My mother was fond of retelling the story of going to the movies to see the silent film “Phantom of the Opera” (1925) and being so scared at the unmasking scene, she screamed and almost jumped backwards into the row behind. It was reported that this scene had people screaming and fainting, so it must have been very effective at the time.
Fast forward to 1953 when mother dearest took me to my first movie, “The House of Wax” starring Vincent Price. The evil Mr. Price had a fondness for doing in beautiful women and dousing them in hot wax, duplicating their beauty for his museum. I had nighmares for years following that little outing.
In 1973 I was hired to be the head usher (age sometimes has its benefits) to oversee anticipated huge crowds showing up to see a new movie titled “The Exorcist”. The entire staff was invited to a private showing the night before it opened. We were told that there were scenes in the movie that some people might react to by fainting or becoming ill, specifically the scenes where 1) the possessed Regan spewed green vomit out across her bedroom, and 2) a hospital scene with a very long needle that would be administered to Regan.
What was forecast came to pass on opening night and for many days to follow. The lines waiting to buy tickets lined up around the block; an ambulance with it’s lights flashing remained outside the exit for the entire run of the movie.
The ushers were trained to come back in the theater just before the aforementioned scenes began. And the hype turned out to be real. Almost at every showing for the first week, when a scene would begin, by the time it was over at least one person had either thrown-up or fainted. Interestingly to me, women primarily became ill with the vomit scene, and men fainted…yes men fainted during the hospital scene, right after seeing the size of the needle!
Except for “Jaws”, and “The Ring”, I can’t think of many movies that actually scared the majority of their audience. That’s a shame…a good freight gives everyone a healthy shot of adrenaline! What movies scared you? HAPPY HALLOWEEN