Gary Collinson selects his Five Essential Video Nasties…
In the early 1980s the rise in popularity of the VHS cassette was met with concerns from some quarters (namely morality crusaders such as Mary Whitehouse, religious groups and media organisations looking to stir a moral panic) about the content of the unregulated home video market in the UK, particularly the low-budget horror genre.
The resulting furore led to the introduction of the 1984 Video Recordings Act - whereby the British Board of Film Classification became responsible for certification and censorship - along with a list of 39 films deemed ‘video nasties’ and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. From that list, we present our Five Essential Video Nasties…
I Spit on Your Grave (1978, dir. Meir Zarchi)
Originally entitled Day of the Woman, rape-revenge flick I Spit on Your Grave was described by Roger Ebert as “a vile bag of garbage” and caused outrage the world over due to its misogynistic violence. Banned outright in a number of countries, the film received a censored release in the USA while it remained unavailable here in the UK until 2001, with over 7 minutes of cuts made to gain an 18 certificate. As is now the trend, a remake from director Steven R. Monroe is planned for release some time in 2010.
The Last House on the Left (1972, dir. Wes Craven)
The second rape-revenge thriller to make the list, horror master Wes Craven’s low-budget offering was refused a cinematic release in the UK in 1974 due to its violent content before making its debut on home video. The Last House on the Left was subsequently withdrawn when the Video Recordings Act came into effect and remained banned until 2002 when the BBFC passed the film with minor edits to some of the more extreme scenes. A complete and uncut version was eventually passed in 2008, while a Craven-produced remake was also released the following year.
Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979, dir. Lucio Fulci)
Lucio Fulci’s unofficial sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters proved to be the Italian director’s career breakthrough as well as his starting reputation as the ‘Godfather of Gore’. The film received a theatrical run in Great Britain in 1980 with almost 2 minutes of cuts but an unedited home-video version fell foul of the censors and resulted in prosecution. A heavily cut version was released on home video in the mid-90s (and falsely marketed as uncut), with an ‘Extreme Version’ following in 1999 before the complete print was passed for DVD release in 2005.
Cannibal Holocaust (1979, dir. Ruggero Deodato)
One of the most controversial films of all time due to its graphic sexual violence, high levels of gore and the inclusion of six scenes of animal killings, Cannibal Holocaust caused an outrage from the get go. At one point director Ruggero Deodata was facing murder charges in his native Italy with the authorities believing the deaths in the film (including the famous impalement scene) to be genuine, and the film was banned in countless countries. It was withdrawn in Britain in 1983 and eventually received a release in 2001, albeit with close to six minutes of edits. Chances of a complete, unedited release = zero.
The Evil Dead (1981, dir. Sam Raimi)
Sam Raimi’s classic splatter-fest The Evil Dead - with its graphic violence, gore and tree-rape - received an X certificate in the United States while being denied a release in a number of European countries. One of the first pictures to be classified as a video nasty by the Director of Public Prosecutions, The Evil Dead was withdrawn from UK distribution and proved hugely popular as a bootleg, eventually acquiring cult status before it was finally re-released uncut in 2001. Two sequels followed while talk of a fourth entry and re-imagining have been doing the rounds for a number of years.
Blood Feast (1963, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Death Trap a.k.a. Eaten Alive (1976, dir. Tobe Hooper)
The Driller Killer (1979, dir. Abel Ferrara)
Inferno (1980, dir. Dario Argento)
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974, dir. Jorge Grau)
Cult Classics: The Evil Dead (1981)
Extreme Cinema: The Last House on the Left (1972)
Movies... For Free! The Driller Killer (1979)
Agree? Disagree? We'd love to hear your comments on the list...