The horror genre has faced much scrutiny over the years. None more perhaps than a group of about 72 or so films collectively deemed the ‘video nasties.’ These films consisted of extreme violence and brutality, which film boards, critics, and even judges and juries believed were too obscene for viewers, persecuting anyone involved with the making of such films.
Jake West’s 2010 documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, covers the advent of VHS tapes and what the new technology meant for filmmakers and studios. Because of the new medium, censorship was at a minimum because films could now be released without major distribution in theaters, thus giving rise to some of the most grotesque and violent horror films known to date.
While gaining popularity and a larger audience is generally a positive situation to be in, this was not the case for these video nasty films. Organizations such as British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) started getting involved, beginning not only the censorship of VHS cover designs and posters, but also the complete chopping up, pun intended, of the films. Viewers were left with shorter, much more edited versions, which virtually destroyed the integrity and continuity of every film subject to the censorship.
As horror fans, we all know how easily accessible our favorite films have become. We no longer have to go to the local mom and pop shops to scrounge around the shelves for our daily gore fix. The digital age has made things much easier and if you think about it, a full length film is always within reach due to a number of forms of downloading.
Because of this ease of access, we seem to forget how bad things once were. Of course, most of us, especially those in the states, didn’t have to deal with the video nasty censorship first-hand, but it has effected us to some degree to this day. Because of filmmakers getting fined and arrested, their works seized and burned, it is much more difficult to get full uncut versions of some of these works and some may never see the light of day, ever.
If you are interested in the history of the DPP list of films, known as the video nasties, do yourself a favor and pick up Severin’s release of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide. This three-disc set houses an astonishing 14 hours of footage including West’s documentary and trailers for every single nasty film with matching introductions from various genre journalists and media academics. There really is no better release to own, if you’re looking for the most comprehensive and complete rundown of everything video nasty! Be sure to pick up a copy from Severin Films’ official website.
I give the entire three-disc package 4.5 VHS tapes out of 5!