Catching the "Blair" Bug

Viewers say the surprise hit is truly stomach-churning

By Julie Keller Aug 14, 1999 3:20 PMTags
Before attending the must-see movie of the summer, there's one essential item eager viewers can't do without.


Theaters nationwide are being flooded with complaints of motion sickness from people watching The Blair Witch Project, the thriller shot mostly with a shaky, hand-held camera.

"I came out of the movie with a headache, nausea, and I was shaking," laments one Blair viewer on a witch-themed newsgroup (alt.religion.wicca). "It took my stomach over an hour to settle down."

"Your eyes perceive motion the body doesn't feel," explains Cincinnati doctor Bill Miller. "Watching those jerky movements on a big screen stimulates the inner ear, which sends a message to your brain that you're moving--and that can make you sick."

Symptoms from watching the jerky movements of the camera range from mild stomach discomfort and dizziness to a full-out barf-o-rama. Bonnie Hunsaker, managing director at a suburban Atlanta theater, tells the Associated Press someone vomits at nearly every showing of the $80 million hit in her theater.

"This past weekend, we put up a sign that said the hand-held camera can create motion sickness and if you're susceptible to motion sickness you may want to rethink your viewing choice," she says.

Not everyone's buying the story, however. A manager at a New York theater says he's been barraged with calls asking about the film's alleged side effect.

"I think it's a bunch of bunk," he said. "Maybe people in Atlanta have weaker stomachs than we do here in New York."

Another newsgroup participant, however, disagrees. She says she experienced the film's effect first-hand.

"I was doing okay for the first 20 minutes, then all of a sudden, I started feeling really, really sick," she says. "First I thought it was the subject matter, then I broke out in a sweat and needed to throw up, and I realized I was car sick. I had to spend the rest of the movie in the lobby."

If you were on a boat, the solution to this problem would be simple, according to Dr. Miller. "You'd just look at the horizon for stability," and eventually, you'd feel better.

But unless you'll be watching the scary flick at sea, there's only one sure-fire way to avoid the Blair Witch curse.

Advises one prudent viewer, "If you get motion sickness very easily, I would avoid this movie."