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The Revenant’s Bear Attack Triggered My Fight Or Flight Response

By Charlie Warzel

20th Century FOX

Charlie: My resting heart rate was stable until the bear attack. Then, precisely 26 minutes into Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant, it spiked. As I watched Leonardo DiCaprio being mercilessly mauled by a nightmarish CGI bear, my heart rate began to elevate, slowly at first, before rocketing to above-average levels. During a particularly intense moment near the end of the film — there was a machete! — my heart rate spiked again, beating 23% faster than it did as the lights in the theater dimmed. During the film’s two-and-a-half-hour run time, I gaped at the screen, motionless for exactly 2,930 seconds.

Anne: There was a moment, about halfway through the attack, when my entire body shivered. It was precisely 26 minutes into the movie. I usually have to leave the theater to go to the bathroom at least once. But in The Revenant, I not only stayed in my seat the entire time, but spent 4221 seconds — that’s 70 minutes — completely transfixed. I startled seven times, and my body went into fight-or-flight mode (what happens to your body when it senses extreme threat) a whopping nineteen times.

We knows all this thanks to medical-grade heart rate, motion, temperature, and sound sensors that measured my vitals and those of a colleague 10 times a second for the film’s duration. More specifically, we know these things because Fox Films and a biometrics company called Lightwave strapped some Fitbit-style devices to our wrists to determine what we thought of The Revenant — physiologically. It’s part of an early experimental effort by studios to wring every last intensely nuanced droplet of unfiltered feedback from test audiences. It might also be a glimpse into the future of movie marketing — and moviemaking.

When we arrived at the theater, Lightwave strapped its black rubber …read more

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