Sundance wouldn't be Sundance if someone wasn't getting all hot and bothered about some outrageous, shocking, weird, utterly out-there movie leaping off the screen at the film festival in Park City, Utah. Among the movies getting tongues wagging this year are "Zoo," Robinson Devor's documentary about bestiality, inspired by the true story of a Seattle man who died after having sex with an Arabian stallion; the lurid Southern melodrama "Black Snake Moan," with Christina Ricci as a scantily clad white-trash nymphomaniac who gets chained to a radiator (for her own good, mind you) by Samuel L. Jackson; and another Southern Gothic tale, "Hounddog," which elicited angry protests (even though none of the protestors had seen the movie) because of a scene in which a 12-year-old girl, played by Dakota Fanning, is raped.
It was ever thus. Here's a brief timeline of some of the supposedly and actually shocking movies that debuted at Sundance. A few went on to make scandalous waves in the real world. Others have barely been heard from again.
‘Boxing Helena,’ 1993
1992 “Poison Ivy”: Underage sex always gets lots of ink and outrage, and this Drew Barrymore saga about a teenage seductress was the latest in a tradition that goes back at least as far as "Baby Doll."
1993 “Boxing Helena”: An insanely jealous surgeon amputates the arms of sexpot Sherilyn Fenn, who's already lost her legs in an accident. Before Justin Timberlake's "D--- in a Box," there was Helena. And it was a lot kinkier. The director, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, is David Lynch's daughter.
1994 “Clean, Shaven”: Freaked-out audiences were writhing at this disturbing Lodge Kerrigan movie about the inside of a paranoid schizophrenic’s mind. Those who saw it will never forget "the removing-the-fingernail scene"—though they may want to.
1996 “Hustler, White”: Screened at midnight, this Bruce LaBruce porno-comedy about a gay hustler grossed out many—with its notorious sex scene involving an amputated stump. (Hmm, is there a missing-limb trend here?)
1997 “Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist": The title of this Kirby Dick documentary says it all. Well, not really. The most-talked-about scene involved nails, a board and a member, and we don't mean a board-member. Many male eyes were momentarily averted.
1999 “American Pimp”: The Hughes Brothers cozied up to some of the country’s most colorful, and talkative, flesh peddlers. For many, they were a bit too in awe of their subjects for comfort.
2000 “American Psycho”: The Bret Easton Ellis novel had already raised a ruckus, and Mary Harron's movie, with Christian Bale as the Yuppie killer, continued the debate.
2003 “Party Monster”: Another glam New York murderer, but this one was real: Club kid Michael Alig, impersonated by no less than Macaulay Culkin, radically subverting his "Home Alone" image. The movie tried hard to shock, but the party was over.
‘American Psycho,’ 2000
2005 “9 Songs”: The most sexually explicit nonporn narrative film ever made (at least until "Shortbus"), Michael Winterbottom's experiment got lots of prerelease press—and no one went to see it. It was a snore.
2006 “Stay” (later retitled “Sleeping Dogs Lie”): In Bobcat Goldthwaite's "comedy," a girl confesses her deep, dark secret to her boyfriend: she once had oral sex with her dog. Yuck.
2007 Which brings us right up to the present and "Zoo," which explores—unsensationally and lyrically, from all reports—why a man would want to have sex with a horse.