It’s been a fun week but sadly our Video Nasty series has come to an end… Well, for now anyway. With such a huge wealth of titles (a massive ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR in total, thanks to the original seventy-two and the newly discovered, eighty-two flick strong Section 3 list), we’ve barely even scratched the surface with our little run of detail-packed profiles. Over time, you can be sure that we’re going to be adding to this terrific stretch of features – it’s going to be one hell of huge, ongoing UK Horror Scene project. Right now though, we’re going to be taking a breather from such sordid shocks, probably with something lighter and easier going like the Guinea Pig series instead. Until then though, you can chow down on the personal musings from a few of the UKHS team members as they discuss just what, exactly, the Nasties mean to them…
Someone rented a film from my joint the other day. It was a fairly uneventful transaction: the guy paid cash, he was fairly middle-class, he was walking his dog and there was certainly no stigma surrounding his choice of evening’s entertainment. One thing WAS notable though, and that’s the fact that if the rental purchase took place thirty years ago I’d be liable for arrest.
If I had held that film in my catalogue the store would face a raid by the police and a portion of my library would be seized and destroyed. You see, thirty years ago in the democratic, civilised and enlightened confines of our fair isle, those in power decided that us – the pitiful proletariat – needed protecting from things like middle-aged Italian film directors and Wes Craven. They banned Milton in the seventeenth century, Thomas Paine in the eighteenth century and they banned D.H Lawrence eighty-five years ago. It will keep happening, and it’s vital that instead of viewing the nasties era as a comedic Mary Whitehouse led debacle, we view this period as a severe infringement on our right to view art the way it was intended, and fight to prevent any future Daily Mail led fascist restriction of our culture.
That man’s rental, by the way, was Zombie Flesh Eaters. Three days have since passed and his dog shows no visible signs of trauma.
I’m second generational: I missed the Nasties themselves (I wasn’t even a twinkle in my dear ol’ Dad’s eye when the schlocky shit hit the fan), but I was brought up in the aftermath. All the Van Damme movies with the nunchuks and double ear-claps cut… All the key moments of gore snipped from re-issued slasher movies… Thanks to the discovery of pocket money friendly DVD labels like Vipco though, I was able to dive head first into Nasty-dom in my early teens; the once contraband likes of Cannibal Holocaust, Toolbox Murders and a brain-frying medley of Fulci joints suitably exposing me to a realm of gratuitous horror that Freddy and Pinhead only hinted at. Even if they were still bloody cut (it took a few more years to discover the joys of importing), they were an important part of my horror education, and they’re still just as relevant today; a gateway to a whole new world of extreme horror and a sobering reminder that, given half the chance, those in power can and will try and control us…
They were a gateway into a world of horror for many fans growing up, myself included. I was always more interested in offerings from the far east, mainly Anime, but the association of films like Vampire Hunter D and Wicked City with splatter movies like The Evil Dead allowed me to devour a whole new slew of movies which, if I am honest, I could’ve overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
Working in a video store I would also come across lots of titles emblazoned with ‘Previously Banned’ and ‘Video Nasty’ stamped all over the cases like a badge of honour. These took me on a glorious discovery of Italian cinema which I still hold very close to me to this day and without that Video Nasty list my experiences as a horror film fan would be very different than they are now.
Read Mark’s KILLER NUN analysis HERE
As someone who was too young to appreciate what Video Nasties were, and who then grew up obsessing over slashers as opposed to films that were banned by the BBFC because of some nosey old lady who’d never even watched one, my experience of the infamous flicks has been fairly limited. My most vivid memory – aside from being forced to watch Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House On The Left in some sort of bizarre, triple-bill at a “party” – was catching The Evil Dead for the very first time, on a battered VHS tape in someone’s attic.
It was the perfect setting in which to appreciate the seminal flick – rain battering against the windows, winds howling, three of us snuggled under a blanket, and an ancient TV transmitting more static than anything else. My love affair with Sam Raimi’s cult classic began that night, and it’s grown significantly in the intervening years. I never found the film as scary as some of my friends did (and indeed still do), but I was fascinated by it and of course, Bruce Campbell instantly became my hero. The Evil Dead still holds a proud place in my DVD collection, and it’s a film that gets better on each viewing – the VHS tape, on the other hand, is, sadly, long since passed after being completely worn out.
Read Joey’s DEATH TRAP analysis HERE
As a kid, getting into horror in the eighties/nineties, it was all about tasting forbidden fruit, watching things you shouldn’t and seeing if it was really all that nasty and scary. Of course, the darkest, most elusive movies of all, indeed, the collective holy grail for an eighties schoolboy, were the Video Nasties – and man, were they tough to get hold of. So, somewhat ironically, the DPP list probably corrupted the mind of many a British innocent more than any film ever could, simply by forcing them to imagine the content of these movies, resulting in them conjuring up scenes far grosser than the reality.
I vividly remember playground encounters, where random kids would pluck a title from the list out of thin air and describe a (often fabricated) bit where a girl got her tits chopped off. It was always a bit with tits getting chopped off; don’t ask me why. I went to an all boys school, maybe that explains it… As an adult, it seems so ridiculous now – sure, once seen, Cannibal Holocaust can never be forgotten, but the list also included stuff as innocuous as Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse and as silly as Mardi Gras Massacre, testimony to the stupidity of the whole saga.
They had a huge impact on the world of horror with their excessive gore and pure violence, each one exposing adult themes to a young audience. Back in the eighties, my parents got me a Betamax video recorder as a present one Christmas and trips to our local video library got me more excited than a kid in a sweet shop. My Dad introduced me to some great horror classics, and I remember that all the video nasties were hidden under the counter; sitting there waiting for people to view in all their glory.
The campaigning against the worst video nasties just increased their popularity and helped make horror what it is today. The press even campaigned, blaming the exposure of nasties for the increase in violent amongst the youths. I watched a dozen of these gory flicks and never had a desire to strip naked and run around the woods, chasing women with a hard-on and a chainsaw, ready to rape and decapitate them in true bloody style. Instead it just got me hooked and curious to watch more!
Being a young lad at school in the early nineties I missed the Video Nasties scandal, but I was aware of it. In the playground myself and some friends would often talk about trying to see horror movies and one boy, Carl, claimed his older brother had ALL the Video Nasties. Just hearing about some of the titles and artwork, Carl never sneaked any tapes in like he had been asked to do, stayed with me from that age.
Now, as an adult and knowing more of the context and history of the Nasties, these memories come to mind whenever I watch one of the titles on the banned list. Most of them are available on home video uncut, if these films are deemed suitable for release now then it only highlights how frivolous it was that they were banned to begin with. But as I watch Zombie Flesh Eaters or The Beyond for the twentieth time I recall all the fuss surrounding them, the Video Nasties legacy will stay with horror fans (new and old) forever.
It seems hard and nigh on impossible to comprehend today how the simple ownership (with intent to supply) of one of the infamous ‘Big 72’ could result in a prison sentence. We can be guilty of forgetting how spoilt we are now, with horror being one of the most prolific and lucrative of genres, that we can’t imagine what it must have been like to see our beloved genre run out of town by the lynch mob of the moral masses.
Of course from my own perspective, the bête-noir of the Nasties campaign in Sam Raimi’s masterpiece, The Evil Dead is my all time favourite horror film. Without the notoriety surrounding the film, it could have just slipped away into the void and much like the superb and still troubling Last House on the Left, the horror world is a better place now that the ban has been lifted. I feel it is unlikely such a hysteria-driven nationwide witch hunt will ever happen again and whilst the quality of the films that came under the ban varies to say the least, the Video Nasties should be remembered as a dark period in horror history and one we should be eternally thankful for being long dead.
I was too young then to really know about the Nasty period, but I certainly felt the after effects of it: the time when the BBFC was under the rule of James Ferman, and the only way for me to get banned films in 1992 was to order them through Dark Side magazine classifieds and get third or fourth generation VHS copies from a guy in Northumberland.
Nasties for me represent a time similar to the grindhouse tradition, where people were selling films that had lurid titles and built on shock and gore – as humans, we’re always fascinated by the grotesque and disturbing. It both amuses and shocks thinking about it; amuses me as people were outraged by these films, and shocks me due to some of the abhorrent and misguided nature of people who seemed fit to campaign against them.
MP Graham Bright’s amusing comment that nasties affect not just children but dogs, is both hilarious and a stunning indictment of the stupidity of politicians; it sounds like something you would hear on Brass Eye. In the end it’s ironic that one time nasties such as Driller Killer can now be viewed fully uncut on YouTube. Technology has advanced so fast, we can now see these once forbidden films easily on our own smart phones…
Original. Extreme. Outrageous. Visceral. Misunderstood. The Video Nasties showcase an era of cinema that exposed the true, gruesome brilliance of the horror genre. A genre that will always be condemned and will always face controversy.: but never quite so harshly as it did during the early 1980’s.
I wasn’t conceived until the late eighties, so wasn’t around to witness this fiasco as it was happening. My parents were though, obviously. And as I grew, I learnt of the bannings and of the gross shame that surrounded the genre. Naturally, my interest peaked and I began to watch, re-watch and own many of the titles within the list of nasties.
What I love most about these films is the fact they push buttons.
Be it to a condemning Tory journalist, an unsuspecting movie renter or even a horror fanatic. Bloodshed and exploitation aside, stripped back, there is something that really hits a nerve with a viewer within these titles. Some see this as negative. I choose to see this as a positive trait. And I know I’m not alone in thinking this.
Long live the nasties!
In 1982 I was 11 years old. I was walking into my local video rental store and walking out with a per-cert copy of Cannibal Ferox. We were one of the first families on our street to own a video player. When I say own , it was rented from Radio Rentals and the remote control wasn’t even infrared , you plugged it into the machine and the wire stretched an impressive 2 metres. Halycon Days indeed.
With my Mum’s video card I was quite the popular kid at school, and probably twice-weekly would make the trip and peruse the horror section for the best (or worst) cover art. With this began my life-long adoration of horror cinema.
But then it changed, there were laws passed and I was unable to rent films. Also the films I wanted to watch were now unavailable ? I remember it vaguely (as I had discovered girls and cider) but gone were the horror films and my friends were back watching Lemon Popsicle, Animal House and Porky’s.
I did trade tapes in the late Eighties and early Nineties, and did often worry about a knock on the door after posting a copy of Nekromantik or receiving Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, but it never happened. Those days now seem like a lifetime ago , especially with the internet age but for me there will never such a huge thrill again as when I would sit and watch a grainy 5th gen copy of Cannibal Holocaust !!
I have three overriding memories of the era in which the video nasty furore erupted. Firstly, the rank hypocrisy of the press and establishment lecturing us yet again in what they believe was in our best interests – poor us, we need our hands holding, you know. I say hypocrisy, because if the latest revelations about an establishment cover-up of sexual abuse, by many in the same era within that very same echelon of British Society, is anything to go by – well, you know, throwing stones in glass houses and all that.
The second thing that comes to mind about the whole controversy was that it actually hid the fact that many (though not all) of the films that were seized and banned were in fact pretty rubbish in terms of cinematic quality. They were often cheaply made, badly acted, flimsily plotted pieces of horror with an over reliance on gore and blood over style and chills. What the furore actually did was to provide many films, that actually should have died a quiet death on the video rental shelves, eternal fame and notoriety.
The third factor that came as a consequence of banning orders was the knock on effect it had to other works as the BFFC went into panic mode in an effort to placate the feverish press and preaching politicians. Not only did it foresee the introduction of Video censorship, no movie it seemed was safe from seizure, examination and potential banning. Perhaps the most bizarre example that typifies the feverish mentality if the time was the seizure of copies of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, starring Dolly Parton. It was mistakenly assumed by the title to be some extreme sex film. Actually, on reflection, I did see it once (not by choice) and it’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back. That’s one movie that actually should have been banned…