Monday, December 20, 2010

The Seduction of the Innocent

One of the many common interests that Tara and I have (other than our penchant for murdering small doe-eyed woodland creatures) is a love of horror films.  It doesn't matter whether said horror films are excellently done ones that one can appreciate as good films in their own right, or shitty poorly-acted poorly-directed ones that should never have been made - and for examples of the latter look no further than the Horror channel (formerly Zone Horror) on Sky.

Last weekend after hearing a glowing review from should-have-been-host-of-Film-2010-instead-of-the-awful-Claudia-Winkelman Mark Kermode, we purchased a 3 DVD set entitled Video Nasties - The Definitive Guide.  I've always been fascinated by the furore about Video Nasties that emerged in the eighties, and Tara (from her University days) studied censorship in the movies (from an excellent book on the subject).

The main disk has an excellent documentary (Video Nasties: Moral panic, censorship and videotape) written and directed by Jake West, and the other two disks hold the trailers for each of the banned films (one containing the films that remain banned, the other containing films that were banned and then subsequently allowed to be re-released - I.e. Evil Dead and the like).

The main feature, the documentary, is a fascinating look at the original furore.  The days when the vile Mary Whitehouse and her armies of infuriated blue-rinse grannies and Daily Mail readers attempted (and succeeded) to dictate what we would be allowed to watch through their young and naive puppet in Parliament, in an age when video shop owners were being locked up or prosecuted for lending out films that weren't on the blacklist one day, and then found themselves on it the next. 

According to the Daily Mail (which it's reassuring to know was just as vile back then as it is today - I imagine that Daily Mail journalists have to have special adapted chairs for the amount of knee-jerking that goes on) the phonomenon of Video Nasties would be single-handedly responsible for the downfall of modern civilisation.  Admittedly there is some vile stuff on the list, but the biggest problem with most of the items on the list seems to be an absolute lack of quality in both cinematography and acting as opposed to some malignant satanic influence that would corrupt our youth.  Quite interesting however how the governments standpoint (from the crowded rooms whenever any of these films were shown for "analysis") is the overwhelming feeling of "We're smart enough to watch this stuff and know this is real.  You, however, are not."

It's humorous to know that due to a legal loophole, this new Video Recording Act that got films banned under the Obscene publications act (and a lot of video shop owners fined) was never actually legal due to some government idiot not filling in the correct forms.  Didn't help the poor video shop owners though, due to it being secretly resubmitted and accepted.

The two remaining disks are solely composed of trailers, each individually introduced by some luminaries in the field - including the brilliant Kim Newman (who is not only an excellent author in his own right, but a lovely guy and the horror/science fiction genre reviewer for Empire magazine).  There is some utter dross on there - and watching them makes it obvious what repulsed the BBFC - but at the very least they're laughably watchable.  Obviously some gems are hidden away on there; The Evil Dead, I Spit on your grave, Last House on the left - but the vast majority are cheaply made films there to cash in on the gore craze.

Overall, an excellent watch.  The documentary alone is fascinating viewing, but the additional disks with the trailers make an excellent companion piece.

Don't have nightmares!  Keep repeating "It's only a blog post.  It's only a blog post."

1 comment:

  1. There's an excellent chapter(possibly more than one) in Simon Pegg's autobiography about Video Nasties.

    It is a Neil Recommended Read and scores 13 Badgers out of 16.


I love comments. Love 'em. However, abusive or spam or Anonymous ones may well be sent straight to the bin. Thems the rules.