Some people call me the space cowboy.
Some call me the gangsta of love.
Some people call me Mo’Reese (whaw-whowww!)
Cuz I speak of the vomitus of love
-Steve Miller, poorly paraphrased
Since its release a few weeks ago, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has been hailed as a triumph of tasteful cinematography and groundbreaking visual effects.
However, one criminally overlooked aspect of David Fincher’s latest stylistic triumph is its amazing Barf Scene. Quite often, when filmmakers depict a character upchucking, they shy away from actually showing the flowing gorge. Fincher, ever the fearless auteur, pulls no punches. Brad Pitt spouts his emesis convincingly, in mid-line no less. The singular beauty of Pitt’s cookie-toss has inspired in me a new appreciation for cinematic vomit.
Regurgitation is a versatile tool in a visual storyteller’s palette. No other bodily function can be used to illustrate such a full range of a character’s possible internal states. Or, for that matter, the full range of a character’s possible stomach contents.
In this chunderous spirit, it’s time for a closer look at the Seven Greatest Puking Scenes Of All Time.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
The Puker: Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt)
The Cause: Overconsumption of alcohol
The Scene: Benjamin Button is 14 going on really fucking old. He goes out for his first-ever night of drinking and whoring, returning home in the wee hours. His adopted mom is worried sick and demands to know where he’s been. Benjamin’s reply? “I listened to some music … I … I met some people … I think mama… I’m going to…” Benjamin blows sepia-toned chunks. Comedic gold, with a ring of verisimilitude.
6. Repo Man (1984)
The Puker: Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez)
The Cause: Overexertion, perhaps combined with radiation exposure
The Scene: After spending much of the movie thus-far-unsuccessfully attempting to repossess a ’64 Malibu bearing rotting alien corpses in its trunk, repo man Otto spies the car while walking on foot. He chases the car for several blocks before spewing what looks like chicken soup over the edge of an overpass. I’m not sure what purpose this beat serves, but it fits perfectly with the overall seedy, nihilistic ambience of the film.
5. Ronin (1998)
The Puker: Spence (Sean Bean)
The Cause: Carsickness
The Scene: Spence is a wannabe gun-for-hire given to braggadocio and unable to keep his dinner down. Both these traits are displayed during this film’s first car chase. He’s all swagger … “It’s a job well done, a job well done! That’s a fact!” … moments before he has to step out of the car to ralph all over the sidewalk. Needless to say, he’s cut from the team of badasses.
4. The Fly (1986)
The Puker: Dr. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum)
The Cause: A donut
The Scene: Dr. Brundle is mutating into a giant fly/human hybrid. His metamorphosis advances to the point where he can no longer digest food normally. Like a fly, he retches up stomach acid to break down food, then slurps up the whole mess. Brundle stuns his girlfriend (Geena Davis) and the audience the first time he demonstrates this, then realizes his social faux pas. “That’s disgusting,” he admits. It’s one of many welcome bits of dark humor in Cronenberg’s otherwise oppressive masterpiece.
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The Puker: Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro)
The Cause: Overconsumption of red salmon and mescaline
The Scene: Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) are co’ chillin’ on the Vegas Strip. Over the strains of The Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” Gonzo tell his partner-in-crime, “Let’s find a nice seafood restaurant and eat some red salmon, I feel a powerful lust for red salmon.” Cut to Gonzo violently spraying red chunks into a toilet bowl. With strings of pukesnot hanging from his lips, Gonzo laments, “Goddamn mescaline. Why the fuck can’t they make it a little less pure?” I challenge you to find a more perfectly subversive juxtaposition of bubblegum pop and drug-induced nausea.
2. The Exorcist (1973)
The Puker: Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair)
The Cause: Demonic possession
The Scene: The faithless Father Damian Karras (Jason Miller) is trying to debunk the idea that young Regan MacNeil is actually possessed by the devil. Regan goads Karras by telling him, “Your mother’s in here with us.” He challenges Regan to tell him his mother’s maiden name. Regan’s reply comes in the form of a thick, pea-green jet of liquid aimed squarely at Karras’ face. This scene is such a familiar part of Hollywood canon, it’s not as shocking as it once was. But it’s high on my list because of its cultural significance.
1. Stand by Me (1998)
The Puker: “Lard Ass” Hogan (Andy Lindberg), and multiple others
The Cause: A thirst for revenge
The Scene: Davie Hogan has a weight problem. The cruel townspeople have for years taunted him, dubbing him “Lard Ass.” Then one day … he unleashes a Gastric Hell on Earth. Words can’t do this Godfather of barf scenes justice. Just watch the YouTube clip below and marvel. Not since the days of Caligula has such a spectacle of spew graced the Earth.