like that. After the first half hour I calmed down and was willing to settle for GBH instead of death.

    Antichrist I thought was too ostentatiously "LOOK AT ME, AREN'T I REPULSIVE?" to be anything more than a titanic bore.

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  19. @Chris Hey man, environment definitely counts, and what unfortunate circumstances both of those situations were. I've had the displeasure of sitting next to similarly foul-smelling people in movies before, and I just get up and move. Definitely not worth ruining the film.

    I can't imagine seeing a flick on a ferry. I don't get seasick, but still... that'd be rough. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. @james1511 Ha fair enough. Definitely can't blame you for having the reactions you did to both films. I think they're brilliant, but they both spark polarizing views. Some love, others hate. However, I most admit that it would've been amusing to hear about an angry viewer beating the shit out of Noé after a screening.

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  21. Okay, I lied. A Scorsese movie did nearly made me throw up. Naturally it would be Casino. Not sure what was more nasty: guy getting stabbed in the jugular with a fucking pen or another guy getting his head sqaushed in a vise. Either way, I won't be watching that for some time.

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  22. @MovieNut14 Awesome, love it. I actually watched part of that movie while eating breakfast this morning - love everything about.

    I love when Pesci tells the guy, "Dogs, I got ya head in a fuckin' vise... don't make me do this, don't make me do this, Dogs." The man is In.Sane.

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  23. Irreversible and pretty much anything with graphic rape in it is bound to leave me feeling sick. Irreversible I took the chicken shit option and just fast forwarded through the rape scene. The opening is brilliant, much like all of Enter The Void! The Accused with Jodie Foster left me waking up with nightmares but not feeling sick. I Spit on Your Grave the original made me feel sick that someone would sensualise some of those extreme scenes.

    Cannibal Holocaust also made me feel very sick. The real animal cruelty is absolutely inexcusable and disgusting.

    I've got Human Centipede 2 on the way from Lovefilm so will see what all the fuss is about for that in the next couple of days.

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  24. @Pete All worthy choices, for sure. While rape scenes don't make me physically ill, they are the one thing that a film can do to truly disturb me. I can shake just about anything, but rape is... oh fuck, it's just too much. Sometimes. I Spit on Your Grave exploits rape in a way that I feel is criminal, likewise Last House on the Left. But instances like Irreversible (and Deliverance) are cases in which I think rape is necessary for the story, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, The Accused, jesus.. rough shit. I'm heavy into animal rights, so movies like Cannibal Holocaust are very very difficult to watch for the reason you mentioned.

    I hope you "enjoy" Human Centipede 2... I'll look for a review on your site!

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  25. I don't think I've even been brought close to vomiting or gagging during a movie. The only thing I can think of is that some films with really awkward/jerky cameras have given me pretty bad headaches. Cloverfield is the only one that comes to mind though.

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  26. @Evan The shaky-camera thing has never physically bothered me, but Cloverfield was a bit extreme. I thought you told me that opening to Irreversible (nearly) made you sick?

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  27. Honestly don't remember, though it's certainly possible.

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  28. Oh c'mon...the scene in Jackass 3D when he's on the exercise bike wearing nothing but a few plastic bags from the cleaners and his perspiration is collected in a cup and then they drink it. I was audibly gagging, as were my three friends.

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  29. @Anonymous Oh god, I'm with you there. And the expositive diarrhea... those are two reasons I gave that movie in F.

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  30. It's the camera shake that makes you want to puke. I saw people leaving the cinema watching Dancer in the Dark. Good movies, but Mr Trier really should get a tripod. Freakin' Dogme 95...

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    1. That definitely adds to it, no doubt. I've seen people walk out of every von Trier flick I've ever seen in the theater. And hell, friends have even made me turn them off at home too. Ha, certainly not for everyone.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  31. SERIOUSLY I HAD NAUSEA. NEVER FELT THIS BEFORE. I'M WATCHING IRREVERSIBLE.

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    1. GOOD LUCK. HOPE YOU MAKE IT THROUGH OKAY.

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  32. Synechdoche, New York (there's Philip Seymor Hoffman as the main character) is a movie I recently watched with my mom. The thing about it was that it didn't exactly make me feel ill rather than it made me question my sanity... Which made me a bit ill. And it did the same thing to my mom. It was a movie I couldnt stop watching even though we thought of doing so many times.

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    1. Your final sentence so perfectly matches my feelings on that film. I've only been able to sit through it once. I wanted to love it so badly, but just couldn't connect. I wonder if I'd like it more today...

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  33. I think I'm pretty much immune to this phenomenon; watch enough war documentaries and there is nothing horrific and revolting left in fiction. Also, cast iron stomach.

    The two events that came to mind when pondering the topic were:

    1. I remember reading an interview with a theater manager during the original run of Blair Witch Project. Apparently it caused some people to get sick. I can see that. Anyway, the manager was asked what he thought about that. "That's more of an experience than we like to provide."

    2. There used to be a really friendly sex shop in Boston (technically, Brookline) called Grand Opening, and the owner (a woman, not that that really matters) got the idea to have an amateur porn short film competition, and show the best material at the nearby art house. Entries ranged from the sexy (rarely) to the silly to the doesn't work for me to wow you're showing that okay to THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE YELLING AS ONE, "NO, DON'T DO IT!" I think that one was year one, circa 2000ish. I didn't puke, but got about as much of the the heebie-jeebies as I can realistically get. I can bring you right there with me in three words: crochet needle penis. I haven't thought about that in a decade. I'm need to go find some bourbon and block that back out.

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    1. Holy shit, that number 2 is insane. I remember hearing about people puking in Blair Witch screenings as well. But nothing tops the amateur porn short film fest. That's epic.

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  34. I sadly read the spoilers part about Antichrist. Now I'm really interested to see it.

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    1. It's a rough ride, that film. Godspeed.

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  35. I haven't watched Irreversible or Antichrist, I'm too chicken shit but it's bound to happen. Is it really only the first 30min? Do you have any advice for easing up the viewing of either? ahah I mean, Irreversible is probably pointless, cause of the biological factor right?

    Oh and the only film I can think of that really tested my gag reflection is Eraserhead. Man, that 'baby' and the organs exposed and stabbed... ergh i can't, it gets me all the time! Brilliant movie tho, one of my personal favorites :)

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    1. As long as you know what you're getting yourself into, I think that helps. Maybe have a few drinks to loosen up a bit first. I like both of those movies a lot, but they are very, very tough to take. Eraserhead is a great choice for this list. Love that one too, but wow.

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  36. Requiem for a Dream. It didn't actually made me feel like throwing up but that last scene, as brilliant as it is, really left me feeling like shit, it was so intense. The soundtrack, the quick camera movement and the scenes depicted, it was too much to take in! I was watching it with a couple of friends and we all just stood in silence afterwards.
    Kudos for the article btw, i found it quite interesting, especially the Irreversible scientifical facts. Do you happen to know it that's an original idea? The 28Hz i mean. Has that been done before? Or afterwards? Does it come with a warning?

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    1. Thanks for the comment! That final montage in Requiem is fucking relentless. So hard to stomach.

      I honestly don't know if the 28Hz has been done before or since. But I wouldn't be surprised if not. The film doesn't come with a warning. It just nails you from frame one and never lets up. Thanks so much again for the comment!

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  37. My husband and I just saw The Witch the other day. Visually, it had its fairly difficult moments, but nothing that really bothered either of us. However, that night after we got home, we were both noticeably queasy to the point of really wanting to throw up but not being able to. We think the music affected us, or some weird sound wave business. The nausea went away after a good night's sleep. The movie was amazing, terrifying, but not in a typical horror-movie kind of way. Just a psychological winding-up, constant from the very beginning.

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    1. Ohhh very interesting. I saw it on Sunday and found much of it unsettling. But some filmmakers have be known to put a 28 Hz frequency over their movie. The sound is virtually inaudible to human ears, but it can produce mild bouts of nausea. Gaspar Noe did it for the opening club scene in Irreversible. Crazy stuff.

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  38. these are some truly sick films. I mean sick as in you will want to vomit.

    Mermaid in a Manhole.
    -Like rotting fish? Well how about painting a portrait using blister pus, blood and other bodily fluids from a rotting mermaid.

    Nekromantic.
    -The clues in the title. Basically a womans sexual obsession with a rotting corpse. Graphic and utterly utterly disgusting

    Worms aka Squirmfest, purge.
    Fucking disgusting and awful.

    Salo 120 days of sodom. - a treat if your into peadophilia, rape, torture, forced shit and piss eating... The rest of us its fucking repulsive.

    only very warped people can enjoy such films. I wish i'd never seen any of them now im older.

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    1. I've seen Salo (and once was certainly enough), but the others sound disgusting. There really are some sick ass movies out there.

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