6WH: Week 4 – Video Nasties

The “Video Nasties” were a group of 72 horror movies that were banned in the UK for… reasons? There didn’t appear to be any real criteria for inclusion on the list, though it’s generally cited as just “Violent content” or some such thing. It partly had to do with loopholes in home video laws that let some of these movies sneak onto shelves without going through the UK’s normal censorship regime, but even then, it seems like a rather odd list. Odd, but certainly interesting from a horror historian’s point of view, as it’s a neat little time capsule of the era. The lurid titles (Killer Nun!) and tantalizing video covers that promised oh-so-much are a good encapsulation of what it was like to peruse the horror section of your local mom-and-pop video store in the 80s (not that I had a ton of experience at that, to be sure, but still). Ultimately, like a lot of censorship schemes, the films on the list ended up gaining an allure not otherwise earned by their actual quality (another example of the Streisand Effect). The movies on the list range from “Why would they ever ban that?” to “Dear Lord, why isn’t this still banned?” Or so I’m told, as I’ve only seen about 15 of the movies on the list. Let’s increment that number a few times, shall we?

  • Thanksgiving (fake trailer)
  • Driving Lessons – Halloween Deleted Scene (short)
  • The Boogeyman (trailer)
  • Nightmare (aka Nightmares in a Damaged Brain) – An escaped mental patient heads back to his childhood home as he struggles to recall the trauma that set off his murderous impulses. A sorta hybrid slasher/serial-killer film, it does drag significantly for most of the running time, but it has a decent, slasher-ish finale. It doesn’t really follow the slasher rules though. No real final girl (the protagonist is a little boy that no one likes), the killer actually murders a kid at one point (I mean, like, sub-ten-year-old kid, though at least it doesn’t really happen onscreen), he only puts on his mask in the finale, and so on. For all its tedium, there are some memorable bits. The kills are few and far between, but most earn the “Video Nasty” designation with their explicit gore. As a fan of fake movie computer setups, this movie has a phenomenal example. It’s got five monitors, four of which are just constantly displaying the same mugshot of our killer.
    Look at this cheesetastic computer setup

    The fifth is a computer screen that shows text in, like, 72 pt font (it only fits 5 lines per screen). The computer is basically an all-powerful AI too. At one point he’s reading a police report about a stolen car that mentions that the driver is presumed dead. Our policeman asks it “Why presumed dead?” and it proceeds to answer. It does all sorts of cross-referencing and even predicts where the killer is going (Florida!?). My other favorite bit was the scene in which the Mother’s boyfriend tries to comfort her by explaining the plot of Blow Up (then realizes that, no wait, this isn’t comforting at all). Overall, I don’t think these bits really make up for the bland plotting and pacing of the film. It’s interesting in some ways and maybe worth checking out for students of the genre, but that’s about it. *1/2 (Also of note, the Amazon Prime version of the movie is a craptacular pan-and-scan transfer that is awful – I could see this being a bit better if it were better presented).

  • Hardly Working: Slasher (Short)
  • How Scream Should Have Ended (short)
  • Bay of Blood (trailer)
  • Bloody Moon (aka Die Säge des Todes) – A guy with a deformed face kills someone at a party,

    but does his time at a mental hospital and is discharged in the care of his sister. They go back to her language school, where, naturally, a bunch of kids start disappearing/dying. This is another sorta slasher/giallo hybrid, though at least this one has a few twists and turns and a genuine whodunit component (it’s pretty obviously not the deformed face mental patient guy, even though he does a bunch of creepy stalker type stuff). The kills aren’t as creative or gory here and the pacing is still pretty languid, but it hits more slasher tropes and ends strong. Like with Nightmare, there are some really odd bits that are memorable. The costume party starts off with a killer wearing a Mickey Mouse mask (I have no idea how they got away with this).

    Check that wetsaw, make sure it is sharp enough to decapitate

    The one kill with the wetsaw is cool, though they perhaps drag it out too long (and it ends with the killer running down a witness with his car – but the witness was a little boy! I guess they don’t call these movies “Nasty” for nothing…) This was made in Italy and that does add some flavor to the slasher tropes, but it’s ultimately still not particularly accomplished. Interesting in some ways, but not really worth going out of your way to see. **

  • Jack Chop (short)
  • Evil Dead (trailer)
  • The Toolbox Murders (trailer)
  • Absurd (aka Monster Hunter, aka Horrible, aka Zombi 6, aka Anthropophagus 2, aka Rosso sangue) – This movie has at least six different titles. It’s directed by Joe D’Amato, but he uses a pseudonym here (Peter Newton). All in service of a pretty hacky Halloween ripoff. Supposedly a sequel, but one that seems to rely very little on its predecessor, this one is about a man given strange, X-Men-like healing factor in an experiment run by the Catholic Church. Naturally, the process instilled him with murderous rage, so he hacks his way through town until he sets his sights on one particular house, all while a cop and a priest try to track him down. I was kinda interested in this whole Church-led genetic experimentation program, but that bit is pretty much dropped after the first act, in favor of poorly paced stalking and kills. Some interesting stuff, but at this point, all these movies are starting to blend together. Like the above mentioned movies, there are some memorable bits, including a sequence where the killer holds a woman in an oven and bakes her face. It’s cross-cut with a young girl removing some bed restraints, but it goes on for, like, ten minutes. Insane.
    This image is probably a spoiler, but who really cares?

    The very last shots are also pretty spectacular and ultimately made me like this more than anything else I watched this weekend. I’m pretty much spoiling it with the screenshot, but since no one reads this blog and since even those few that do will probably never watch this movie, I don’t feel bad about it. Not a particularly great film, but you could do worse. **

Phew, that was not a particularly enjoyable series of movies. I like a good, gory sleazefest as much as the next person, but these just didn’t weren’t doing it for me… Hopefully next week’s theme, Found Footage, will fare a little better. In the meantime, we might hit up some book/movie adaptations. After that, who knows? I don’t have a plan for the last week of the marathon yet…

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