FACT OR FICTION: SNUFF FILMS
Snuff : A Documentary About Killing On Camera is directed by Paul von Stoetzel and was released in 2008. It was available on Netflix until 2010 and out of print since then. It has since been re released on DVD and VOD April 21st by Wild Eye Releasing.
There have been multiple definitions of what constitutes a snuff film and this documentary explores them in depth. Through interviews with law enforcement, professors and filmmakers many different types of murder on camera are discussed. First up is “What is a snuff film?”
The FBI definition of a snuff film is a person murdered on camera with the intent of distribution for profit. Until I watched this documentary about all variations of murder on camera, I believed a snuff film was one where a woman is murdered on camera and in some cases sexually assaulted. American cinema and snuff are examined with examples of movies that used snuff as a marketing tool focusing on the 1976 film Snuff (originally titled Slaughter) as well as Cannibal Holocaust. The Faces of Death films are evaluated to determine if they fit the definition of snuff and whether or not any of those scenes were staged or fake.
Serial killers and their relationship with snuff are discussed. Can videos of the torture and murder of the victims of serial killers filmed by the killer for the express purpose of reliving their crimes over and over be considered snuff? The Leonard Lake and Charles Ng case is used as a reference point and discussed in some detail. A Russian case of child pornography in which young children were paid to participate in these films and were often killed during the abuse is highlighted. Snuff as it relates to war videos that show combat deaths as well as deaths such as beheadings at the hands of terrorists are up last. Finally a personal story of his experience with a real snuff film and how he was affected by it is told by executive producer Mark L. Rosen. It is a powerful story told by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre producer who passed away in 2012.
I thoroughly enjoyed this documentary. I didn’t watch it to determine whether or not snuff films exist. I do not believe this is something that can be proven or unproven in 75 minutes. I was interested in the subject and learning more about it including the opinions of others on why it exists and its many forms. I went into the film as a believer. Twenty years ago I would never have thought someone would be murdered on camera with the intent to profit. I would never have believed anyone could be that sick or stupid because now you are a murderer selling the evidence. However, the longer I live the more I realize there is no limit to the cruelty and depravity human beings are capable of. I suspect that just like people have watched a film like Cannibal Holocaust and become convinced that people were actually murdered there are also people who have watched an actual snuff film and had no idea it was the real thing. Unfortunately, with the advent of the internet I have seen some truly evil things I can never unsee. If these exist — so does snuff. I also know there is a market so there will be suppliers, if not in this country in others where things are far less civilized.
This was a very thorough documentary that provided a lot of information in a short time and with conflicting opinions leaves it to the viewer to decide what their position is. I will put out one warning: this film contains extremely graphic and disturbing footage including the murder of animals and short clips of a terrorist beheading a victim on film. These are not long clips but even 5 to 10 seconds will stay with you.