Sundance 2012: Found-footage horror anthology 'V/H/S' has scary real-life moment

After hearing that a couple had collapsed at a midnight screening of the found-footage horror anthology V/H/S  on Tuesday, my first reaction was, “Sure, right …”

People have been “collapsing” at scary movies since William Castle paid people to “faint” during screenings in the late ’50s. But Park City Fire District Battalion Chief Mark Billmire confirmed the incident to EW tonight.

Producer Roxanne Benjamin says she got a real scare out of the situation herself, though the incident has a happy ending (unlike many of the shorts collected in V/H/S). Everyone involved is doing okay now, and UPDATE — the movie just sold to Magnolia Pictures for $1 million.

Here’s how it went down, along with details of the scene that caused the freak-out …The framing device for the movie is a story about Jackass-like teenagers who videotape themselves vandalizing buildings and pulling up women’s shirts. A mysterious guy gets an offer for them to break into a house and steal a collection of videos. It turns out, the videos depict various other first-person instances of supernatural horror, all recorded on cell phones, Skype, or camcorders.

Like The Blair Witch Project, a Sundance midnight movie that kicked off the genre in 1999, there are some vertigo-inducing moments of shaky camera work in V/H/S, particularly in the beginning. Benjamin blames this factor as much as anything for the couple’s dramatic evacuation from the theater.

“One of the managers for the theater was sitting near the guy, and said he just got real real pale and stood up and bobbed and weaved his way out the door,” Benjamin says. “Once he was in the lobby, he kind of turned around and collapsed. He seemed to go into a seizure and so we called 911. The EMTs came, and ten minutes after a girl who was with him came out feeling sick.”

The two were treated for about half an hour, but did not require hospitalization

“It was altitude sickness, combined with a couple drinks, and they had just driven in, so they weren’t adjusted,” Benjamin says.

Simon Barrett, who helped write V/H/S chronicled the whole thing on Twitter: “Guy in hallway says he’s never blacked out before, but is sitting upright. But now we have a girl who came out and is puking. What the hell.”

A little later, he assured followers: “No idea what’s going on at this V/H/S screening. EMTs are treating two people. I swear this is not a publicity stunt, we’re not that clever.”

Once they were feeling better, the couple lamented missing most of the movie, but were instead given tickets to a Saturday screening.

So what scene triggered the freakout?

It was during a scene in the opening short Amateur Night, about three guys attempting to use a hidden camera to create a homemade porn movie with two unwitting girls they picked up at a bar. One of them turns out to be some kind of twisted succubus, morphing into a blood-feasting monsters when the boys peel her clothes off.

At one point, a fleeing character (the one wearing the glasses with the hidden camera) tumbles down a flight of concrete steps and gets a compound fracture in his wrist — the white bone jutting out through the skin as the predatory fiend appears at the top of the staircase.

“It’s part of very shaky camera moment at that point and  then we see something really horrific,” Benjamin said. “That’s what did it.”

She swears it wasn’t staged, and she wasn’t happy for the scare it gave her. “Nobody wants to harm people with work,” she said.

Follow @Breznican

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