Let’s face it, we want our movies to be as realistic as possible, and we love it when they are. We’re blown away by films that authentically create whole new worlds – or destroy others – in the blink of an eye. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, fantasy, horror or even just regular old dramas, the real success of a movie is in creating a reality that’s as genuine and consistent as possible.
But is it possible for a movie to go too far? To be too realistic? Of course, when we think about hyper-realism in cinema, the first thing that comes to mind is the blood and the violence typical in ‘torture p*rn’ horrors – movies like Hostel and Saw that do their best to disturb their audiences with their realism. But it’s not just horror that can take things a bit too far, as you’ll see from the films on this list. As unbelievable as it may seem, there have been times when people have lost their jobs, and even their lives, when directors pushed the envelop to make a movie as realistic as possible. And a few of those directors have even been arrested because of it.
10. The Brown Bunny
In The Brown Bunny, we see Chloe Sevigny‘s character giving oral sex to a man.
But it’s not hidden underneath covers or concealed through camera angles that leave things to our imagination, oh no. Miss Sevigny is actually giving actor Vincent Gallo oral sex from start to finish. Her agents weren’t too thrilled with the scene in the film, however. They wound up terminating their relationship with Sevigny after the film was released at the Cannes Film Festival.
Found footage horror movies have been the rage for some time, with movie franchises like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity boosting the genre’s popularity and the low budget production making it particularly attractive to filmmakers. However, Cloverfield might have taken the handheld camera schtick a bit too far.
After the film had opened, some viewers reported getting incredibly sick, feeling dizzy and nauseated. The problem was that the viewers were feeling vertigo from the jerky camera angles, making them ill and even forcing some to leave the theater entirely.
8. August Underground
August Underground is a movie without much of a plot. It’s intended to appear to be the home movies of two sick guys running around and killing people in the most sadistic ways imaginable. And as as filmmaker and star of the movie, Fred Vogel, found out, that sort of thing can land you in some hot water.
He was on his way to a film festival in Toronto when he was stopped at customs and arrested for bringing obscene material into the country – the obscene material being copies of August Underground. He was held for ten hours and then sent to Ottawa for further observation before being released.
7. The Abyss
The Abyss takes place mostly underwater, and being a stickler for authenticity, James Cameron wasn’t about to film the movie anywhere but where it took place. And of course, Cameron wasn’t going to sacrifice that realism for the sake of the safety of his actors – because that would just be silly. When filming underwater, they weren’t sitting just below the surface of an ordinary swimming pool. Oh no, the cast and crew were actually 30 feet deep. There was an underwater filling station built just to enable the cast and crew to refuel their oxygen tanks, instead of going up to the surface to do so.
This meant the cast and crew were often under the water for up to 5 hours at a time for filming. Since it took some time to get the pH levels right, the chlorine caused some crew members to lose their hair. Cameron himself even suffered skin burns. When the cast and crew finally came to the surface, they were shaky and unstable from spending so much time in deep water.
Due to the nature of the filming underwater, people started developing sinus and ear infections, not to mention the fact that their bodies were exhausted and the actors were worn out.
6. Men Behind the Sun
Men Behind the Sun is a graphic story about the Japanese atrocities during World War II. At times, the gory scenes are over-the-top and obviously fake, but a few scenes have made people question whether or not director, T.F. Mous, may have taken things a bit too far. Once scene depicts a cat being thrown into a cage with live rats – who proceed to eat the cat alive.
Mous insists that the cat was merely soaked with honey and the rats are licking and eating the honey off of its fur, and that the cat was given treats after the shoot – supposedly alive and well. Okay, if that’s the case, what’s the big deal about this film? Well, it gets worse… According to Mous, a scene showing a little boy anesthetized and having his organs removed came from a real autopsy.
5. Inner Depravity
Okay, maybe it says that you’re a badass makeup artist if you end up getting arrested over your creations. But what does it say when you have Interpol and pathologists half a world away believing that you just might be a serial killer? Remy Couture had a website where he showcased his talents in the form of photos and two movies – Inner Depravity 1 and Inner Depravity 2.
At first, detectives weren’t sure whether or not he was truly a killer. But even after they discovered that his photos and videos weren’t real, they still arrested and tried him on charges of “corruption of morals.” All because of two movies he made. He must be one supremely talented makeup artist.
4. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a 1971 Italian film about a woman who experiences a series of psychedelic nightmares only to wake up and realize she’s involved in a real life murder investigation. While few people today probably haven’t heard of this film, it will forever be remembered by any who saw it for one scene in particular.
That scene is a dream sequence where the female protagonist walks into a room filled with dogs that have been vivisected and are lying cut open on tables, their hearts beating for all the world to see. This scene was so realistic and convincing that the director faced a prison sentence for animal cruelty.
It wasn’t until the special effects artist pulled in the mechanical dogs to show to the court that the director was let off. It was the first time in film history that an effects artist had to prove that his work wasn’t real in a court of law.
3. Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood
With a name like Guinea Pig, you have to wonder how bad this movie could really be. Well, Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood isn’t as cute and cuddly as the name might suggest. It’s actually a 45 minute gore-fest that had both Japanese and American authorities convinced that the on-screen murders were real.
Strangely, it was none other than Charlie Sheen who notified authorities after watching this movie, absolutely convinced that he’d come across a real, true-to-life snuff flick. And of course, that sort of reaction was exactly what director, Hideshi Hino, intended – he went as far as claiming the movie was a video sent to him. The film’s story is darkly intriguing, telling the tale of a florist who kills women and uses their dismembered body parts for his flower arrangements. There have been other, equally disturbing, installments of this particularly gruesome horror flick.
2. Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust delivered on the gore its name promised. This 1980 flick is a found footage film that tells the story of four filmmakers who end up being brutally sexually attacked, tortured, murdered and cannibalized by indigenous folk. While the deaths of the animals were real – something that still disgusts moviegoers to this day – all of the people survived. Though that was called into question when the director was put on trial.
He thought it would be ingenious to make the four actors sign contracts stating that they’d stay out of the media for a year after the film was made, so it looked like these people actually had been killed. One particular scene that depicts a little girl being impaled was so realistic that director Ruggero Deodato had to prove that she was alive – and also explain exactly how the scene was filmed before the courts believed him. He was still charged with animal cruelty, but the murder charges were dropped.
1. The Twilight Zone Movie
While many of the movies on this list cost people their jobs or saw the filmmakers dragged into court, none of them are responsible for killing anyone. Except this one.
All the death and murder in the horror films listed above, including some of the most graphic movies ever made, are fake, yet the relatively family-friend The Twilight Zone movie saw a real on-set death. The special effects were so realistic that one of the crew members was reminded of his time in Vietnam and started screaming as he fell to the ground.
But the real problem came when the explosions took down a helicopter whose pilot couldn’t see through the effects. Two children who were working on the film illegally (as they were flouting child labour laws) and actor Vic Morrow were brutally killed. The rotors from the downed helicopter cut the heads off both Morrow and one of the children, and their force killed the other child. They were senseless deaths, and were down to a crew’s concern for realism over the safety of their actors.