Director Paul Von Stoetzel’s documentary analyzes the history behind the snuff film myth and tries to discover if there’s any reality behind it and in addition compares the relationships between war and serial killers to the snuff legends. His film does not directly answer the notion of the existence but rather provides a springboard for the viewers to discuss the possibility of it and linkage to cult horror productions, while touching briefly on adult films, yet not expressing the deep passion to link that misnomer of the genre to horror passions of fans that seek the carnage i.e. gore-hounds.  The reality that Paul’s film graciously back in circulation after seven years out of production, however WildEye Releasing rekindles the interest in both his film and the topic itself and allowing new fans to find out about this disturbing history and the FBI claims are merely myths surrounding the concepts of snuff films. Most horror fans know fans will eventually type the words snuff films in the Google search engine and seek out information on likely finding the introduction of the torture porn genre and such films as Cannibal Holocaust and Snuff.

One the most disturbing legends in all of cinema surrounds the snuff film market, if it exists, many movies over the years covered the topic, of killing on camera the existence of murder capture for viewing pleasure and touching on the culture of it. The film, states the interviews with former FBI Profilers, Academics, and Film Historians, and touches on various chapters from cinema in general to serial killers and war itself, and in some cases making wildly unfounded and cruel leaps of illogical conclusions of the topic of hand. The film breakdowns with first horror films, name producer Alan Shackleton’s Snuff (1976) and added a new ending of a woman restrained by a film crew and dismembered and disemboweled, running out film at right point. Simply not snuff, the scene not realistic, no spurting blood from severing main arteries also the cast very much alive, the sensationalism brought the hype and increased revenue sales, altering media, authorities, and grindhouse meccas of this creation. Also the film discusses the film Faces of Death (1978) to show the continuation of snuff cinema continues, but actually these films are a collection of real videos of real crimes, and asks if that constitutes as snuff, the simple answer no. News happens, snuff is paying for something to happen, to allow it to occur and indulge in the experience freely, the film interviews and suggests elements of this might be construed as snuff, however this wavers far from the intended target of the film, but this becomes the pattern of the movie. The legendary and late Mark L. Rosen appears in the film, a man who assisted the Bryanston Distributing Company as a producer to market the releasing of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) who shares two disgusting snuff stories. The first won’t be mentioned for multiple reasons, and the second, about film he saw alone of a killing, but he never went to the police and hence the birth of more Snuff propaganda. However, the believability and realness seems quite flimsy, not much research into them, and support of others to follow up, including poorly executed questions, Paul speaks of it in a 5-year anniversary extra, and comes with story that all traces of it wiped from the internet. Most researchers if not all, have volumes of information on their central topic, and print it out keeping it safe, herein that all seems absent, leading to winding path of darkness rather than exposing it to the light. Then the inclusion of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng two killers and filmed the tortures of victims, and here again the Paul’s film refers back to that of John McNaughton’s powerful film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and asks the questions of snuff – does mean snuff. Once more the answer to refute, in real life to film one’s murder, already denies the definition, this portrays the crime first and not the monetary value rather the pleasure and reliving the thrill of the kill.

The experts of the cinema used the film, were not one of known status, rather a few video store clerks who watch volumes of wretch and sometimes vile films, and sadly that does not qualify a true cinema buff especially for a documentary on this topic of snuff. Director Ruggero Deodato known for his outrageous gory and offensive creation Cannibal Holocaust (1980) which many advocates stated was a snuff movie and in fact landed the director in jail, until his cast appeared very much alive, using found footage convincingly as a cheap gimmick. Other films in cinema have touch of the subject such as 8MM (1999); Douglas A. Raine’s From a Place of Darkness (2008) to the docu-thriller of Mortal Remains (2013) concerning the infamous director Karl Atticus, from Cryptic Pictures. The documentary and namely the director lose focus of the confines of the cinema aspect of snuff movies, and begin to venture into the realm of real crimes. Allowing and keeping in the movie the dreadful comparison one “expert” stated concerning Bowling For Columbine from director Michael Moore, “a quasi-snuff film… inclusion of CCTV”, not only a severe stretch but an insensitive statement for the families of the tragedy to hear, a false illogical statement. The news programs always show this sort thing, none of it fits the definition of snuff movies.

This documentary contains a few issues, first the individuals that speak are captioned once, and quickly too, and that aside Mark L. Rosen no other name talent speaks of the topic, why, in the horror genre no other writers or directors were available. While many might have declined due to the subject material, there are handfuls that knowingly given their opinion, especially those in the b-movies. Then some of the interviews have the people laughing, why – this is not a comical topic, the placement inclusion is puzzlement. On a positive note, the film doesn’t dive into the adult cinema world too much, rather, avoiding the course and staying straighter course hence the pitfalls of the advocates against that cinema too. Aside from that aspect, the research simply lacks in presenting a cases pro or against, no information gathered to support cases, while listening to the interview on the DVD the director informs he wanted to do something to reflect the war on terrorism, this film then misses the mark completely. War is worse than hell, and actions in it such beheadings grab headlines and delivers propaganda messages serve the purpose of rally each side into hate-fueled  attacks for justified reasons, but that is not snuff films.

In a society, where the news stories cycles faster, and individuals learn about the dark side of net through a Time magazine expose, where anything can be purchased for the right price a place to hire a hitman to the most vile creations develop to the human race for mere exploitation and hideous consequences of disgust, snuff movies might exist. Many argue that it is all myths, but when organs are sold in other countries along with babies as reporting on a recent episode of VICE, and hiring criminals to take vengeance on others, it is not all springtime happiness in the world. The reason snuff movies do not enter into the mindset, it is just too sick, too vile, and too inhumane for a collective society to admit, now it is not present, rather kept hidden away, though filmmakers and those of television have touched on the sickness. Director Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979) with the legendary and powerful actor George C. Scott, shows the underneath disease corrupting man, and exploiting women, though, in that movie the wrongful association of pornography to the unlawful actions.

Summarizing the importance of this documentary, trickles down a tad, this stretches and leaps and tries the patience of a horror fan, while battling the overall cinema viewer with lack of evidence.  Therefore, while the film serves as starting place to discover more on this infamous topic, be forewarned of the dark alleys and dead ends, allow it not to be your last stop in the venture of the urban myth and legendary path of snuff.

This review was originally published in August 2015 on the Rogue Cinema website which no longer exists.


Ever seen a Snuff Film?

Extremely Well Put Together.

IMDb Rating: 5.3/10

Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10