This bites: New Twilight film linked to seizures in moviegoers

Nov 27, 2011 at 5:35 p.m. ET

Lighting used during Breaking Dawn vampire birthing scene can trigger seizures, scientists say.

The latest edition of The Twilight Saga could be hazardous to your health.

Twilight's Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 has caused "convulsing, snorting" seizures in at least two men who've seen the blockbuster vampire epic since its theatrical release last week, The Hollywood Reporter said Friday. Analysts say the lighting effects used for the movie's buzzworthy vampire birthing scene can trigger epileptic fits in some viewers. The victims are believed to have suffered from photosensitive epilepsy, which is caused by the sudden flashing of various lights.

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"It's like a light switch going off, because it hits your brain all at once… the trouble with theaters, it's dark, the lights flashing in there is more like a strobe light," Dr. Michael G. Chez, Director of Pediatric Neurology and Epilepsy for Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, explains.

Several filmgoers have reported leaving Breaking Dawn screenings early because of the "intense" birth scene. Brandon Gephart of Sacramento accompanied his girlfriend to a showing of the movie last week and began convulsing shortly after the start of the vampire birth. He was rushed to the hospital by paramedics and the screening was stopped as a precaution. In another reported case, a Salt Lake City man passed out after viewing the scene.

"I didn't really remember what happened after that," he says. "I think I blacked out. According to [my wife] I was shaking and mumbling different noises."

This isn't the first instance of fans facing discomfort in the name of entertainment. Last February, Cambridge Research Systems, a British foundation representing the interests of people with epilepsy, called for an online ban of Kanye West's "All of the Lights" video. They worried that the excessive use of flashing imagery in the promo may cause seizures in some epilepsy patients. Similar reports resulted after a 1990s episode of the animated TV series Pokemon triggered seizures in children.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 scored a massive $283.5 million opening weekend worldwide this month, setting two huge records in the process. First, it landed the fifth largest opening weekend in the U.S. ever, taking in $139.5 million stateside alone. Secondly, the film became the tenth largest opening weekend of all time at the global box office, nudging its predecessor New Moon to eleventh place.

Breaking Dawn -- Part I also topped the box office over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The film earned $42 million domestically and $62.3 million in the five-day Thanksgiving boom time between Wednesday and Sunday. TwiHards helped the movie edge out the long-awaited Disney family flick The Muppets for the coveted number one spot; that film took in  $42 million over the five-day holiday haul.

Scientists suggest wearing blue lenses when watching the movie, especially during the birthing scene.

Image courtesy Summit Entertainment