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Nasties: A Lesson From History

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Mark Kermode | 11:47 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

As a younger man I was among those who delighted in the era of the Video Nasty. For me and many like me it was an opportunity to expose ourselves to some of the worst and the best horror movies of the 70s and 80s, from Driller Killer to Cannibal Apocalypse. But as revealed in Jake West's captivating new documentary, the real life warping of fragile minds took place behind the scenes to make sure the Video Recordings Act of 1984 was made law.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I will definalty check out this documentary. i was born abit late to be affected by alot of the video nasties scare but i was a massive horror fan in my mid teens and went out my way to get hold of films that where on the list. towards the end of my teens alot of the band films where then being released again after the head of the BBFC left and they reinvented themselves. the only problem was as i got older i decided to have a clear out and i got rid of my old VHS collection almost all of which i now miss and regret.

  • Comment number 2.

    The docco is brilliant and that quote from Bright gets funnier every time I hear it, that is until I remember that it's folks like him who run the bloody country.

    I've been making a series of reviews/critiques of the nasties myself and one thing that's obvious is the DPP had no idea what the hell they were dealing with. When they judge a film by it's cover and/or poster (which they actually did) then one wonders what competence or authority these folks can ever claim. The political misdirection that was involved was staggering and disgusting and the whole era needs to be remembered and thrown right back at the government and censors every time they try to pull this stuff again, and they will.

    Great video Doc Mark, I love to hear you talk about this era.

  • Comment number 3.

    I get the point. Yes, we're all anti-censorship and we ought to keep it that way. Yes, it hardly matters whether we "like" or "hate" these movies, but look, if "video nasties" are a significant subject I think content should also be an issue. Isn't that, in fact, the whole point? Many of these movies ARE depraved, inhuman, mysogynistic trash, taking for example the infamous "I Spit On Your Grave," which is aesthetically and morally indefensible. BUT WE RESERVE THE RIGHT FOR IT TO EXIST AND BE SEEN. I would like it if Mark Kermode emphasised these points more clearly, because the crux of his argument lies in the very moral dispute which arises from its subject.

  • Comment number 4.

    Another point: how these movies came to be censored is an interesting and worthy subject, but if you don't also come clean about what the movies are about, it SEEMS like you're purposefully defending their aesthetic and moral vision.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ IllustriousJonsey. I think primarily people focus on the political aspects because that was what the whole debacle was actually about, they literally didn't know what they were banning, let alone care. It was all about diverting attention from a failing government and giving them a moral battle they couldn't lose.

    I haven't seen one of those videos yet that could be considered depraved (and I've seen all but about 20 of the 72 so far as part of my review series), and depraved doesn't well describe I Spit on your Grave which has had some vigorous defense in the past (see 'J Hills is Alive' by Marco Starr).

    I do agree though that not many people have really looked specifically at the films themselves though, that's why I decided to do that very thing myself.

  • Comment number 6.

    @Glenn That's fair. I know exactly what you're getting at. But Mark frequently blogs about the "video nasties" era. Why? There isn't the immediate threat of censorship, not anymore. In fact, "I Spit On Your Grave" has been re-made and is available in cinemas this week (albeit the states. The DVD release, however, will be available in the UK come 2011). If Mark or anyone happened to like and enjoy this particular movie, that's fine, just don't ignore what it's about. I've heard the defence of the movie that somehow these revenge killings are justifioed as an act of sexual equivalency, but that simply doesn't cut it. The fact is that a movie like this validates rape fantasies and then abuses the alleged moral crusade of the raped woman for grisly entertainment matter. All I'm saying is that these movies should be admitted for what they are by the person who consistenly talks and writes about their censorship. If Mark's argument hinges on the fact that the government never actually understood or sought to understand these movies, the argument is still as much a point about freedom of speech and freedom of expression as with if the government had adamantly and sincerly believed in the corruptability of said movies. And if the point of free speech and freedom of expression is that we sometimes must tolerate the intolerable, doesn't that require, if indeed we are constantly and inexplicably writing about it, that we admit the intolerable for what it is? I'm reminded of when Noam Chomsky was bombarded with criticism for defending an author who was also a Nazi sympathizer. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, you're either for free speech or you're against it. That's true, but it doesn't mean I can't wonder why Mark Kermode keeps returning to a the cultural artifacts that have now been emanciapated. Haven't those battles already been won?

  • Comment number 7.

    @Glenn(My last comment, with corrections) That's fair. I know exactly what you're getting at. But Mark frequently blogs about the "video nasties" era. Why? There isn't the immediate threat of censorship, not anymore. In fact, "I Spit On Your Grave" has been re-made and is available in cinemas this week (albeit the states. The DVD release, however, will be available in the UK come 2011). If Mark or anyone happened to like and enjoy this particular movie, that's fine, just don't ignore what it's about. I've heard the defence of the movie that somehow these revenge killings are justified as an act of sexual equivalency, but that simply doesn't cut it. The fact is that a movie like this validates rape fantasies and then abuses the alleged moral crusade of the raped woman for grisly entertainment matter. All I'm saying is that these movies should be admitted for what they are by the person who consistently talks and writes about their censorship. If Mark's argument hinges on the fact that the government never actually understood or sought to understand these movies, the argument is still as much a point about freedom of speech and freedom of expression as with if the government had adamantly and sincerely believed in the corruptibility of said movies. And if the point of free speech and freedom of expression is that we sometimes must tolerate the intolerable, doesn't that require, if indeed we are constantly and inexplicably writing about it, that we admit the intolerable for what it is? I'm reminded of when Noam Chomsky was bombarded with criticism for defending an author who was also a Nazi sympathizer. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, you're either for free speech or you're against it. That's true, but it doesn't mean I can't wonder why Mark Kermode keeps returning to the cultural artefacts that have now been emancipated from its indigenous political landscape. Haven't those battles already been won?

  • Comment number 8.

    Sounds like the so called research that backed up the act is similar to the research into the effects of violence in computer games in that it was all subjective and pre-biased with the authors own views. It is interesting how this is coming to light at the same time that a similar battle is happening in both Australia and California re: censorship in the games industry whereby it is people that clearly have no clue on the things that they are trying to censor

  • Comment number 9.

    @ IllustriousJonsey. The remake of I spit on your grave was cut incidentally (some 43 seconds I believe). The original really didn't glorify rape, it was a deeply repugnant act in it (not at all a validation), and frankly it's one of the most uncomfortable films I've ever watched in that respect (the second half, the revenge is where the exploitation begins and that ironically is where the least cuts were made).. But that's an argument for another place.
    The problem with defending the films in the discussion of the time is that the films were really not why the scare was started, yes they were offensive to many, yes they were often over the top in violence and very often they were cheap and badly made but the DPP and the government had NO idea what they were banning and some very innocuous titles got hauled away by the police on several occasions as this censorship strawman was dragged out.
    Also trying to argue the case for all those movies is a very long process if you want to specifically address what is a surprisingly diverse catalogue of movies. It's taken me a year and 10 months to get just over half way through the list making 8-15 minute videos and most people will stop listening the second you mention the more lurid content, as if the most horrific moments are all these movies are about.
    And is the censorship battle won. Not in the slightest. A Serbian Film is going through the same motions as Salo did and several other films have been banned outright(Grotesque and August Underground, though I like neither of them at all). Though the film censorship climate is much less hysterical than it was it still exists and still pokes its head up every so often. The nasties scare of the early 80's and mid to late 90's are as much of cultural significance as they are specifically of the films themselves and as Martin Barker said at Frightfest we should be 'keeping an eye on them' (the censors)because the censorious have a way of ignoring the past and focusing on the present, hoping we'll forget what happened last time. It's a subject that has ramifications beyond the films that were involved, which BTW I'm happy to talk about on an individual level, and have done for some time now.

    It would be interesting to see Kermode's point of view on some of the chief examples of the DPP list though.
    I do get your frustrations though. It can seem to be a conversation that is solely about the social/political aspect without recognising the films that were caught up in the events which I personally don't think were for the most part worthy of such harsh, censorious actions in the slightest

  • Comment number 10.

    They didn't interview you?

  • Comment number 11.

    This documentary is perfect timing for me because I have chose to explore the subject of 'Video Nasties' for my dissertation. I am only 20, but I wish I could have lived during this time with the moral confusion among the unregulated titles. I read Martin Barker's 'Video Nasties' throughout the summer and the many essays accompanying the book. There are silly moments that defy logic from the prosecutors and among the press. Such example when Derek Malcolm was called to defend Nightmares of A Damaged Brain, saying "It was well executed". The judge presiding replied, "So was the Nazi invasion of Poland").

    However, it just comes to prove that banning 30-something titles, means banning thousands. Just as you said some time ago Mark, to understand these films, you need to ask the fans. Or, more preferably, people who watch these for a living. Not someone, who got gossip of a castration scene in I Spit on Your Grave. Or classifying Driller Killer (which is really an art house film) as a "blood fest". Anyway, what good that came out of the campaign was that obscure films like these reached a wider audience (they even gave a list. How nice of them!) and how the BBFC partially learnt from its mistakes.

  • Comment number 12.

    I'd quite like it if someone would tell me WHERE I can check out this documentary, I'm utterly square when it comes to the history of laws surrounding censorship!

    The whole BBFC, the whole Mary Whitehouse malarky and the Video recordings Act are all a fascinating side of our cultural history that gets massively over-looked. I could go on but I've already referred to myself as a square so I'd better not!

    Where and when, lovely people, where and when...

  • Comment number 13.

    Something similar to the Video Recordings Act had already happened to comics in 1954 with the publication of Fredric Wertham's book Seduction of the Innocent which was used by United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency as a way of censoring comic-books through the introduction of the comics code authority.
    It's also interesting to note that the main target of the authorities was William Gaines the publisher of EC Comics who where mainly known for they're horror comics such as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

  • Comment number 14.

    I refer you all to my comments in my podcast on this subject:

    or on itunes search thexperiment Category III ;)

  • Comment number 15.

    WHERE is this documentary available?

  • Comment number 16.

    Have seen the documentary and really loved it. Like many, I personally don't even like that many of the movies on the Video Nasty list (The Evil Dead, Flesh for Frankenstein, Possession - maybe The Beyond, maybe Last House and I do have a soft spot for Blood Feast even if it's not that great a movie), but to me it's not so much about the movies themselves but about censorship.

    I grew up in '80s / early '90s Germany when censorship was a huge issue too. There was no list - stores were just banned from selling all films and video games rated 18+ on the shelves directly, though they could keep them under the counter, which few thought was lucrative enough to do. I wound up watching the cut versions of horror movies secretly when they were on TV, and I still turned out what I'd consider fairly normal.

    And it's all so pointless - Germany isn't a safer place because of censorship. It's not a better place. The government thought it would reduce violent crime and racism (as though it's that easy to fix these problems) but it didn't do anything except patronize citizens.

    I'd actually also go one step further: sometimes, censorship hurts. When I was a kid I remember The Crying Game had just come out but it was rated 16 in Germany and I couldn't see it. I didn't see it until I went to university and took media studies. That movie single handedly helped me come to terms (and to peace) with my identity as a transgendered individual - if I'd had the opportunity to watch it at a young age it could have saved me years of frustration, confusion and depression.

    While I don't think kids should necessarily watch I Spit On Your Grave, the ratings system needs to be completely redone, because it keeps kids from watching movies that might enlighten and show more of the world to them. (As Dr. Mark said, 'Made in Daghenham' is another example.)

  • Comment number 17.

    Censorship is utterly ridiculous. What's even more absurd is the movies they choose/chose to censor. For example, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" really doesn't have gore, blood, nudity or swearing. Everything is suggested. It's just the sheer fact that it's labelled an exploitation movie, and therefore "evil" or "disgusting". Where as, dare I say, "The Exorcist" is far more "exploitative" than Texas Chainsaw. However, that's ok, because it's a mainstream movie that earned a lot of money. Also, I've always said that if John Carpenter's "Halloween" had been called it's original title, "The Babysitter Murders", then it probably would have been banned.

    And I know this is off topic, but I don't have anyone to share this with: I just saw my first Herzog film! "Aguirre, The Wrath of God"! Wow!

  • Comment number 18.

    Where is it being shown? in the cinema or on DVD?

  • Comment number 19.

    I've seen Video Nasties: it was screened at FrightFest and was followed by a panel discussion. It's certainly a very interesting documentary, but it is a partisan work and those looking for balance and time given to the pro-censorship case will be disappointed. In that sense it is somewhat preaching to the converted. (Connoisseurs are also advised to check out Ban The Sadist Videos Part 1, which covers similar territory.) The DVD comes out in a few weeks time, I believe, and I'll probably pick up a copy as it comes with two discs of trailers for the banned films. Over the years I've seen probably about two thirds of the titles on the list and while some are fantastic movies (Tenebrae, The Beyond), others such as Unhinged are very poor fare indeed and without their prosecutions they'd have faded into obscurity.

    Whilst the prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act were all wrong, cost a lot and achieved nothing positive, I do believe the VRA is actually a good thing in principle. Now people know what's in the movies and whether they're suitable for the kids. In practice videos were too heavily cut in the Ferman years, and were hacked to pieces for an 18 when they'd sail by with a 15 now (personally I'd sooner see them tighten up in this regard). Indeed, two banned titles are now available at 15 (Contamination and The Funhouse)The overwhelming majority of cuts these days are either for a lower certificate or if the film breaks the criminal law (eg cruelty to animals).

    As for whether the ratings should be changed, I'm not convinced. The protestations of one producer who didn't get the rating he wanted aren't going to outweigh the hassle engendered by parents claiming - rightly - that the BBFC are suddenly changing the rules. Personally I think Steven Woolley is an idiot: he claimed he didn't know how much swearing was in Made In Dagenham and he didn't know what the BBFC policies were. Frankly I think that's ludicrous. He really didn't know how many Fs were in the film? He's the producer! Even I know the BBFC policies on swearing at 12A and I'm not in the industry. Woolley is in the industry and he's been dealing with the BBFC for decades. If he wanted his movie to have a 12A he should have taken the swearing out. I haven't seen Made In Dagenham yet but I'd be very surprised if the alleged sixteen uses of the F word were necessary and the film would have been less effective without them.

    As the good Doctor keeps telling us: 12A means 12, unless you have a very strong reason for believing those under 12 can handle it. If it's wrong to take 9-year-olds to a 12A film like Casino Royale, surely it's wrong to show a 15-rated film to 12-year-olds? There's no parental-advisory caveat on the 15.

  • Comment number 20.

    The documentary is available as part of the 'Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide' DVD set. This also includes trailers for every one of the films involved, and a gallery of cover artwork for them.

    [Unsuitable link removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 21.

    I was just finishing a Post Graduate Diploma at Southampton Institute in 1999 when The Exorcist was finally released on video and DVD. This only really came about because the internet had arrived and people could now order region 1 copies of the film on DVD, thus circumventing the UK and the moronic Video Recording Act.

    I look forward to seeing the Video Nasties documentary as I thought then (and still do think) that we have censorship by screech in this country. This means that those that screech loudest are the ones that usually get things banned even if they have never seen the censored film in question.

  • Comment number 22.

    @6 illustriousJonsey said about I Spit On Your Grave:
    "The fact is that a movie like this validates rape fantasies and then abuses the alleged moral crusade of the raped woman for grisly entertainment matter."

    I've defended this movie on this blog before.

    Speaking as a feminist myself I think Spit is one of the few movies that depicts rape is such a horrible manner that it's unlikely to induce an erotic response in any but the most perverse of male viewers. The movie makes it abundantly clear that rape is about contempt and humiliation and is terrifying for the victim. The rape in Spit is not depicted as being in the least erotic. In fact I think the movie does a good job in depicting why she is so motivated on revenge.

    As for the revenge theme - there are about a million movies that depict males taking bloody revenge - why are men so upset about a movie that finally depicts a female taking bloody revenge?

    I can agree that, in general, it is not socially constructive to promote the notion that justice is best achieved through the murderous decimation of those who have wronged you, but if you want to argue that point you've got a back catalogue of literally thousands of films with male protagonists (many admired classics)before you get anywhere near Spit.

    I personally think Spit is one of the most thought provoking movies on victimisation and gender roles that I've seen and I think the hysteria surrounding it says a great deal about those issues.

    In Spit you have a victimised woman taking bloody revenge for her torture, in Last House you have a middle class couple taking bloody revenge for the murder of their daughter. I can't help thinking that the hysteria over these movies is partly because these groups are not "supposed" to take revenge. Only men are allowed to take revenge and are depicted as doing so in literally thousands of films.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm looking forward to checking out this new documentary.I remember the video nasties era very well, it was a great time to be a horror fan especially if all you had been used to seeing before was the old Universal, Hammer, Amicus, etc, films that were shown regularly on late night TV back then.I remember the very first nasty I rented out of my local video shop (which was a treasure trove of horror & exploitation titles), it's remained one of my favourites ever since, the strong uncut version of Lucio Fulci's gore classic, Zombie Flesh-Eaters.Seeing that for the first time was, quite literally, an eye popping experience!

  • Comment number 25.

    I will definitely check this documentary out, sounds very interesting. 'This Film is Not Yet Rated' but with more of a conspiracy twist to it.

    I had to laugh and cry at the clip you showed of that guy saying how the films affect children. Laugh, because it's utterly ridiculous and cry because they're still using the same argument today in relation to video games. Most notably the current California Video Game Law. It's utterly insane.

  • Comment number 26.

    Frontastic - Yeh exactly, the kind of arguments or vague statements being used about video games, or even social network sites, can be ridiculous. 'Re-wiring users brains' is the most irksome one, sounds scary but is meaningless and without any basis in reality.

  • Comment number 27.

    The Video Nasties were a precursor to YouTube in the sense that it made the larger variety of film/video work accessible to people and allowing them greater freedom to see more.

    I think you could make a case for anything to be the inspiration for some whack-job to commit violence.

    A violent film is much like a knife - it's perfectly fine to have one in the house but if the wrong person gets a hold of it there will be trouble.

    Should all knives be banned?

    Of course not

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm a similar age to you Mark, and I remember those films (and the accompanying furore) too. Personally. I think that most of them would only (and were maybe made to) satisfy the teenage boy market, in much the same way that 'Twilight' today is aimed squarely at teenage girls.

    However, I'm somewhat torn on the whole censorship issue: yes, I agree with you and everyone else, that the principle is bad, that some old fuddy-duddy in power can tell me what films I can and cannot see... and yet... what we expose ourselves to, or are exposed to, DOES influence us as a society. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Read Robert Cialdini's brilliant book "Influence": one of the scariest books I have ever read, about how social influence governs our actions far more than rational thought ever does.

    As just one example, the Columbine school shootings have been repeated several times in different schools, mostly in the US, but also elsewhere: it is believed that if Columbine had never happened, then the subsequent shootings would also never have happened. So, imagine if Columbine had happened, but the news media had never reported on it (either through censorship from the Government or by themselves): that would, in all probability, have actually prevented the copycat atrocities from happening, and saved many lives. It seems the mere fact that we see other people behaving in a particular way somehow makes that behaviour more acceptable to us, and more likely that some of us will copy that behaviour, (and this is the scary bit) WHETHER or not that behaviour is morally wrong or right, and whether or not that behaviour is real or not. Our subconscious minds simply don't care about our laws and morals.

    Yes, it can be argued that those disaffected students may well have gone on to commit some other atrocity, and you can't blame one event for influencing another... but on the other hand, if they hadn't been exposed to the mere fact that others like them did such things, then they may simply have expressed their disaffection in some harmless graffiti or vandalism instead of murder. Only recently, just weeks after Derek Bird, we had Raoul Moat... and while the majority of us seem able to avoid copying the behaviour of others, it seems a minority can't. So can censorship of some kind be justified? I'm now inclined to think it is, for the greater good. Which unfortunately leaves my liberal views in an uncomfortable position: who is actually qualified to decide what we should and shouldn't see? Clearly not ourselves...

  • Comment number 29.

    Recently purchased the DVD of I Spit on Your Grave. Personally, I'm incredulous that this new release has been banned in Ireland?!!!

    Anyway, has anyone else bought the DVD and found a problem with the presentation? The running speed seems completely inconstant - not only with the film but also with the extras, such as the interview with Meir Zarchi - kind of jumping and too fast in places.

    Thinking that I'd just bought a dodgy copy, I took it back to the same retailer but in a completely different town far, far away and got a replacement. Took it home, same thing. Might be a massive faulty batch or something? Don't have the same problem with any of my other DVDs, so know it's not my player. Anyway, you have been warned!

    Kind of off the subject,but I must say that I really enjoyed The Human Centipede. Emphatically sick though the concept is, I primarily loved Dieter Laser's highly eccentric, wired performance.

  • Comment number 30.

    I remember the old days of video nasties. Inferno was one of my faves. It was a sad day the owner of the local video store had to clear the shelves of a load of classics. I enjoyed seening most of them and even found films like driller killer to be quite tame afer all the hype. I find some of the modern horror films to be much much worse and still to this day dont like hostel.
    Mind I did see a real video nasty the other day on TV. Titantic 2. Now that is a stomach churning film.

  • Comment number 31.

    One of the most interesting things about the 'Video Nasties' scare is that it was as much motivated by technology fears as about the actual content of some of the films (and as noted above some of the films that ended up on the list were laughably bad and would have disappeared into obscurity without the increased exposure the tag Video Nasty' gave them).

    When VHS machines came out, a lot of big Hollywood studios shied away from putting out their biggest films on the format. So instead of some of the latest movies of the 80s most owners of these machines had to make do with older films like Clash By Night with Barbara Stanwyck from the 50s!

    And so during this period of the early 80s while the industry was still unregulated by the BBFC and the Hollywood studios were mostly prevaricating about whether to release these films on tape or not, leaving themselves open to piracy (shades of the current debate on films being released over the internet), various video companies took the initiative and released material that was not able to be shown on television but which people wanted to see - not just a few Hollywood films in a release window before they turned up on television, but more extreme films that would never get shown.

    So the lack of 'classy' Hollywood product only made the presence of these more extreme films seem much more as if they were overwhelming and defining the nature of the videotape - which is why you get lots of clueless MPs arguing about 'video nasties' and of the number of videotape machines in general as being generally interchangable and pernicious influence in households (much as they do now with 'downloading' and 'illegal downloading', or with 'videogames' in general and 'violent videogames' - since it would involve a lot more research to come to a more sensible conclusion on the subject)

    Add to that the release of a few big name films on the format (Straw Dogs, The Exorcist) that compounded the fears of the tabloid press in those pre-certified days.

    So yes the 'video nasties' featured more extreme (though mostly laughable) material, but that was only part of the picture - politics; pressure groups; 'regulated' films from 'reputable' companies versus small video distribution companies; and the media's influence and money come into the picture too.

    Plus there is also the issue that all of this confusion led to the demonisation of the consumer, the person who bought such material, or kept it in their possession, since they were an easy target for the authorities. Luckily that doesn't happen any more!

    And I agree with comments above - some really great films got caught up in the whipped up scare (Tenebrae in particular), but while most films seem laughably poor now, that doesn't mean that any of them deserved to be the victims of a witchhunt.

  • Comment number 32.

    i was right on the edge of being the sort of age where i'd have the knowledge and appearance to have taken advantage of these DPP banned titles. got our first VHS recorded in about 1984, i think a year after all this happened, and found that seeing glimpses of headlines in papers and TV coverage added to the way in which i've seen these films (and other such similar material) ever since. they gained a quality or level of attraction that hadn't necessarily been there before - despite the often exploitative or sensationalist artwork that often came with these releases that aimed to make them stand out on shelves - and had perhaps the opposite effect, much like anything that feels instinctively inappropriate.

    as a result of all this messy press coverage and bizarrely-operated campaigns, these films, although often from worthwhile / otherwise-revered (genre, often) director's, often seem to have had a life lingering in the shadows despite there being potentially contentious films to have only become widely available since (particularly in the days of DVD) that might have more power to shock; and there's certainly going to be a fair few that are going to clash with the more realistic varied range of opinions of being unleashed freely instead of clumped together and drawn attention to despite the individual qualities, or lack thereof.

    censorship in the UK, certainly in the last decade, seems to have loosened it's grip here, but it's always something that let's people suffer more long-term damage as a result of not allowing people the risk of working out, collectively or individually, where the more realistic / sincere assessment might lie.

  • Comment number 33.

    @Alina I agree with you about how the movie(s)talked about here make(s) it "abundantly clear that rape is about contempt and humiliation and is terrifying for the victim," and that neither is likely to "induce an erotic response in any but the most perverse of male viewers." I understood this about rape - that it is about "contempt and humiliation," rather than sex - when I wrote that the movie "validates rape fantasies." I also understand what you mean when you say that the movie depicts rape in all its lurid detail as few movies do and ever have done. But it is not enough to just show it, furthermore it is just plain contemptible to surround an abuse like this with a one-note story of no distinguishable artistic meaning or value, one-dimensional characters, side-show geeks etc. I come to your own admissions that “it is not socially constructive to promote the notion that justice is best achieved through the murderous decimation of those who have wronged you” and wonder how you can counter this rationale, which I (in this case anyway) agree with, with “if you want to argue that point you've got a back catalogue of literally thousands of films with male protagonists (many admired classics) before you get anywhere near Spit.” I agree, roles generally are assigned stereotypically to women in movies, yes, there are countless revenge-driven movies (“many admired classics”) in which the men play the part, but does that mean we should allow that a movie so classless, so devoid of empathy for the victim, be pitted against analogous (if there are any; this movie is near a class of it’s own. Its nearest relatives in the Hollywood are probably “The Deliverance” and “Straw Dogs,” both male-oriented, both highly dubious in their moral claims.), male-oriented movies, simply because the protagonist is in this case a female? I take the feminist position, which is really just a humanist one: I simply don’t want to be subjected to a long, explicit rape sequence, only to have the consequent revenge killings passed off as a justification (not as justification for the woman, as justification for the filmmakers including an hour of rape scenes). When do we see the real psychological and physical effects of a very real occurrence? Can you honestly say that the filmmakers of "I Spit On Your Grave" were attempting to do justice to the victim(s) of rape? A subject this awful should be treated with respect. I like many of the old Hollywood revenge movies, such as “The Searchers”), as well as new ones, such as “Kill Bill” (very woman-oriented revenge flick). But the difference is that these movies are classy, artful genre pieces, whereas “I Spit On Your Grave” is classless and artless. Those movies whether they had a message or were pure exercises in style didn’t pander to, nor did they wilfully exploit, the audience. Arguing whether they were stupid is a different matter altogether.

  • Comment number 34.

    Good news mark, The Exorsist: Extended Directors Cut is out now:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 35.

    At the end of the day censorship is an age old issue, the victorians put a fig leaf on Michelangelo's David, Judas Priest allegedly summoned satanic forces and of course those gosh darn video nasties.

    Why can't people accept that theres people in the world who are going to commit horrendous crimes no matter what, the fact that they watched (insert depraved movie name here) a day before is insignificant. If they are that unstable someone looking at them on the bus is as likely to tip them over the edge.
    Where is the madness going to end? Shall we stop teaching history in schools in case one of the kids thinks Hitlers cool?

    I loved and celebrate on a daily basis my healthy diet of horror as a kid in the 80s and have grown up to be a decent, polite, and respectful individual. If I were to have it my way I'de sooner kids would find their values and roll models in films such as Evil Dead than the likes of Paris Hilton (who is truly scary!).

  • Comment number 36.

    There is a BBC4 documentary starting tonight at 9pm called "A History Of Horror". Presented by Mark Gatiss:

    "1/3. Mark Gatiss explores the early horror era of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff."

    It's a three part documentary with the final two parts a week and two weeks later at the same time slot.

  • Comment number 37.

    @ Graphis - re 28:

    I can understand and sympathize with your comments regarding influence - certainly the media and culture around us influences us all to a greater or lesser degree - and while I can certainly see merit in the argument that the general tone of these media might indicate a general slide in a culture's values (one only has to look how tame films like "Clockwork Orange" seem in comparison to say, "Saw" or "Hostel") I think however that the onus is on the accusers to provide evidence of direct harm.

    The issue I have is with your thesis that censorship can be justified "for the greater good". Following your reasoning to it's logical conclusion effectively leads to attempted justifications for fascism. Without wanting to invoke Godwin's law here, we all know where that can lead... that's where I have to get off the bus I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 38.

    I just finished reading through this entire thread and am very impressed at how in-depth and intelligent some of the responses are. If only I had the time to sit down and write one myself. But I'm pretty much interested in anything regarding film censorship and the video nasties incident is something that I've been long curious to know more about so I would be really interested in seeing a documentary on the subject.

    People were finding means and reasons to kill one another long before cinema existed and they'll probably be finding ways to kill each other long after cinema is gone, etc.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sign 'o' the times:

    You are able to get a DVD of 'Driller Killer' at Poundland nowadays.

  • Comment number 40.

    My wording is going to be more aggressive than usual here, but this media effects stuff gets right under my skin when compared with influences from which we should really be protecting children.

    I love this setup. One or two kids, once in a blue moon, perpetrate some horrific crime, the media rummage around their house, find a video game or a movie, and suddenly an entire film or gaming genre supposedly has blood on its hands - entertainments primarily working on the premise of creating *fiction*, i.e.; none of it is true and no one is obliging you to consume it.

    Contrast that with people who very specifically cite unambiguous scripture, some of which even directly address the public via videotapes of their own to inform you what they believe and exactly where you can locate the basis for it, before they set off to blow up major landmarks, transport links, abortion clinics, create all manor of chaos worldwide. What's the typical response here? "Wellll, we have to look at the wider context, look at the root causes [boy do I never tire of that phrase 'root causes'], let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, let's remember they're hijacking the true nature of these ideologies and the charity and empathy they inspire, [and hey, for good measure why not throw in the masochistic] and haven't we created this problem by ourselves anyway?", etcetera, etcetera.

    All manor of simpering, insincere, transparent, intellectually dishonest rationalisations and apologetics are pulled out the toolbox to protect dangerous narratives purporting to be fact that are manifestly false, yet distinctly devoid of any internal discursive mechanisms to recognise or improve upon their flaws. Meanwhile, the first chance we get to scapegoat works of fiction meant to entertain, be discussed and debated, and sometimes in the case of the most provocative of art, actively encourages you to disagree with it, and it's so often a cut and dry case of characters deliberately providing terrible role models for our children. Because that's how entertainment works, right? If Batman beats people up, and enough eleven year olds see The Dark Knight, they're gonna be latching onto the worst behaviour in the film, and grow up taking the law into their own hands - never mind the work's attempts to deconstruct the moral struggles at play.

    In short, for all the talk of 'thinking of the children', we constantly fear the wrong fiction. We continue to do so at every successive new generation's peril, copying the same lines of code over and over again like a bad computer virus, and learning absolutely no lessons from history.

  • Comment number 41.

    @ #40 TheConciseStatement

    I can sympathise with your feelings about censorship of material exploring the extremes of human experience (be that sexual, horror or whatever). I am very uncomfortable with censorship - preferring to have a choice what to watch, what to show my kids, and when. However by the same token I'm not sure I understand your reaction to texts underpinning organised religion.

    The vast majority of people continue to demonstrate rational human behaviour regardless of whether they consume films, or texts associated with organised religion. This seems to be indicated by the fact that the healthy relationships they have with other humans takes precedence over any message or narrative contained in the material they expose themselves to.

    Religious texts and films can inspire, inform, repulse, educate, frustrate, confuse and uplift. People also use both to form tribes of interest - identify like-minded individuals. We debate, deconstruct, reconstruct, and build our experience and understanding through that process. That's human nature.

    However rational humans cannot easily understand, and thus start to be fearful, when something - the message - takes precedence over human empathy. This is true of film or religious texts/dogma. I love films and I love religion - but when I allow what I have seen, experienced and discussed to start to turn behaviour against other people, then something has gone wrong.

    You contend that if someone commits a horrific crime, and has an interest in certain types of films, then those facts are independent - a crime is likely to have been committed anyway regardless of their viewing habits. The person is damaged, not the film. You may be right. Perhaps the same can be said of people who commit crimes, apparently in the name of religion.

    I contend that the contrast you are drawing does, in fact, suggest that both situations are very similar. If you believe that the narrative contained in religious material is a fiction (forgive me - but it does sound like it), then you are promoting a ban on such fiction because people apparently commit crimes because of it? That does not sound like a sustainable intellectual position because it contradicts your apparent opposition to film censorship.

  • Comment number 42.

    The posts on this blog have been fascinating to read and I'd encourage people to keep talking.

    Three questions.

    1. Grave Spit and Last House seem to evoke the most hysteria about line-crossing despite the many revenge themed movies that preceded them. Is it that these movies actually do a better job than most movies of getting one to identify with the aggressors and thus evoke greater discomfort, e.g. few people think that they're John Wayne but many people identify with what they'd do to someone who raped their child thus inducing more fantasy-trauma?

    2. Grave Spit is one of the few (OK, I can't think of any other) movies that depicts male castration. How much of the repulsion for this movie is based solely on the fact that it depicts this act?

    3. Claims by perps of shocking crimes that they were abused as children are usually treated with derision as a source of their behaviour. Yet claims that they were inspired by watching movies are treated with utmost respect and used as the basis to call for bans. Why is society apparently happier to accept that the perp watched a movie as a motivation for bizarre behaviour than the fact that they may have been abused as a child.

    Personally I think there's a lot of denial going on.

  • Comment number 43.

    Routine moral panics are the staple of our media culture and are usually trivial and hypocritical in the extreme. Just in case you think we've got it bad today just read the 1878 edition of the American Christian Review's twelve-step downfall of any woman who dared engage in the sinful world of croquet.

    1. Social party.
    2. Social and play party.
    3. Croquet party.
    4. Picnic and croquet party.
    5. Picnic, croquet and dance.
    6. Absence from church.
    7. Immoral conduct.
    8. Exclusion from the church.
    9. A runaway match (more croquet)
    10. Poverty.
    11. Shame and disgrace.
    12. Ruin.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm a conservative (small c, note) person, who agrees that if Steve Woolley wanted 'Made in Dagenham' to have as broad an audience as possible, then he should have cut the swearing to comply with the BBFC.

    Many people here seem to be anti-censorship, and have a fairly good knowledge of the films concerned. I don't like horror films (they scare me, and I don't like being scared), so I haven't seen any of them.
    So, given that, can I have an opinion on the films, and their censorship? (I'm genuinely interested to know what people think: this is not some clever argument!)
    If so, then how far do you take that logic? Is it possible to have an opinion about something one has not experienced? Can I say heroin is dangerous and should be banned, or child porn is wrong without having viewed it? If so, why can I say that and not say that people shouldn't be allowed to see certain films? Or does anything go?

  • Comment number 45.

    @ Phil thomas

    I too am anti heroin. It serves a pointless destructive purpose, ruins lives, generates crime and death to those stupid enough to use it.

    I am obviously disgusted and appalled by child abuse for the obvious reason that it is pure evil and no child should loose their innocence to these genuine monsters.

    I am however a huge fan of horror because for me horror is far more than a few cheap scares. It is the genre that stands out amongst the crowed for its pure cinematic power the lighting, effects, art design, sound, music, characters, screen icons, its all there and nothing else keeps you glued to the edge of your seat like waiting for the next moment you jump out of your skin and your heart begins to race that little bit faster. I guess people watch horror for the same adrenalin pumping reason that people go on a roller coasters.

    Importantly no one is actually hurt in the making of a horror film, sure I will sit and watch a special effect of someone being disemboweled and will wonder how it was done, if however I were to be offered the option of watching the real thing I would run a mile.
    Second of all I am a grown adult who is well grounded in reality, I know murder is wrong but horror is my guilty pleasure.

    In term of context and how far a film should go is a difficult question but all I have to say on the issue is would you view a visit to a museum of medieval torture in the same sinister light or is that suddenly acceptable because it is educational.

    My closing argument is this, humans have a dark past, present and no doubt future. No amount of censorship is going to prevent the monstrosities that occur in the world. If however you scratch below the grubby surface of most horror films you will see positive morals and values that in my opinion serve a higher purpose than 95% of our modern day media.

  • Comment number 46.

    Very off topic here but on iplayer right now is BBC4's A History of Horror.

    First one is all about the glorious, glamorous, early universal monster movies, a mile away from the often dreary, cheap and trashy video nasties of the 80s.

  • Comment number 47.

    @ #44 Phil thomas

    At the risk of exposing my own failings I will give you my answers to your questions:

    Q. So, given [I haven't seen the films mentioned], can I have an opinion on the films, and their censorship?
    A. Yes - you can have a very valid opinion about censorship in general, or specific to certain subject matter. You may also have an opinion about specific films - or the type of content therein - but lacking direct exposure to them may make your opinion open to attack.

    Q. Is it possible to have an opinion about something one has not experienced?
    A. Yes. The human mind is capable of constructing an opinion, a prediction, from experience and assumption. Again it may be undermined under examination because the assumptions one makes to fill the gaps may be incorrect. They can only be filled by actually experiencing the film. Even then - your experience may not be the same as others watching the same material. Hence the purpose and excellence of blog communities like this.

    Q. Can I say heroin is dangerous and should be banned?
    A. Insofar as the medical evidence agrees, heroin has numerous negative effects on the individual, families, and society. I think most people would consider the statement "Heroin is dangerous" to be a defensible position backed up by strong evidence. The case for banning it is more complicated - because society accepts other substances that, arguably, are more 'dangerous' (alcohol, nicotene).

    Q. Or child porn is wrong without having viewed it?
    A. Sexual abuse of children is repugnant (and thus 'wrong') to most people whether it is filmed and distributed or not. What is not clear is whether the realistic depiction of child sexual abuse in a film to explore this dark and murky area of human behaviour reinforces this kind of behaviour, or triggers it in people exposed to it. Or does a film like that merely reflect upon things that actually happen in the real world whether we wish it to, or not?

    The Government clearly thinks that the public believes sufficiently in a link between seeing a portrayal of something, and then going and acting it out, that it needed to act to address 'public opinion'. Possession of certain films, even animations/cartoons, involving sexual activity involving apparent minors is illegal as a consequence. Are my kids safer now that people watching certain types of Japanese animations are now (potentially) criminalised?

    Q. If so, why can I say that and not say that people shouldn't be allowed to see certain films?
    A. It depends whether you agree with the theory of security through obscurity - or whether you feel more comfortable with a society that is open with its discussion of the human condition - good and bad.

    I am unashamedly (at the moment) in the camp that advocates freedom of expression. I feel entitled to choose what I want to watch and what I don't. Like you, I have very little interest in horror. However having my thoughts prejudicially policed by the state - even in the name of good intentions - feels wrong to me. Your mileage may vary.

    Q. Or does anything go?
    A. Freedom, to me, is the ability to say "No" to something. By censoring films, you remove my choice in the matter and thus limit my freedom. Is that a proportionate response to the risk to individuals/society?

    However film-makers also need to have the freedom to say "No" to acting without responsibility. If we continue to give bad films additional credence by reacting with banning orders - we are merely feeding the flames with the Oxygen of publicity. "Meh" is a powerful response to films that aim to shock.

  • Comment number 48.

    I really appreciate the two responses I've had thus far to my post. Thanks for being gracious, and your reasoned defence of your positions has given me food for thought. I've never been as able to have this open a discussion about this subject. Your response did spark off a few other thoughts ...

    @ Howie. Thanks for your articulate and well-argued response. i can appreciate that you enjoy the visceral excitement that the genre offers. But, that notwithstanding, is all horror equally valid in that respect? illustriousJonsey (#3) says that 'I Spit on your Grave' is aesthetically and morally indefensible, and that several of these films are depraved, inhuman and misogynistic. You may or may not agree with him in specifics, but might some films (or artistic endeavours in general) be without artistic merit? Obviously that's a subjective issue, but I wonder whether the 'horror fan' 'community' 9if such a thing exists) would have a consensus.

    @ shymer. Thanks too for your response. you admit that people's experiences of films vary. Some would argue that as a foundation for censorship: someone might enjoy something as an adult (responsibly, able to differentiate on-screen from off etc.) that someone else finds repugnant. Given that we live in a society that operates on a majority opinion (I'm aware of the vulnerability to a cynical response of this!), oif the majority find something repellent, why not censor it?
    You ask if your kids are safer now that some stuff is banned. Empirically, of course, no-one can say. But I would genuinely hope so. If stuff is not commonplace and widely available, then hopefully there is less opportunity for it to cause damage. Although it seems to be a cornerstone of postmodern philosophy that 'I am who I choose to be', I still think that people are shaped, to some degree, by what they 'feed' their mind, whether thy like it (or admit it) or not. (And that's as true of materialistic advertisiong as it is of films.)
    I like your last point, that freedom is the ability to say 'no'. We are free, and we have responsibilitites too, though. I wonder whether that freedom and responsibility could be demonstrated, and championed, by horror fans denouncing films that they consider to be without merit, and dehumanising. If a community cannot self-regulate, then it loses face with the general public (as the Catholic church have demosntrated in recent years, and as Ted Nugent demonstrates every time he pronounces on gun-ownership). perhaps it's time for horror fans to step up to the plate.

  • Comment number 49.

    Off topic but well done to @haznick and @BillPaxtonsSecondBiggestFan for pointing out the Mak Gatiss A History of Horror programme which was simply marvellous! Get yourselves on Twitter and tell @MarkGatiss what you thought!

    Now then...This has been an incredibly interesting thread to read through with some lovely in depth analysis and erudite comments from all contributers.
    When was this ban lifted because I remember seeing these movies on the shelves of my local video rental shop when I was a kid? Were they available pre-ban and how soon were they available again post-ban?
    I also remember the Damned singing about it on The Young Ones which happened to be on tv last night on Transylvania Babylon on BBC4.

    I don't believe in censorship, I like being free to watch or in some cases not watch whatever I please. I do however believe that some so called 'creatives' can go too far and create something that has no artistic merit whatsoever yet somehow they place it under the art banner and get away with making complete tripe. Far better if we choose to ignore such rubbish than to ban it.

    There are many crazy people in this world that often turn to some piece of literature or movie and imagine that it is somehow speaking to them, and it doesn't always turn put to be horror based. Look at Mark Chapman and Catcher in the Rye, which although it's was a controversial novel is hardly the darkest piece of writing ever printed.
    It would be an impossible task to second guess what might inspire or tip someone over the edge. However I foresee that there will come a day when some moviemakers will push the boundaries so far that a common sense line will have to be drawn as to what is art and what is just plain exploitation...we are heading that way already. That point when a movie is no longer an artistic piece but becomes a work created for all the wrong reasons. The words "artistic licence" will be used more and more as a shield by people who wish to make works of very little or no artistic merit, where do we draw the line? It's a tricky one.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ Shymer

    My first apology is for lack of editorial discipline, but then my username never meant as a manifesto pledge.

    Just to clarify something right off the bat, I would never condone the banning of religious texts. So the second apology is for if my words about protecting children drew you to that conclusion. I think we can agree since we both have a distaste for censorship, that it would take more than simply disagreeing with the publication of a moral code, before the state should seek to outright ban it. It would have to be an explicit instruction manual on how to cause harm, i.e.; building a bomb, suicide techniques, etc. Freedom of expression, including causing offence, is a fundamental tenet of our society where films and indeed holy books are concerned, and obviously the banning or burning of said publications is the way madness lies, as we've seen before from that notorious, religiously inspired European regime that still provides the subject of so many of today's films. It is also important, I think, that religious education be preserved for many of the reasons you list, but also because it would mean a huge chunk of one's ability to appreciate the myriad of ways religion has, for better or worse, informed our culture in terms of linguistics, in terms of the holy references in the arts, and indeed philosophy and ethics.

    But there's a fundamental misconstrual going on here. The way you talk about religious texts and their character motivations being deconstructed similar to works in an English literature or film studies class, is not the style of RE class I recognise in our curriculum at all. The content of the stories are taught selectively, so as to portray the book in an untroublesome light, and the assumption is made from the outset that these stories; A - definitely happened, and B - were right to happen. So every following lesson is built upon the endgame that these narratives are both morally and historically correct, there's nothing like the level of debate one is participating in right now, and it's a framework for the discourse that is encouraged at every level of the educational infrastructure, from the parents, to the teachers, to the legislators, and obviously to the faith leaders.

    I mean you say debate? That's a laugh. How many times is the issue brought up, 'Was God right to do this?' the way one might do in a regular ethics, philosophy, social education or citizenship class? I can't recall this question ever being raised in an RE class, in my time. Not only does the education system go out of its way not to examine religion on a comparative basis - don't worry, tax will support your right to build your own schools and dogmatically impose your own narratives to children at the earliest possible age, right when their debating and critical thinking skills will be premature, and they are the demographic of society most dependent on the adults around them. It's an approach to incredibly questionable morality plays that depend on under developed critical thinking skills and encourages segregation, when the various viewpoints are irreconcilable.

    This is the kind of setup that just doesn't happen with film criticism. Both within the popular and critical community, there is an open marketplace of ideas, and while it may get a bit rude from time to time, there's nothing like the kind of segregated realities to which religious education leads. Nothing is assumed to be true or moral, and its credibility is constantly tested against other works and expert knowledge. This is even true of works purporting to be wholly non fiction, as was recently demonstrated when Mark Kermode consulted Business Editor Robert Peston on the portrayal of the economic crisis in Michael Moore's Capitalism : A Love Story. When is the historian or the scientist or the philosopher's perspective, or any kind of dissenting expert's view brought up in an RE class? It never happens.

    I could go on for longer, but when I say protecting children from religion I really mean protecting them from a moral and historical bias, particularly when reasonable objections can be made from too many opposing sides, and doubly so given that such discourses are supposed to be taking place in a mostly secular society. I'm merely arguing for the same level of cover to cover scrutiny and open conversational intolerance that every other piece of literature or film is subjected to. That does not mean banning books or an education system slanted too far in the opposite direction, so as to reflect an overtly antitheistic viewpoint. I'm talking about neutrality, fairness, objectivity, critical thinking, the same standards that are applied to any other classroom settings. Therefore the parallel I was drawing was not 'Don't ban the films, ban the Bible'. I was really just saying, that if we can raise the charges of misogyny against 'The Killer Inside Me', then why not do the same for Jesus's rage against Jezebel? If we're gonna deconstruct the laughably unscientific escapades of Armageddon, then why not for God flooding the entire world (and at least make a nod to the question of global genocide)? I think children are entitled to those arguments.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ Phil thomas

    Thanks for your response, in answer to your questions.

    i can appreciate that you enjoy the visceral excitement that the genre offers. But, that notwithstanding, is all horror equally valid in that respect?

    As a horror fan my appreciation of the genre does not extend across the whole range of movies available as that is a matter of individual taste. Take for example the Hostel films, I am not a fan of Hostel as I felt it was poorly executed and shallowly uses shock and disgust as its driving force with little or no substance beneath the grubbiness. By no means however would I want those films to be banned or cut. I personally did not appreciate them but I feel they're existence is important in a society that should support and celebrate freedom of speech and choice.

    illustriousJonsey (#3) says that 'I Spit on your Grave' is aesthetically and morally indefensible, and that several of these films are depraved, inhuman and misogynistic. You may or may not agree with him in specifics, but might some films (or artistic endeavours in general) be without artistic merit?

    Yes there are certainly films that are exploitative within the genre and I'm certain there are many more to come but this issue extends far beyond the genre of horror.
    Exploitation surrounds us in many forms, for example I was in a news agents the other day and glanced at the front page of a certain unnamed news paper where they felt it acceptable to publish a photograph taken up a female "celebrities" skirt. This was accompanied by an article about her knickers. Now to me this kind of trash is soulless, sickening and serves no purpose what so ever.
    If you really want to see the most hateful misogynistic, stereotypical pieces of trash go and watch some of these so called family comedies from the likes of the Wayan's Brothers which again I find soulless and sickening. However as I concluded in my last response. I do not appreciate or like these comedies but I feel they're existence is important in a society that should support and celebrate freedom of speech and choice.

    Theres no denying that horror tackles some tough subject matters as is the case with I Spit On Your Grave and Last House On The Left, but for me being sickened by whats being projected on screen is a reaction that should be celebrated as that is surly a sign that we live in a civilized society of like minded good people and the film has succeeded in evoking that positive reaction of disgust.

    The issue that worries me with censorship is the influential people who hold the power on the subject don't always have the insight into what it is they are banning. I certainly would not want a return to those dark days of film censorship as it makes a mockery of freedom of speech and individual choice.

  • Comment number 52.

    @Alina Read my last comment. I think my critique of "I Spit On Your Grave" is entirely reasonable and not at all based on hysteria or denial, or even that male castration scene you cited which I had not evn remembered at the time of writing.

  • Comment number 53.


    Jesus didn't rage against Jezebel. Jezebel was King Ahab's wife, who lived around 800 years before Jesus (according to Wikipedia, so it might be true). She was hauled over the coals by Elijah for being a conniving murderess who propagated an inhuman religion that involved ritual orgies and, possibly, human sacrifice.
    But that might be irrelevant to your point, which I think was to do with freedom of expression ...

  • Comment number 54.

    @ Phil Thomas

    Well, agreed that we're straining far from the original premise of worrying more about violent religious texts rather than violent films. Nevertheless, we're on the subject of Jezebel now so - Revelations 2 (18-27) :

    "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
    These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you) : Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery — just as I have received authority from my Father."

    Now, whatever you think of Jezebel and 'sexual immorality' (and we should be very cautious about Biblical definitions of that term), I think that raises a few talking points in the classroom about the character of the Meek and Mild One, their idea of justice, and the overall tone of the supposedly Nicer Testament. Personally, it's not how I would want our armed forces conducting a war today. And I have a sneaking suspicion that if you changed the names of the key players to politicians or Disney characters, this is a morality play we'd think twice about before showing to our kids.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ TheConciseStatement

    I agree with you. That passage is, indeed, startling in its imagery and potency, and should not be excised from any discussion about the nature of the Christian God, or the character of Jesus, or what the Christian worldview says, or what 'justice' means.
    The Documentary Mark was talking about advocates the view that the 'video-nasty' films were censored and vilified by those who hadn't watched them, didn't understand them in the context of their genre, language, symbolic meaning, or intent, and (probably) had other motivations for censorship based on their worldview, and preconceptions about what is right and what is wrong.
    It strikes me that your post could be understood as the very same knee-jerk response to something that has been decontextualised and whose meaning has been uncritically assumed and 'understood' without reference to the community that claims to be able to demystify it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Computer Games censorship is likely to rear its head far sooner - look at all the hoo-haa over the recent man-shoot Medal of Honour game when, surprise sunrise, no-one had played it .....

    Hmm, this sounds familiar ......

    This is occurring again and again once press and politicians get hold of it, we should not be surprised when it happens.

  • Comment number 57.

    Video nasties...i personally have been raided by customs & excise back in the day of the video recordings act, or more pertinently the Obscene Publications Act. The importation of certain items was from someone who sent me films that were not something i requested, but were what you might call 'beyond the pale'. I of course, when raided by large leatherjacketed customs officers in the early hours of a college day, went very pale indeed. Thankfully/mercifully i agreed to a number of titles from the DPP list to be prosecuted for. I won't bore people with how much further this dragged on. I was merely, and i emphasise merely, a film collector, who made a few wrong purchases. I am not, as i was certainly made to feel in a very Orwellian day, a depraved corrupted pervert. If anyone of any age is compelled to feel safe under any regime, and think i am merely a paranoid, then i would suggest they watch this series of documentaries coming out, & seek other pieces of work on the subject. Contrary to 'popular' belief, censorship will never be ended nor will it cease to thrive. This form of shadowy legislation contravenes a number of human rights, but as i am loathe to do anything but enjoy films, made by artists of a range of talent, i cannot say i will ever personally rest easy nor will i be spending years in courts trying to make others 'see the light'. Educate yourself, i think Kermode is suggesting.

  • Comment number 58.

    Good shout Paul T Horgan, you can get Driller Killer and the original The Hills Have Eyes from Poundland!

    Driller Killer is a terrific piece of work. There's so much more going on in that film than in the other 'video nasties.' It's so much more of an art film.

  • Comment number 59.

    There is a director out there named Fred Vogel who happens to be a huge fan of I spit on your grave. He has a production company called Toetag Pictures. This company specialises in the production of extreme horror movies. Within the horror community there is a kind of duration callenge going on between gore hounds on how long they can stomach watching a toetag film called August underground´s mordum. This work is unanimously called depraved and sickening without any other merrit. I would like to know if Mark Kermode has watched this film and what he thinks about it.

  • Comment number 60.


    I too would be curious to hear the good Drs verdict regarding Mordum, although having watched the film myself I could hazard a guess at any right thinking persons verdict when it comes to this pointless shock fest.

    I don't think I have ever struggled to sit through a movie as much as I did when it came to Mordum, it was without a doubt unforgivably vile and disgusting with no just cause or purpose other than to try and push the envelope further than anyone else. Narratively it was incredibly tedious and dull with all dialogue consisting of shouting, profanities and annoying delirious laughter.

    Apart from some nicely executed special effects I really failed to see the point in this nasty film but it certainly hasn't made me want to go out and commit any dark deeds...Yet? Mwahaha!

  • Comment number 61.

    In my comment at #49 I referred to filmakers who hide behiind the "artistic licence" banner. I'm going to be brash and say that I was thinking in particular of the makers of "A Serbian Film", who have justified the abuse of women and children in their movie by suggesting that it is a symbolic image of the rape of a country. I know that there has been a lot of negative press and hoohaa surrounding this film but some of it has been from people who have actually seen it.
    I have not seen this movie and have no particular desire too, however I was wondering if the good doctor has seen it and if so what he thinks of it in the context of this blog entry? Were the BBFC right to demand cuts from this movie?
    Does pornographic and violent abuse of children actually represent the political point these filmakers claim they were trying to make? When is this a step too far?
    Interestingly Fangoria have a review on their website and even they found it hard to stomach along with some of their fans. I do wonder, if it is a political allegory, then why is it being marketed as full on horror?

  • Comment number 62. should do a lst of your favourite films of the video nasties it would be a great help to find out what you think are the best

  • Comment number 63.

    What is interesting is that two of the makers of infamous video nasties are now unhappy to have been associated with them. Wes Craven re Last house of the left admits this was made during a drug fuelled period of excess and said that if he had his time again he woudln't make this film. I don't know the name of the Co-director or producer (?) from Cannibal holocaust but am aware that one of them was incedibly distraught over the real abuse of several animals as part of the filming.

    I think it would make a good subject of a documentary to interview those who made these films to see what their views are about them now...


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