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[Remember This?] When People Lost Their Shit In Theaters?

Your job as a filmmaker is to create the illusion of reality, a place where a filmgoer can lose themselves in and forgot about their real life troubles. As easy as that sounds, creating a believable and immersive experience isn’t that simple.

Each and every year I dream for that impactful horror film, the one that makes me “feel” something. While I don’t necessarily believe in the notion of being “scared”, I do very much think that some films can be physically effective.

So, with the above title, I’m not asking if you remember a time when people lost their shit in theaters, but more-so if you recall the last time you had that experience. There’s literally nothing better than watching hundreds of people around you stand up, and scream and yell in terror right before your eyes.

We’ve all grown up to stories about how effective William Friedkin’s The Exorcist was back in 1973, but what has rocked the boat since then? Personally, one of the best experience I had was in viewing a “sneak peak” of DreamWorks’ The Ring back in 2002. I will never forget the audience reaction to Samara coming out of the television screen – you’d have thought she was literally in the theater. And while there was quite the reaction to Paranormal Activity in 2007, it wasn’t even close to what I witnessed back in 2002.

So I ask for you guys to tell me about your crazy theater experience. What movies had such an impact on patrons that they lost their shit?



  • Lonmonster

    I remember audiences being quite rattled during The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Specifically when her body is contorted on the floor and her boyfriend is just watching her. Also, at my 12th birthday party we watched one of the Halloween movies. Most of the girls left.

  • bloodnguts666

    You know what is actually sad about these movies, is that they would not be popular if they were first released today. Audiences are so impatient and do not want time wasted on a long background story; they want someone to die and they want them to die within the first 10 minutes. I love the exorcist and I believe the build up in this or any movie is what defines the overall film (could even call it art). Anyone can make a slasher movie(maybe not everyone) but it takes true story telling to keep people hooked on the movie even when there is nothing horrific going on. How can we jump from out seats when there are kills the entire movie; you need build up in order for your brain to comprehend a sudden change. And i can not remember the last time I jumped during a movie. I thought chernobyl diaries had huge potential but not enough background; again, not the writers fault, they are just trying to meet the needs of the audience. I know that this went a little off topic, but watching the exorcist always reminds me of how impatient younger crowds are.

  • huntermc

    The sad thing is, the most we can expect these days is a cheap scare that’s not completely predicable. You know, like when the killer is already in the house, and the girl hears a sound and goes to investigate. As the tension builds, she cautiously opens the door and… it’s just the cat. She turns around and breathes a sigh of relief and OMG THE KILLER IS RIGHT BEHIND HER!!! But we’ve even seen that so many times that the fake-out-before-the-cheap-scare is predicable.

    • DesignDeath

      You basically described 70% of 80’s horror movies.

  • Boonraiser

    I’ve never lost my shit in the theatre before, there aren’t many movies that will do that to me. I did see a few people leave the theatre when I saw Martyrs play at TIFF. I guess this also happened when it showed at Cannes as well, or someone was sick in that showing or something. It’s in my top 5 movies of all time.

  • Mr.Rott

    If I remember correctly, I believe when I went to see “The Descent”(2005) a lot of the audience around me watching, kept screaming and jumping during the entire film. It had jump scares but it also made you claustrophobic, anxious, sad and then excited. It was a good film that kept everyone on the edge of their seats, including me.

  • Omar

    opening night of sinister there was a couple whos shrieks were so loud me and my cousins thought it was part of the movie

  • Mr.-Blackwell

    You brought up the last time I can remember an audience actually reacting to a horror movie I was at with The Ring. I distinctly remember a guy two rows in front of me jumping up out of his chair when Samara came out of the television and just started pacing back and forth, saying, “awwww, hell no!!!”

  • colonel-bathtub

    Hostel. I’ve never heard shrieks of horror (for lack of less cliched term) from an audience like that since. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in the audience had ‘Inside’ had been given a broader US theatrical release.

  • divisionbell

    The last time at the theater was probably the hills have eyes remake. The trailer scene was just too much for a lot of the audience and people freaked when the husband is chased through the house. But what was most surprising was how the audience flipped when the husband finally killed a mutant. People were screaming for blood and it was excellent.

  • russellg79

    The last movie that I really saw people freaking out was PA3. It was nothing but the same old jump scares that define this series, but it still works. Personally, The Descent was the last movie where I nearly lost it. Also when the original Hostel went from soft core porn to torture porn in a matter of seconds.

  • STRIK9

    Definately Saw or Hostel would be the only thing remotely close.I was born in 1980,so I was too young to see all the classics that came out in that decade.Mostly everything from the 90’s on is just weak ass shit like Scream,Ring,Paranormal activity…

  • MinaDoll7

    I know there aren’t a lot of fans here but I almost lost my shit while watching Paranormal Activity. It was my first found footage film to see in theatres. I’m Catholic so I believe in demons, evil spirits, and its influence on people. Throughout the movie I kept trying to imagine what the true form of the evil spirit was. Then Micah showed a picture from a demonology book of a horned animal with hooves and that image burned into my memory through the rest of the movie. PA reminded me of how the unseen can be scarier than the things that can be seen.

  • ThunderDragoon

    For me it was The Grudge. So many screams in the audience lol.

  • Mr.Mirage

    First time (for a horror film) was Alien. When the first ever chest bursting scene played out, people left stains on their seats. Last, most recent time was The Descent. A lot of jump scares, but never where they “should” have been or where they were anticipated in being.

    First time ever, regardless of genre: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The basketball scene drew an audience response not unlike actually being at a close game, and the finale… dead silence, the (no spoiler!) water showed up and the place started to slowly build until it went bugshit insane. The cheering, shouting… weeping, lights up and backs were being slapped, total strangers started hugging each other…

    … and that was when I said to myself, I want to do this for a living…

    Not taking claims for an insurance company, a faceless, nameless drone… Someday… someday…

  • Seal_Clubber

    The Ring and the Grudge both terrified me. Glad to see so much love on here for these movies – most times when I see them mentioned it’s people trashing them !!

  • TheWalkingFlat

    Twillight – i really lost my shit on the Cinema-Seats…

  • horrorking95

    I’ve never felt that scared whilst watching a film, but Noroi: The Curse scared me to death and left me pretty shaken (although I didn’t see it in theaters because I’m not Japanese). Sinister was the film that got under my skin, and I think most of the audience’s!

  • Mayday

    When The Others premiered, I saw it in a packed theater on a dark, dreary Friday night. Several peeps, mostly teenie-bopper girls, kept screaming bloody murder when something creepy would happen, especially towards the end when the housekeepers started approaching the children.

  • KeepDoubting

    Unfortunately I’ve never had an experience like that. Then again, I’d prefer to go see a movie with just my friends and there not be anyone else in the theater. Mainly because a lot of the time people are just fucking annoying and get on my nerves. Especially during horror films.

  • Alabama-Sharp

    Back in the late 70s and early 80s, this type of audience reaction was burgeoning. Films and themes which are commonplace and more mainstream now were very much underground then. And when any of these films attracted a larger audience, people were often scared witless. I saw the original Dawn of the Dead over 50 times in theaters, and the reactions ranged from people literally bawling, screaming, and several times people ran out of the theater. During the original Halloween, people were screaming, and some ran out during the last 30 or so minutes. Same thing for Phantasm, and a few other films. The funniest thing I ever saw which I will never forget was a black lady screaming and crying “there is no moral, where is the moral?” towards the end of the original Nightmare on Elm Street. For myself the creepiest thing was watching the original Maniac alone in a theater. I think part of the phenomenon at that time was simply that people had never seen stories or special effects like there were in many horror films from the 70s and early 80s. They went in with no idea what to expect, and saw more than they could imagine. It was a hoot!

  • m-m-m-MONSTER_KILL

    I almost never go see horror movies in theaters, unfortunately, so I don’t have a whole lot of experience with this. Sadly, that’s because nobody ever wants to go see horror movies with me cause most of my friends aren’t really horror fans. One time I CAN think of though, I went with a friend and his girlfriend to see the Nightmare on Elm Street remake (the girlfriend was kind of the third wheel in that case haha) and I’d never watched a horror flick with him so I wasn’t quite aware of just how he reacted to them, but he fucking FREAKED out and buried his head in his gf’s shoulder at every big scare. And mind you, this guy’s a 6’8″, covered in tattoos, 250 pound MMA fighter who did 2 tours in Iraq, but for some reason he gets SO zoned in on movies that he freaks out even at a movie as predictable and un-scary as the NOES remake. Needless to say, I bring over a lot more horror movies whenever we hang out now.

    Anyway, other than that, my only other experience with an audience freaking out during a horror movie was when I had the misfortune of seeing Red Eye in a theater in Tennessee with my stepsister. Not only did the movie fall apart completely in the third act, but the theater was full of shrieking 13-year-old southern girls. I wanted to stand up in front of all of them and illustrate exactly why it wasn’t scary or even good, but I had to settle for just showing my stepsister some REAL horror movies later on.

  • niceguyeddie1971

    When I was a kid my dad took me to see Scanners in the theater. It was so cutting edge at the time and the shock factor was so great during the scanner war in the finale, people were screaming and running out of the theater…

  • DisturbedPixie

    I have to say I agree with The Ring remake. Teen girls were screaming during scene changes. People were completely on edge. When she came out of the tv and especially when she scooted forward, people were running out of air screaming. It was like one of those free fall rides where people feel like they are dying. I actually went with my friend again (which is rare for either of us) and we sat 3rd row and once again lost all the air in our lungs. It was just that scary. I had a similar reaction to seeing Dead Silence in theaters, and in my own living room, when I saw the original Shutter, I was pretty terrified a fair share of the time. I imagine in theaters it would have been more terrifying than The Ring remake.

  • darkscarecrow

    I’m going to have to say the two most recent movies to make me jump or actually frighten me were “The Descent and V/H/S”. I was lucky enough to see with The Descent with the original ending that Neil Marshall had intended. The movie was terrifying from their descent into the cave until the end. As the claustrophobia set’s in to the first scene of the “Crawlers”.
    Then “V/H/S did a number on me in some scenes. The first one from that film that rings a bell at first would be the episode “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”. That paticular segment really made me jump and had a doozey of an ending. Don’t get me wrong some of the other stories in “V/H/S” have neat twists and turns but nothing can compare to the whole SKYPE thing. I call this film Creepshow meets The Blair Witch Project.

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