The Driller Killer
The Evil Dead
Frankenstein (Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein)
I Spit On Your Grave
Last House on the Left
The Toolbox Murders
Zombie (Lucio Fulci)/Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters
What do all of these films have in common? If you said that they’ve all been recently remade by Hollywood, I would reply “nice guess, but no.”
The films listed above, along 63 others, appear on the notorious list of Video Nasties which spurred a moral outrage in the United Kingdom in the mid to late ‘80s. Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship, and Video Tape (AKA Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Documentary) does an excellent job of examining this period. While the documentary does include clips of a graphic nature from some of the movies on the list, the real frightening portion of the film is the series of interviews with the people who made it legal to prosecute video store owners and video distributors.
The documentary consists of a number of interviews, clips from televised material from the ‘80s, and in depth discussion of the topics of political control, censorship, creative expression, and free speech interspersed with trailers and clips from the video nasties themselves. The term refers to movies which appeared in the UK on video cassette and thereby were able to be released without classification by the BBFC (the British version of the MPAA). Due to material deemed objectionable, often violent content and gore, the films came under the criticism of various citizen run watch groups, especially those connected with Mary Whitehouse who spearheaded the crusade for legislation to ban the films.
While the documentary’s creators do a good job of presenting both sides of the argument, the movie is decidedly pro-horror/anti-banning. Parallels are drawn between the reactions to the video nasties and the outrage against horror comics in the 1950s which ultimately lead to their near demise. Video Nasty exposes how those who banned the films used shoddy or outright false data to defend their claims, how many of the original trials were biased by previous media coverage, and the classist notions behind the entire movement.
History buffs, cinema enthusiasts, and those who enjoy documentaries will find the film well researched and well made. Fans of horror, especially fans of gore and splatter films, will enjoy the movie for its clips as well as the content. Any fan of horror will find the discussions informative and chilling.
Rating: 8 out of 10.
About the Author
Michael Cieslak is a lifetime reader and writer of dark speculative fiction. He lives near Detroit in a house covered with Halloween decorations in October and dragons the rest of the year with his wife and two dogs. His works have appeared in numerous anthologies. He is the Literature Track Head for Penguicon. In 2013 he started the Dragon’s Roost Press imprint which which published its first book, Desolation, 21 Tales for Tails in 2014. His mental excreta can be found at thedragonsroost.net.