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Sick, sad world: Movies that have sparked mass walkouts

'The House that Jack Built' is so offensive it sparked a walkout. Here are the 10 best films that made audiences flee for the exits.

Sick, sad world: Movies that have sparked mass walkouts

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Lars von Trier sparked controversy at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. More specifically, the divisive and often shocking filmmaker provoked mass walkouts for his film The House that Jack Built.

The film centers around a serial killer (Matt Dillon) who views his murders as being elaborate works of art. Several audience members shared their disdain for the film on Twitter, with one calling it, “Gross. Pretentious. Vomitive. Torturous. Pathetic,” while another declared, “I’ve just walked out of #LarsvonTrier premiere at #Cannes2018 because seeing children being shot and killed is not art or entertainment.”

 

Keep clutching those pearls, Cannes! You’re doing great, babe. Check out the trailer for this “torturous” and “vomitive” [sic] film and enjoy von Trier’s gross insanity – and maybe walk out of your own home in protest.

The House that Jack Built joined an elite club of movies so sick, offensive, gory, and terrifying that they sparked mass walkouts in theaters. Here’s our ranking of the ten best films that made audiences flee for the exits.

 

10. The Revenant (2015)

At early screenings of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning movie, several audience members were reported to have walked out, apparently unable to stomach the film’s lashings of gore and seeing Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) getting his body torn up like a broken taco by a very unfriendly bear.

 

9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

It seems tame by comparison now, but at the time the groundbreaking found footage horror had audiences bolting for the exits due to motion sickness suffered from the shaky, low budget camera.

 

8. 127 Hours (2010)

Look, James Franco (The Disaster Artist) has a weird effect on everyone, but in Danny Boyle’s stomach churning drama (based on a haunting true story) it was a scene in which his character cuts off his own arm that made many audiences walk out of screenings. The ones that stayed? Some of those poor bastards apparently had seizures, fainted, and puked up all over theaters. Here’s hoping they never see any of the Saw movies.

 

7. Freaks (1932)

Notoriously banned in the UK to such an extent that copies of the film were even burnt and destroyed, Tod Browning’s legendary cult classic provoked such cinematic carnage and distressed walkouts that one woman even claimed the horror of the film made her miscarry.

 

6. The Tale (2018)

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Jennifer Fox’s examination of trauma and memory provoked mass walkouts due to a scene of child rape (although it’s worth noting that others gave it a standing ovation). Starring Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) in the lead role of a woman working through her realization that she was sexually abused as a child, The Daily Beast concluded the film “wades into the murky waters of a complicated debate currently consuming culture, but doesn’t seek to satisfy or conclude it.”

 

5. The Exorcist (1973)

Audiences were not ready for William Friedkin’s harrowing possession tale in 1973 when the film first hit theaters. Some fainted, there were rumors of a priest attempting to fight the theater screen as he thought it was possessed by demons, and countless audience members walked out in sheer terror and disturbance.

 

4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Apparently the sight of Michael Madsen (The Hateful Eight) shaking ass and slicing ears was all a bit much at various screenings of Quentin Tarantino’s bloodthirsty movie. During one notorious screening, Tarantino apparently counted 33 walkouts in the middle of Mr Blonde’s iconic torture scene.

Meanwhile, at the Sitges Horror Film Festival (a place where the filmmaker was sure nobody would abandon their seat and dive for the exit), Tarantino alleges, “Five people walked out of that audience, including Wes Craven! The fucking guy who did The Last House on the Left walked out?! My movie was too tough for him.”

 

3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Stanley Kubrick’s violent masterpiece (based on Anthony Burgess’s iconic novel) is a squalid rainbow of depravity that early 70s audiences were absolutely not ready to see. According to star Malcolm McDowell, “It got terrible reviews (at first). People were walking out of screenings in droves. And if it hadn’t been for the counterculture papers and the youth of America that really got on the bandwagon — they really saved it. And they eventually made it into a hit.”

 

2. Kuso (2017)

Described by The Verge as being “the grossest movie ever made,” the debut feature from artist and musician Steven Ellison (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) apparently had audiences leaving its Sundance Premiere in droves.

According to The Independent, “Some folks stuck around after a woman chewed on concrete until her teeth disintegrated, but still peaced out when an alien creature force-yanked a foetus from another woman’s womb (accompanied by a Mortal Kombat sound clip: ‘Get over here!’), then smoked the tiny corpse.” Yikes!

 

1. Irreversible (2002)

People in formal wear at Cannes really shouldn’t take such major risks when it comes to cinema. Case and point? At the 2002 festival, Gaspar Noé’s controversial shocker sparked mass walkouts due to its relentless brutality (including a protracted scene where Monica Bellucci‘s Alex is savagely raped and murdered).

The screening went so topsy-turvy that firemen had to administer oxygen to 20 people who fainted during it with a fire brigade spokesman proclaiming, “In 25 years in my job I’ve never seen this at the Cannes festival. The scenes in this film are unbearable, even for us professionals.”

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Amy Roberts is a freelance writer who occasionally moonlights as a hapless punk musician. She’s written about pop culture for websites like Bustle, i-D, and The Mary Sue, and is the co-creator of Clarissa Explains F*ck All. She likes watching horror movies with her cat and eating too much sugar.

amy@filmdaily.co