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Snuff films legend

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Snuff film

"Snuff film" is the term used for a film depicting unwitting people performing sexual acts, either willingly or under duress and subsequently are murdered.

There have been instances of murderers recording their crimes, and such evidence is not released to the public, due to its disturbing nature, and out of respect for the victim. However, in all of these cases the recordings were for their own private use; there has been no documented example of any snuff movie ever being distributed commercially.

Pornographic snuff movies appear to be an urban legend.

The idea was spawned from the movie Snuff, filmed in 1971 and released in 1975. Produced by the husband-and-wife grindhouse filmmaking team of Michael and Roberta Findlay, it was originally titled Slaughter, and had been conceived as a story about a Manson-esque murder cult, but an ending that purported to show the "murder" of a crew member was added, filmed in a vérité style. This was done, apparently, as a marketing ploy, so that the on-camera death could be promoted as being genuine. The promoters of the film even went so far as to hire fake protesters to picket the movie theaters where it was being shown.

The American film "Hardcore" (1979, directed by Paul Schrader)involves a runaway's father (George C. Scott) investigating the veracity of an 8mm film that appears to be of a teenage girl being murdered. "8MM" (1999) is a similar movie starring Nicolas Cage as a private investigator of this genre of filmmaking. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snuff_movie [2004]

Urban legend [...]

One of the most enduring, and little-recognized, urban legends about cinema is the "snuff film," in which actresses are supposedly actually killed onscreen. Over the course of nearly a quarter century, the snuff film has transformed from grade-Z slasher film to hoax to anti-pornographers' straw man to urban legend, and shows no sign of slowing down. -- Scott Aaron Stine, http://www.csicop.org/si/9905/snuff.html [Jul 2004]

Folklore [...]

http://directory.google.com/Top/Society/Folklore/Literature/Urban_Legends/Snuff_Films/ Snuff movies have their own category in the Open Directory, snuff movies are listed under folklore/urban_legends and is a related category to hoaxes.


(Al Goldstein, publisher of Screw magazine, has a standing offer of $1 million for anyone who can come up with a commercially sold snuff film. That offer has been in place for years. No one has yet laid claim to it.) --http://www.snopes2.com/horrors/madmen/snuff.htm

Mainstream films dealing with snuff films

  1. Mute Witness (1994) - Anthony Waller [Amazon US]
    A mute makeup artist working on a slasher film in Moscow is locked in the studio after hours. While trying to get out the building she witnesses a brutal murder as a snuff film is being made, and she must run for her life. She struggles to stay alive so she can convince authorities of what she's seen. -- amazon.com

    Sticking around the set after the rest of the crew has gone home for the evening, Billy accidentally stumbles across the making of what she first thinks is a cheap porno flick but quickly determines is a real-life "snuff film," as the female star is brutally stabbed to death by her partner while the cameraman continues shooting.
    The pair of killers discover that someone has witnessed their death shoot, and from this point on the picture basically traces Billy's efforts at (i) staying alive with the baddies on her trail, and (ii) convincing others (including her sister's boyfriend and the Russian police) that what she witnessed was not just a fictional murder. --Steven Jay Schneider for Central Europe Review

  2. Hardcore (1979) - Paul Schrader [Amazon US]
    ... As I had a pre-existing interest in the darker aspect of human sexuality, I was intrigued by the content of this film. George C. Scott's character gradually descends into a realm of the human experience which he finds disturbing & shocking. It's a realm where sexual deviancy exists. It's a realm which is diametrically opposed to his conservative religious beliefs. One scene which remains imprinted upon my mind involves Scott's character entering a sadomasochistic establishment to track down one of the pornographers who knows the whereabouts of his lost daughter. During this sequence of scenes, Scott's character is enraged as he rampages through various chambers within the establishment; each chamber contains different bondage paraphernalia and is bathed in a different colored light. This is an eerie but surreal sequence of scenes. It's quite effective; it conveys the twisted & warped atmosphere of the dark region of the human experience Scott's character has finally infiltrated in a desperate attempt to locate his missing daughter.

    One of the most frightening aspects of the film is the allusion to snuff pornography. ... -- Nehal D. Patel for Amazon.com

  3. 8MM (1999) - Joel Schumacher [DVD, Amazon US]
    This thoroughly unpleasant thriller from the hands of Joel Schumacher (Batman and Robin) offers very little in its lurid tour of snuff films and the seedy pornographic underworld. A wooden Nicolas Cage stars as a private detective hired by a tycoon's widow, who discovers in her dead husband's safe some 8mm footage of a young girl being sexually abused and slaughtered. Cage's job is to determine the veracity of the film and to find out the girl's identity, whether she be alive or dead. What could have been a taut, nerve-jangling thriller is instead a lumbering, overwrought but underwritten tale of vigilante justice. Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker also penned the imaginative and compelling Seven, but you wouldn't know it from this tired and monotonous script. Schumacher tries for echoes of both The Silence of the Lambs and Paul Schrader's Hardcore (which stars George C. Scott as a father trying to find his daughter in the seedy porn industry), but despite some slick camerawork, the film fails to draw the audience into either the mystery of the missing girl or Cage's supposed internal conflicts. It's not so much the unsavory subject matter as it is the sloppy and unimaginative filmmaking that makes the movie unbearable. Of the entire cast only Joaquin Phoenix, as a charismatic goth boy who works at an adult book store, comes away with a memorable performance. --Mark Englehart for Amazon.com

  4. Thesis (1996) - Alejandro Amenábar [DVD, Amazon US]
    Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar grabbed the attention of American audiences with his dreamy thriller Open Your Eyes, but he earlier sent shock waves throughout Spain in 1996 with this disturbing debut. Thesis is a quietly creepy psychological thriller about a young college student, Ángela (Ana Torrent) investigating the social fascination with sensational violence for her thesis project. In her search for violent video footage, she stumbles onto what may be a real live snuff film, a videotape that her professor was watching before his untimely death. With the help of a geeky gore junkie she uncovers a conspiracy that may include her handsome but sinister new boyfriend, her thesis advisor, and even her weirdo partner. When she uncovers one too many secrets lying in the catacombs of the university basement, she realizes that she may be the next victim. It goes on perhaps too long, and Amenábar's pointed observations on the lure of violence and the dark side of human nature are lost as the spiraling mystery spins into a first-person nightmare, but his skill at weaving a paranoid world where evil may lurk behind every friendly face is undeniable. Thesis is reminiscent of Brian De Palma's early thrillers: dark, stylish, subdued, and bubbling with the characters' guilty (and ultimately dangerous) fascination with the transgressive.

  5. Peeping Tom (1960) [1DVD, Amazon US]
    Michael Powell lays bare the cinema's dark voyeuristic underside in this disturbing 1960 psychodrama thriller. Handsome young Carl Boehm is Mark Lewis, a shy, socially clumsy young man shaped by the psychic scars of an emotionally abusive parent, in this case a psychologist father (Michael Powell in a perverse cameo) who subjected his son to nightmarish experiments in fear and recorded every interaction with a movie camera. Now Mark continues his father's work, sadistically killing young women with a phallic-like blade attached to his movie camera and filming their final, terrified moments for his definitive documentary on fear. Set in contemporary London, which Powell evokes in a lush, colorful seediness, this film presents Mark as much victim as villain and implicates the audience in his scopophilic activities as we become the spectators to his snuff film screenings. Comparisons to Hitchcock's Psycho, released the same year, are inevitable. Powell's film was reviled upon release, and it practically destroyed his career, ironic in light of the acclaim and success that greeted Psycho, but Powell's picture hit a little too close to home with its urban setting, full color photography, documentary techniques, and especially its uneasy connections between sex, violence, and the cinema. We can thank Martin Scorsese for sponsoring its 1979 rerelease, which presented the complete, uncut version to appreciative American audiences for the first time. This powerfully perverse film was years ahead of its time and remains one of the most disturbing and psychologically complex horror films ever made. --Sean Axmaker

  6. Muzan-e: AV gyaru satsujin bideo wa sonzai shita! (1999) - Daisuke Yamanouchi [imdb.com] [Jul 2004]
    Daisuke Yamanouchi's "Muzan-e" is about a young journalist,who is searching for snuff movies.The film shows us a snuff/porn making underground industry ala "Last House on Dead End Street" or "Tesis".It's extremely grim and gory and it pulls no punches with its sheer nastiness.There are some incredibly revolting scenes of gore and sexual violence,so fans of Japanese pinku eiga sickies won't be disappointed.It seems to me that Japanese culture is loaded with sadism and bloodletting and this carries over into the realms of cinema and literature. Anyway,if you're a fan of the "Guinea Pig" series or "Cannibal Holocaust" you can't miss this one. However if you're squeamish don't watch it!--Embalmer via imdb.com


  1. Gods of Death: Around the World, Behind Closed Doors, Operates an Ultra-Secret Business of Sex and Death: One Man Hunts the Truth About Snuff Films by Yaron Svoray, Thomas Hughes (Contributor) [Amazon US]
    Legal scholar and anti-pornography activist Catherine MacKinnon approached journalist Yaron Svoray about "snuff films," because he was the only person who'd said in print that he'd seen such a film (while undercover investigating neo-Nazis for his book In Hitler's Shadow), in which a girl was raped and murdered. "It is my misfortune," Svoray says, "to have been born with a need to look under the carpet." After a bit of soul-searching, he undertook the investigation described in this book--a series of adventures with many dead ends and mishaps, some of which are quite funny. (This reviewer was impressed by his tenacity.) The writing, while sincere, is overdramatized and synoptic, leaving the reader to decide whether to believe Svoray's hair-raising tales. This book is important for what it says about how (in Svoray's words) "blood sells," and it will no doubt spark much discussion among those who doubt the existence of snuff films. --Amazon.com

  2. Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film (1995) - David Kerekes [Amazon US]
    A captivating read...Creation's most accomplished film publication so far. This study on the way death has been treated on film is cleverly structured, well researched and lucidly written. It comprehensively covers films made as fiction - e.g. "Peeping Tom", "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" - films purporting to be real - e.g. "Faces of Death" series - and material that is all too real, such as car-crashes, autopsy films and news footage. --amazon.com

    Included is a radical critique of feature films which have incorporated a „snuff“ element; a comprehensive history of „Mondo“ movies and „shockumentaries“; analysis of the validity or otherwise of supposedly real-life „snuff“ footage, and its links with certain individuals and organisations; a summary of other real deaths captured on film suchas live-TV suicides, executions, news-reel footage etc; and also a comprehensive filmography. The whole book is profusely illustrated with rare and extraordinary photographs from both cinema, documentary and real life.

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