“The Great American Snuff Film” is the title serial killer William Allen Grone gave to a two-and-a-half minute Super 8 movie he made back in 1995. This bit of Hell Cinema is an adaptation of his journals, and it concludes with his actual film footage. Is it real or not? I won’t spoil it, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film … and once anyone learns that, I’ll be labeled a degenerate.
The film begins when Grone and his partner-in-crime, Roy (played by Mike Marsh and Ryan Hutman — though who plays whom isn’t clear from the credits), come across two girls and a guy partying in a trailer out in the Arizona desert. The killers shoot the guy and kidnap the girls (Mindy Lorenz and Holi Tavernier) for Grone’s masterpiece-in-the-making. The women endure being caged and burned with cigarettes and other unwholesome acts before what is set to be their big moment. As you can guess, this isn’t exactly a family film.
There are no redeeming characters here. The killers come across as pure evil, though Grone is obviously trying to figure himself out via his journal entries, and we also aren’t given much of a chance to get to know the two female victims. They are merely props in the killers’ sick world. The violence, while sometimes lacking in the special effects department, comes across as brutal and like something people would do in real life, which is more than can be said of a lot of films of this ilk. Seeing as this is supposed to be based on a true story, it makes it that much more effective. So why would anyone like this film?
If you enjoy exploitation and grindhouse cinema, then you should note that this is a product of that culture. It’s more extreme than those films and a lot more realistic, though, which makes it hell to sit through. (Thus the Hell Cinema label I gave it.) It’s also more nihilistic than most grindhouse films, and that makes it seem even seedier. In other words: It set out to disturb and does a good job of it. There is no entertainment here. This is torture.
This isn’t a film for everyone or even most people. Sensitive viewers will want to stay away and not even think about picking it up. On the other hand, if you are interested in cinema that pushes the boundaries of what a film should be, this is something you need to see. It doesn’t offer apologies or excuses, either. It is what it is, and that’s why it is successful.