|A snuff film is an actual murder, captured on film for personal or commercial entertainment purposes. While the concept of these films has been explored in other mediums, not one snuff film has ever surfaced that has been thought to be genuine, thus leading to their near-mythical status. Various recreations have been made in an attempt to fool the masses and, aside from taking up a large portion of my DVD rack, have failed. I'm sorry. Call me demented, but I can always spot the difference between human intestines and Jimmy Dean sausage links.
The first recorded use of the term "snuff film" was in Ed Sanders' 1971 book, The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion. In the piece, an interviewee boldly stated that he knew such films existed, but had never seen one, himself. The use of the word snuff, as coined therein, is in reference to the slang word for "extinguish" or "kill".
These ghastly little gems became much more widely-known in 1976 during the release of the film, Snuff. A pseudo-horror/suspense film made in South America, Snuff is now best-known for its tacked-on, gory (and kinda goofy) ending. As the "plot" (and I use the term loosely) of the film wraps up, it appears as though an actress featured in the movie tries to leave the set. Several crew members restrain her and she begs toward the camera to be set free. Ignoring her pleas, they begin torturing her in various uber-fake ways and eventually kill her off. In all honesty, it might be disturbing if the blood didn't look like Sherwin-Williams paint and the woman didn't seem so at-ease about her filmed execution. "Whoa. My wrists? ...Bummer!"
Still, it was an interesting little end to an otherwise forgettable film... and the attention the finale garnered was enough for the movie to make a sizable little sum.
It was later revealed that the film's distributor threw together the snuff ending and re-title the movie in an attempt to increase interest in the feature. Not a bad little idea, if I do say so myself. If you movie sucks, you gotta do whatever you can to get the kiddies into the theater. Re-titling Tired Cop Adventure 12 and adding in a woman getting her fingers snipped off with a wire cutter? Good God, that just might do it!
The concept of the snuff films was brought back into the limelight in 1979 when Paul Schrader pieced together a gritty little movie called Hardcore. Like 8MM, which would come out almost twenty years later (and not be as good as you remember it being), Hardcore involves a man's journey into the seedy underground of the adult industry. And really, if I was ever forced to take a trip into the dank underbelly of the porn world, there's no one I'd rather do it with than George C. Scott. The guy could have stopped bullets with his bare hands.
Now, let's get back to the stark horror of reality for a few. While authentic snuff films are still considered myth, there have been countless cases of murders recorded on video and film. These are not considered snuff films, however, because none of these videos have been made for personal or commercial purposes. The closest anyone would get to such material would be the videotaped killing spree of Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. The grisly footage, which was only seen by courtroom personnel at their highly-publicized 1994 trial, was later destroyed by authorities in December of 2001... So, want it or not, it ain't happening.
I could go into further detail, but I think I'll gloss over all of the other filmed deaths that have appeared around the world in the last few decades. Its mighty dark stuff and, quite frankly, I always like to keep my articles on snuff films as lighthearted as possible. The laugh-a-minute momentum is integral to this piece's success.
The last known circumstance that may have involved snuff films took place in Russia during the Spring of 2000. Italian police, on an illegal pornography sting, raided a factory and claimed to have found numerous authentic snuff films, which were being shipped for extremely high prices to clients in the U.S., England, Italy, and Germany. The only catch? The Italian authorities never revealed the films' footage to the public, which instantly put their authenticity into question. I mean, really. If they're gonna claim they've got snuff films, don't ya think that they owe us the ghastly honor of putting a few of 'em on two-disc special edition DVD?
Okay, okay... Now, to step back from the horrors of reality (i.e. My one-way ticket to Hell) and take a good hard look at a oft-overlooked film that truly brought the snuff film "craze" back to the good ol' U. S. of A....And no, it not Joel Shitmaker's cinematic stool sample, 8MM! Good gravy, when are you damn people gonna realize that movie's not as great as you think?
I'm talking about a short film from Japan, made in 1985 and entitled Za ginipiggu 2: Chiniku no hana. All right, I'm not surprised if you haven't heard of it, either. Even its English title, Guinea Pig: Flowers of Flesh and Blood, isn't that widely-known, either. However, the furor this little movie made in LA during the Summer of 1988 will not soon be forgotten (by geeks like me).
As the story goes, a young hotshot actor by the name of Charlie Sheen was attending a party when someone pulled out a copy of this little Asian gem. After only minutes of viewing the picture, Sheen was convinced he was watching a real snuff film and contacted the authorities. Right there, something should tell you at least a portion of this story is fabricated. Charlie "I heart whores" Sheen was concerned about chivalry?!
Anyways, a legitimate (and quite massive) investigation was conducted by both U.S. and Japanese authorities until the creators of the film stepped forward and provided the powers-that-be with evidence that the films were staged. Boy, talk about bubbling with pride. I'd be majorly honored if millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on trying to figure out if one of my movies was criminal or not (the answer is: all my movies are criminal).
Since then, a second coming of snuff film-interest has swept the world. Although, as I stated earlier, no hard evidence has ever been found to prove their existence. It's a tough call as to whether you, kind reader, choose to believe in them or not... the choice is yours.
When asked what I believe on the matter, I feel obligated to quote Jack Burton, Kurt Russell's character in Big Trouble in Little China. It's simple, but perfect: "Now I'm not saying that I've been everywhere and I've done everything, but I do know it's a pretty amazing planet we live on..." Yeah, Jack. It's an amazingly gross, depraved planet -- full of monsters and demons...And I call it home.