From the gross to the nonsensical, these are the movies that critics and audiences simply couldn't stomach
We’ve all been there – teary-eyed, staring at a giant screen in the company of hundreds, breaking into random applause when an amazing film’s end credits roll, as if those responsible the creation are there to witness this show of appreciation.
But what happens when the tables turn? When gratitude is replaced by sheer, abject disgust; when a film is so gross and lacking in taste that it prompts mass walkouts; when nobody in the room can stand to watch another scene unfold. Terrible films can be just as enjoyable as great ones – just look at Tommy Wiseau’s unintentional masterpiece The Room. But some are outright unbearable, attempts at greatness that flop like Donald Trump attempting a somersault from a 10ft diving board. Many of the below turned out to be genuinely great films that just so happened to split opinion at the time – but here’s a round-up of the ones that prompted mass walkouts at film festival screenings.
When and where: 2017’s Sundance Film Festival
What happened? The film debut from Steven Ellison, aka experimental musician Flying Lotus, already picks up 2017’s alternative ‘Biggest Walkout Of Sundance Festival’ award. Debuting January 25, Ellison’s first work has gone down as one of the most disgusting, provocative movies ever made. Its first review calls it the “grossest” film of all time, describing scenes way too outrageous to put here. Kuso combines several short stories, all following the lives of “mutated” humans circling Los Angeles. There’s a smart social commentary swimming beneath the blood and guts, but it’s hard to get past all the mutilation, torture and deathly insects. Obviously, this wasn’t going to be for everyone. And many attending the Sundance premiere saw their worst nightmares unfold before their very eyes – a “large chunk” of attendees are reported to have walked out the screening.
The Blair Witch Project
When and where: 1999, cinemas worldwide
What happened? Many watching the debut of this equally loved and loathed horror didn’t fancy a pitch-black walk in the woods. The Blair Witch Project‘s pre-Cloverfield take on impending doom wasn’t derided for pure shock factor – instead, some attendees simply couldn’t handle the low-budget, point-of-view camera angles. Those walking out suffered from motion sickness, and many found themselves vomiting in the aisles before they could reach the exit door. Kris Monroe, manager at Lefont Plaza Theater in Atlanta, cited an unhappy customer who “threw up in the women’s restroom, the men’s restroom and in the hallway.” Still, a steady supply of puke didn’t harm the film’s success: It grossed $240 million with a $22,000 budget.
Swiss Army Man
When and where: 2016’s Sundance Film Festival
What happened? Few phrases roll off the tongue quite like ‘Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse.’ What a majestic combination of words. Potter gone rogue, Radcliffe has taken a few risky acting turns since hitting childhood fame, but there’s nothing quite like his spell of post-death flatulence in surreal 2016 adventure Swiss Army Man. Bear in mind that to this day, the top Google result for the Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert movie asks ‘Is Swiss Army Man a real movie?’ Variety reported on several Sundance attendees “bolting for the door” last year, unimpressed by Paul Dano’s heartwarming tale of befriending a gassy dead bloke. Fair enough. The director took it in good humour, though. “What else could you ask for? It’s perfect,” he said. “Someone told me it was trending on Twitter, and I just loved that.”
When and where: 1973, cinemas worldwide
What happened? Anyone who’s watched The Exorcist doesn’t need to be reminded of the walkout-prompting scene in question. William Friedkin’s Devil-possessed horror was the most controversial of its time; a vicious, head-spinning dose of darkness that was banned by several local authorities. Given it was marketed by Warner Bros. as “something beyond comprehension”, it’s no surprise many couldn’t come to terms with what they were watching, especially those who believed in the power of ritual. This Cultural Impact of The Exorcist documentary highlights just how much it split opinion, bringing together news broadcasts filled with outrage. “I don’t know why I waited four hours to see that,” one cinema-goer admits. “The Devil made her do it, I bet,” jokes a newsreader.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
When: 1992’s Festival de Cannes
What happened? For all his heroics as a director, David Lynch isn’t a stranger to outrage, even from those who idolise him. When Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me first aired – booed to a crisp at Cannes Festival – Quentin Tarantino was quoted as saying: “David Lynch had disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie… And you know, I loved him. I loved him.” Billed as a prequel to the Twin Peaks story, it provides more questions than answers, dodging convention at every turn. The weight of expectation welcoming its release didn’t help, but Lynch’s surrealist edge was accused of going a step too far.
When: 2012’s Sundance Film Festival
What happened? Don’t be deceived by the title. Rick Alverson’s The Comedy contains precisely zero laughs. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy makes a cameo in the divisive flick, which navigates around the life of a wealthy, bored, pointlessly self-aware hipster. A post-debut Q&A found many asking how a protagonist could be so endlessly vain and unlikeable. Many streamed for the aisles midway through a Sundance screening, with one viewer reported to have called it “amateurish bullshit.”
When and where: 2002’s Festival de Cannes
What happened? Few walkouts match the drama of Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, where 250 of those in the Cannes audience walked out, with some requiring medical attention. A BBC News report at the time said 20 of those in the crowd had fainted, with a fire lieutenant on site saying: “The scenes in this film are unbearable, even for us professionals,” adding: “In 25 years in my job I’ve never seen this at the Cannes festival.” Lead actress Monica Bellucci even admitted she found it hard to watch.