Five U.K. viewers require ambulance assistance during horror pic

Sometimes the movie gods just hand you a gift.

While the history of horror films is littered with tales of hype and promotional excess — William Castle famously insured auds against death by fright for his 1958 pic “Macabre” –Lionsgate apparently got the best kind of publicity for its U.K. release of “Saw III” last week: genuine fainting.

The East Anglian Ambulance Trust reported a flurry of emergency calls to treat “Saw III” cinemagoers overcome by fright on Oct. 27, the film’s opening night. Five people required ambulance assistance and one had to be taken to the hospital after fainting during screenings in Stevenage, Peterborough and Cambridge.

“In 19 years with the ambulance services I haven’t seen anything like this,” says East Anglian Ambulance Trust spokesperson Gary Sanderson. “There were three separate call-outs to the Cineworld cinema in Stevenage on Friday night.”

One local exhib recalls similar stories of fainting surrounding the Brit launches of “Hannibal,” “The Blair Witch Project” and the original “Saw.” “That said, three emergency call-outs to one cinema in one night is pretty extraordinary. Maybe it was something in the popcorn.”

The phenomenon seemed to be localized, however, as there were no reports of “Saw III” faintings at other theaters.

The fainting buzz did feed Halloween B.O.: Pic added $938,156 on Oct. 31, way ahead of “The Departed” ($259,714) and “The Devil Wears Prada” ($252,924).

(Additional reporting by Henrique Amaral.)

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