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.)
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.