In Praise of 2001 Acid Freakouts (and Other Disruptions that Make Moviegoing Memorable)

2001_body image.jpgAnd you thought ringing cell phones were annoying. At a recent screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, an audience member on LSD lost control and started flailing his arms and yelling during the film's Star Child sequence. How he kept his cool through Hal's revolt and the trippy Star Gate sequence is anyone's guess. Thanks to mobile phone cameras, the freak out is now making the Internet rounds and even though his ramblings are mostly incoherent, the video is quite a spectacle. It also made me think about those rare instances where audience disruption can actually enhance moviegoing.

Usually, even the most muted conversations during a movie infuriate me. But every now and then, the right disruption during the right movie can really bring out the pleasures of seeing a movie in a communal setting. During horror movies when audience members frantically chastise a character, I'm reminded how film immerses people on even the most visceral level. And there have definitely been a few times where well-timed audience one-liners salvaged otherwise worthless movies. In fact, part of the magic of seeing a movie with a huge group of strangers is that you never know how people will react.

I once saw a screening of Paul Morrisey's Blood For Dracula where an audience member was either on drugs or blackout drunk. He made noises through most of the movie that only occasionally sounded like words, and never coherent ones.

Finally, during Roman Polanski's cameo, the guy erupted with excitement and yelled "Polanski!" It was about then that the theater manager finally showed up to escort him out. The guy rambled about Polanski and mentioned Knife in the Water as if this somehow explained his behavior. When the manager said he hadn't seen Knife in the Water the guy exploded, "What? That sh*t is classic! Come on! We're going to my house right now to watch it!" We had all been united in opposition before, but I don't think the entire audience laughed so hard together at any other point during the film.

So, while I empathize with Todd McCarthy's lament that his children will remember the disruption more than the film itself, and agree that the situation wasn't handled well, part of me wonders if the audience at the Egyptian has a whole new level of appreciation for the power of Kubrick's images after witnessing their effect on the guy in the video below.

· A Bummer Trip for "2001" At The Egyptian [Indiewire/Deep Focus]


  • casting couch says:

    Still prefer this trippin' freakout to a crying baby or dumbass cell phone ringtones or glowing txt screens.

  • buzz says:

    Not quite as funny, but someone had a heart attack during a very intense scene in "Boys Don't Cry" when I saw it opening weekend at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in NYC (you know - the underground joint where they sell smoked salmon at the concession stand? CLASS). They stopped the movie to get the poor guy out of the auditorium and after everyone had settled and they started the film up again, the first line of dialogue was "Somebody call an ambulance!". This earned a HUGE laugh. Which, now that I think about it, was maybe not the reaction that the filmmakers had hoped for.

  • The Winchester says:

    My friend tells the story far better than I, and I wish the movie itself was more memorable for a better set-up, but during a screening of The 6th Day (the cloning sci-fi thriller starring Governor Schwarzenegger) a drunken man was growing increasingly frustrated with the movie as it unspooled.
    The final straw came when he stood up, threw his bottle at the screen and screamed, "YOU CAN'T CLONE A MEMORY!" It tore a hole in the screen. My friend laughed.
    I can't tell you a thing that happened in that movie other than that.

  • Kidx says:

    This was completely fake. This is not how people act on an acid freakout.
    I really wish people would quit giving dumbasses like this the type of attention that they want. I mean, all this guy was doing was yelling "Everybody! Listen! Wait! No! Everybody!" When someone is freaking out on acid, they start breathing heavy and sweating, and they start worrying that they are going to die. Sometimes they become incapacitated like they have passed out.
    Of course, everyone that has done acid more than a couple of times has had those moment where the wrong music was playing or a movie was playing that gave them a bad feeling personally, but acid isn't the type of drug where people stand up and start drawing attention to themselves and shouting.
    These guys were just trying to get on Youtube. Congratulations. You ruined a bunch of people's evening at the movies for something that wasn't even funny.

  • Hi says:

    "People! Do not take the brown popcorn! I repeat...DO NOT take the brown popcorn!
    Oh wait...those are Milk Duds."

  • John Kaye says:

    People still do LSD?

  • anon says:

    Kidx you may be right about the video being fake, but not everyone who has a psychotic break does the same thing. A good friend of mine took two hits of acid and striped her cloths off, punched through a bunch of bongs that were up on a counter and cut her arms all up, and ran down the street naked. Just because most people on acid try to keep to themselves doesn't mean that everyone is like that. From what I could gather from her after the fact she seemed to think that everything was made up and her actions had no consequences.

  • dt says:

    I was on vacation in New Orleans in 1984.After viewing the World's Fair all day, a movie seemed just right.I saw that Purple Rain was debuting at the Local theater.I have no idea to this day what the movie was about because every time Prince was on screen,nearly 200 (mostly African-American) teeny-boppers started screaming as if it was a live concert.It did make the experience very unique to say the least:)

  • Jo Deson says:

    Oh wow, OK this makes a lot of sense dude.

  • Dave says:

    I've had one of these and it really does make the movie better.
    Back when Scream 2 was in theaters, my friend and I went to see the movie. It was really packed when we got in so we had to sit in the very front row. After we sat down, a large black woman came in (alone) and sat next to my friend. I'd love to say that a fat black woman yelling, talking, and laughing in a crowded theater is only a stereotype, but alas it is not. As the movie played out, she yelled out some gems such as "He's the killa!", "Run b*tch! Run!!", and "Oh lord, you so stupid! Get out!". You can make up this kind of story, but I swear on my life it is entirely the truth and made for a way better memory than the mediocre movie I intended to see that day.

  • Brian Clark says:

    These are great. That SIXTH DAY Story made my week. Drunk guy has a point, you can't clone a memory. Keep the stories coming!

  • Jon says:

    @ Brian Clark
    Obviously you haven't read up on the Raelian movement.

  • emgee says:

    sucks that you took the clip off.... where's the screaming guy from this morning