Sensory Overload at the Movies

A Night at the Movies (film)

I went to see The Conjuring with my roommate. She’d been really wanting to see it, but since it’s scary, she didn’t want to see it alone. After being subject to some bribery in the form of a Salted Caramel Pretzel milkshake from Steak n Shake, I was persuaded to see it with her. After reading some reviews, I thought it might not be too terrible, high praise from someone so finicky and critical of horror films, particularly recent stuff.

And I do think it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to watching it again on TV so I can really appreciate all of the elements at work.

Why TV? Why not see it in the theater again?


Seeing movies in the theater has a tendency to be a downright painful experience for me.

I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I have a certain sensitivity to sounds. Theaters are almost always too loud for me. Now that’s not too big of a deal most of the time, unless I’m seeing a film like The Conjuring that contains a lot of jump scares. A component of the jump scare, of course, is the sudden crash of sound that accompanies the visual shock. Yeah, those crashes hurt.

My roommate noticed that I was cringing at things I was hearing long before anyone else heard anything. There’s a moment in the film when a mix of voices are heard on a recording. I had to plug my ears. It was too much noise. I’ve been known to do this during action sequences, too, with a lot of gun shots and explosions. Too loud.

I’ve also found in my old age that the visual experience of movies is hard for me to deal with. Hi-def is great, I’m sure. But for me, in the theater, everything is too big, too close, too  much and it’s hard for my brain to adjust. I’ve never been good with point of view shots, but put them up on the big screen and my eyes can’t handle it. Same with anything that has too much shaking. It makes my eyes cross. There’s no way I could have watched Open Water, Cloverfield, or The Blair Witch Project on the big screen. My brain wouldn’t have been able to take it.

As it was there were a few times during The Conjuring that I had to close my eyes, not because it was scary, but because I couldn’t take the shaking and/or point of view angles. The sudden swing of the camera made my eyes cross. There’s a whole swath of movie that took place in the cellar that I couldn’t see because it was all done from the POV of a handheld camera.

Some days are better than others when it comes to the visuals, but the noises are always brutal. My roommate suggested that the next time I go to the movies I wear ear plugs. It might help and I’m willing to try it.

Anything to tone down the overwhelming theater experience to bearable so I can at least enjoy a film based on the film and not how painful the sensory overload is.

Just another reason I’m a pain in the ass when it comes to going to the movies.

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