In 1996, a book titled “Killing for Culture: Death Film From Mondo to Snuff” was published and, as the title suggests, it gives a thorough history lesson on true death in film and video ranging from the classic Mondo movies (“Mondo Cane”, “Shocking Africa”) to the “Faces of Death” series to the myth of the “snuff movie” and how it has been perceived in the media. This film, “Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera,” serves as a competent, brief as it may be, complimentary piece to “Killing for Culture.”
Segmented like a book, “Snuff” takes us through the history of true violence and death in cinema by the way of archival film and movie footage and interviews with film historians, filmmakers and law enforcement agents. More specifically, the film takes a look at the legend of snuff movies and presents the argument on whether they exist or not. But first, the film defines what exactly a snuff movie is. Over the years the term “snuff” has been batted around rather carelessly, relating it to anything death related in the forum of moving images. However, a true “snuff movie” is one which contains the actual on-camera killing of a human being, often featuring torture of a sexual nature, for the purpose of turning a profit. Throughout the film, the term “snuff” is used to describe other visual atrocities such as videotaped POW killings that have unfortunately found their way onto the worldwide web, but it is always made very clear as to what an actual snuff film is.
“Snuff” then takes a look at snuff movies in popular culture and how the myth has grown and changed over the years, including the negative effect the mere idea of snuff movies has had on horror cinema and the existence of some very well-staged fakes, which conjures the question – With continual advancements in special effects technology, could someone successfully stage a bogus snuff movie and sell it as the real thing?
Up to this point in the film, it’s just the “idea”, the “myth” of snuff movies that is discussed as no snuff movie has ever been reported to be found…that is until movie producer and guest commentator Mark L. Rosen chimes in with an article that appeared in the UK’s “Observer” in 2000 that told of a Russian man busted for selling child pornography, violent child pornography that often resulted in the death of the video’s subject. It’s a stomach turning report, however it’s curious that, beyond this article, very little has been said of the case. If everything in this article is true, then these despicable videos would stand as the first ever documented snuff movies.
The film then turns to the subject of serial killers, more specifically the case of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng and the way they videotaped many of their brutalities. Discussing their grisly activities helps here to more solidly define what an actual snuff movie is. Many would refer to the Lake and Ng tapes as snuff, but they were only made for personal purposes and not for profit, therefore invalidating them from being real deal snuff movies.
Lastly, “Snuff” takes a look at our morbid fascination with violence in times of war, specifically how violence resulting from the war in Iraq is popping up on the Internet for all to see.
After watching “Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera,” one should have a pretty clear understanding, even though some of the film’s subjects seem a little hazy on the matter, that the term “snuff movie” isn’t really referring to the actual films themselves as much as it is the community around them. Actual muders taking place on film and video is nothing new and we all know they exist, however it is a network of sick fucks who produce these films for other sick fucks who are paying thousands of dollars for them that is the myth. The “snuff movie” is the myth of a network of evil elite. And the real impact of this doc is that it presents a couple of strong cases that the myth is indeed reality, including a chilling first hand account of a snuff film viewing.
This is a bad, bad world we live in, folks. Why wouldn’t snuff films exist?