By Emilija Angelovska
Updated on July 6, 2022
Many of you fans of the horror genre heard of snuff films.
Yet, snuff films remain shrouded in mystery to most of us. Are they even real? And what do these movies say about us? Let's find out!
What Are Snuff Films?
Snuff films are low-cost films that show actual violence and torture of animals and humans in extreme cases. This often results in their on-camera killing, all without special effects.
The watchful eye of the video camera that captures the bloody death of the victim attracts a growing niche of viewers.
This has been an ongoing trend in recent years, placing the genre among the most violent and depraved films in history. The morbidity of seeing someone die, as it happens, is helping to make this trend even a macabre art form.
It is no longer satisfying only to see death photos. Search engines can take you places like Rotten.com and Show No Mercy (now closed). These kinds of absurd sites intrigue a lot of people.
There are many stories linked to the production and marketing of these films. Snuff films are often related to pedophile networks, satanic rites, and even millionaire circles (with innumerable combinations between these three possibilities).
What Are Not Snuff Films?
The first major star of media voyeurism was Budd Dwyer with his live suicide. But slowly, the videos of the terrorists with their torture and beheadings have spread more and more online.
Don't get confused, though - the videos of these torturing and killing their victims are not snuff films. This is because they are intended for personal use or war demonstrations.
According to rumors, there was talk of these movies during the war in the former Yugoslavia. They showed rape with the final killing of the victim while the executioners were filming. But even in this case, they cannot be defined as snuff films.
Snuff films, to be such, should have a script and a genuine organization capable of capturing innocent victims. They also need a cast ready to inflict pain and torture to death.
Origin Of Snuff Films
In 1971 Michael and Roberta Findlay shot a film called Slaughter in Chile and Argentina. It brings to light the events during the Bel Air massacre, in which Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, lost her life to the followers of Charles Manson.
Slaughter, however, did not attract critics. On the contrary, it was considered a bad film and bought for a pittance by distributor Allan Shackleton in '72. He decided to create an ad hoc marketing campaign according to which a story was assembled based on which the film was shot with scenes of non-simulated violence.
Thus the title of the film became Snuff. Although Shackleton later admitted that it was a hoax, the media rush had already run its course, thus creating the myth of the Snuff films.
Snuff Films Examples
In Italy, the best-known directors of the genre are Lenzi and Deodato with their Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, and Jacopetti's Mondo Cane. There are scenes of actual violence against defenseless animals such as turtles, monkeys, and reptiles.
In the case of Ruggero Deodato in his infamous Cannibal Holocaust (1978), the director even asked the actors to disappear from circulation in the months following the release of the snuff film, precisely to fuel the legend that their "deaths" were not only simulated.
Opportunists never miss out on chances for profit. In February 1976 - when rumors about the existence of snuffs films occupied several conversations - a poster appeared in New York's Time Square area. It showed a cropped photo of a naked woman with the following caption:
"The film that can only be done in South America where life is CHEAP!"
It also announced the "bloody thing that has happened in front of a camera" and:
"The movie they said could never be shown."
The film was made by the married couple Michael and Roberta Findlay, but the film had no credits and was dubbed into English to convince of its South American origin (it had been shot on an island in Tigre). It was shot in poor quality, using very few resources to add to the mystery.
Although a simple analysis of the snuff film - the alleged victim was a member of the film crew - would debunk its alleged real character, many wanted to believe that it was an actual snuff. The District Attorney for the District of Manhattan had to give a press conference clarifying that the snuff film had been analyzed in detail and that it was a work of fiction and good special effects.
But the rumors continued, so the Prosecutor continued with the investigation. A month later, he was able to find the actress that was "murdered" being interviewed by the police and put an end to the matter.
Are Snuff Films Real?
No matter how much research is done, we always conclude that these types of films are the result of urban legend in the vast majority of cases. None of these has ever been found, much less confirmed their truthfulness. This is at least until today.
In a world as digital as the current one, some sequence of torture appears that goes around the world because it is considered a snuff film. Yet, we soon discover that it is only the result of extrapolation from some horror films used for advertising purposes.
All security agencies in the United States state that if this type of material existed, they would have a copy. FBI expert Ken Lanning maintains that after an investigation of more than 20 years, he could never find anyone who had seen an original snuff film.
For Charles Balun, distributor of the mythical Guinea Pig, "the closest thing to snuff films is what I call the autopsy. Faces of death and Scenes of death are news or police files that show different types of murders, autopsies, suicides, etc. But this isn't a snuff movie because it's just a chronicle of real death. Snuff, by its definition, is a choreographed death."
Andrew Vachss, a lawyer and author of many bestsellers, argues that: "one has to be completely naive to think that they do not exist. We know that the Shah of Iran has tapes of the Savak (Iranian secret police) torturing people to death. Also, we know that Idi Amin records numerous executions".
A few years ago, Frank Henenlotter, an American director of hardcore movies, offered a reward of one million dollars to anyone who showed him a snuff film. Nobody showed up.
Charlie Sheen In A Snuff Film Scandal
Did you know why was the actor Charlie Sheen mocked in 1997? He believed he owned an incredible snuff film. A Japanese woman was tied to a bed, tortured, and torn to pieces by a man dressed as a samurai.
Shocked, Sheen handed the footage to the FBI, believing it to be real. Then it was found that the footage was from the Japanese TV series Guinea Pig, with realistic special effects.
Surprising as it may seem, even today, the legend persists and perhaps strengthens, despite the absence of evidence. And even more strange is that this myth persists in an era in which it takes very little to find online sites that offer brutality and cruelty (unfortunately) anything but invented.
But the snuff films obviously have an extra factor that grips the collective imagination. As in a modern fable, they symbolically show human greed through the occult and dangerous power of images.
The Myth Of Snuff Films
The closest thing to a snuff film is the alleged films that David Berkowitz - known as the Son of Sam - made of some of his numerous crimes. These tapes circulated within the North American Church of Satan sect.
Some claim that Berkowitz made the footage of the 1977 Stacy Moskowitz murder in Brooklyn to sell it to Roy Radin, a Long Island businessman. Radin was known for his vast collection of porn movies, to which he wanted to add a snuff film. It is rumored that there are about ten copies of this murder, although none could ever be found.
Serial killer Charles NG also reportedly filmed his murders to distribute them commercially. Although the official FBI position denies their existence, an investigator from the North Carolina District Attorney's Office secretly confirmed that the tapes were in the agency's possession.
The info relating to the snuff seems to have no end. During the judicial process against Johnny Zinn for the kidnapping and death of Linda Daniels (only 20 years old) in the city of New Mexico, one of his accomplices confessed that the idea was to carry out a snuff film. It was a project that never came to fruition.
Yaron Svoray, a former Israeli military man, published a book about the possible existence of these films, Gods of Death. Among other information, Svoray confirms the presence of videos that recorded the atrocities committed by soldiers in the former Yugoslavia.
In England, The Times in 1990 had published an investigation claiming that the police had discovered evidence that Mexican immigrants were being killed to make snuff films.
All these stories, plus the false ones, continue to feed the myth of snuff films.
Beyond their actual existence or not, this type of film contains some element that causes the myth to continue growing day by day. The links to certain satanic rites, sexual perversions, and simple commerce make us think about how sick we are as a society. That someone reaches sexual, religious, or monetary ecstasy through torture, outrage, or murder gives an idea of how many problems we must solve.