I’m pretty confident when I say that 99% of the fans that form the horror community enjoy the genre because of the blood, gore, and violence depicted in the majority, if not all, of the films viewed on a daily basis. A great ‘kill scene’ is always sought after and the most talked about when it is found. Even with all of that adrenaline and excitement that comes with each fake death on screen, does anyone really want to watch someone being murdered for real? That’s exactly what Paul von Stoetzel and author Dave Schrader explore in their documentary about real life death on film, Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera.
Comprised of interviews, footage from controversial horror flicks, and scenes of real life deaths, Snuff tries to discover what it is about death and murder that equally fascinates and repulses people and whether or not true snuff films even exist.
The true definition of a snuff film is a film depicting the real life death of someone that is then distributed with the sole intent of making a profit. Has a true snuff film ever been produced? Law enforcement officials, film historians, and filmmakers are all interviewed and express their feelings on the matter. Some believe there is no real evidence to support the claim, while others are convinced this stuff is really out there.
We see it all the time, especially with the rapid growth of the internet and social media. Anytime there is footage of a prisoner of war or a tragic accident that seems to be captured on film, people flock to their computers, tablets, or smart phones to check it out for themselves. Are people really that excited about seeing real life violence or is the intrigue and curiosity just too much to ignore? Even with all of the footage flooding the internet, are these video clips really to be classified as snuff? Most say no because of the sheer fact that no one is making any type of monetary profit off of the material.
With films like the Faces of Death series or Banned from Television, it is hard to deny the fact that footage this gruesome if really out there. It is well-known, at this point, that some of the footage in films like these are in fact staged, but again, it brings us back to the question of whether or not there are films out there that are not staged, that are 100% authentic.
In the most intense chapter of the Snuff documentary, film producer for over 40 years, Mark L. Rosen recounts a meeting he had with an Asian gentleman in the 70’s. During this encounter, Rosen was given a tape to watch, which he was promised was like nothing that had ever been seen before in the adult entertainment business. As the film progressed, the acts of sexual violence continuously became more gruesome, resulting in a final scene in which the female starring in the film has her throat slit and is killed right on camera. Rosen is convinced that this was real footage of a woman really being murdered and was so shaken up that even 40 years later, you can still see the effect it has had on him just by speaking about it. If this was going on in the 70’s, can you imagine how much more growth has happened in the way of snuff films?
I love horror and always will, but I am extremely sensitive when it comes to real life violence. Hell, I don’t even like watching my three-year old niece fall and scrape her knee, let alone someone getting seriously injured. I would never seek out video footage of true death and have stayed away from the many offshoots of the Faces of Death franchise because of that fact. I am convinced, however, that there truly is a market for this kind of film and if you have the right amount of money, you can find anything, as is explained during von Stoetzel’s doc. I would bet a lot of money on the fact that there is definitely a black market for true snuff films… I just hope I never come across any.
Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera is not for the faint at heart. If you are squeamish or easily offended, you may want to skip this one. On the other hand, if you are interested in the history of snuff and want to see all of the controversy surrounding it, you will definitely want to check this one out. A special anniversary edition of Snuff is available now on DVD from Wild Eye Releasing.
I give this well thought out doc project 4 convinced film producers out of 5.