If there’s one cinematic myth I am obsessed with reading about, it is of the supposed Snuff trade. Now mind you, I am not as well versed as some cohorts that have written on the subject nor am I the most knowledgable geek on the block when dealing with the subject. However, I know enough about the issue to get around. For those of you unfamiliar with what a Snuff film is, essentially you may already know the story. Ever had that friend, who had a friend who went to a party at a rich friends house and after a lovely evening with the upperclass – the lights suddenly dim and everyone joins in the viewing room where a reel-to-reel/VHS/DVD projector is set up and a movie is played. A movie where a young girl is butchered on film for the viewing audience, and everyone just walks away quietly at the end of the night. Heard of the story? Well there are many variations and some people still speak about it as if its something still going around. The story is that there is a massive underground society where killers film their acts for money and are paid handsomely by millionaires desperately seeking a new pique in sexual violence. The truth is however, such things simply do not happen. Not in that order nor for these means. However, there has been death caught on tape obviously and there has even been many killings and/or executions caught on tape but not for the sole reason of selling the videos to rich American socialites. This is where things tend to get a bit sordid and hard to translate, as if you want to argue semantics – recorded death isn’t exactly the hardest thing to find in this day and age where the internet puts any and everything you could ever want to see just a few clicks away on the world wide web. The truly strange thing is how we as people can become so obsessed with this sort of thing.
With tapes of terrorists beheading American journalists, chechnian rebels being done the same and of course that ever infamous video of a certain politician ending his own life with a gun – you can find it all these days; people killing each other, killing themselves, killing animals or just doing all kinds of blasphemous things to one another. However, the hotly debated issue is whether or not there are underground rings that perpetuate death for profit, and ultimately the answer tends to be a definitive no. At least until proven otherwise. That doesn’t limit the possibility however, who is to say and anything can happen. Author Yaron Svoray, who at one time was an Israeli private eye has long claimed to have once witnessed a snuff film while working undercover within a modern German nazi orginization that showed a young woman first raped, then murdered. He even documented his search into the supposed world of "snuff" with his novel "Gods of Death". However his claims are often trivialized and questioned due to the writing in the book playing out like a spy thriller rather than a non-fiction piece of work.
One of the most disturbing and memorable uses of the snuff myth I found in the Brett Easton Ellis novel "Less Than Zero" which is drastically different from the major motion picture of the same name. in the novel the lead character of Clay is completely disenfranchised by life and monotony of being a teen given everything in his life. However, he comes to a slight realization when at a teen party that degenerates into immense drugtaking and sexual exploration (as all parties in the novel generally do), someone puts on a tape for everyone to see. In the video that plays, a large African American man has a young white boy and girl chained up in a room. He proceeds to rape them both, and once done produces a chainsaw which he then begins to drive into the boys nether region. I know my description here is likely disturbing enough as is, but in the cold and callous words of Brett Easton Ellis it is even more horrifying. With simple descriptions he impacted my life incredibly, and it took me months to get over Less Than Zero due to that scene amongst others – but it is this sort of scene that pushes our culture into believing such things are possible. When hearing about pedophiles being busted so regularly, and their pornography trade being a certainty – is it that implausible to think that since rape is so often photographed – could murder be that far behind? If so, who would have the money to finance such a thing and have human beings willing to risk their own life to make it? The answer comes up as the demographic we all demonize and exaggerate – the richest possible rich people we can think up.
However, a myth is a myth and although such things as the situations we view in the Nicholas Cage thriller 8MM seem entirely plausible – human beings by their nature are protective of their own necks. Although I’m sure there are those who think they could get away with it, but once something like that is filmed – there’s no going back and hiding evidence and such a video would work as a living witness that would in some form or another lead to the capture of those responsible. Although I won’t say such a thing is entirely possible, I simply hope such a thing would never be attempted and I should hope no other human beings would be so morbid as to wish to watch such a thing. Human life is the greatest gift, and ending it for profit or sexual gratification is the ultimate perversion of lust. Now that I can step off of my soapbox, I will say interesting explorations of this subject can be found in the previously mentioned films such as 8MM (which is harshly underrated), Snuff (which isn’t a great film at all but is one of the earliest films to feature faux snuff), Cannibal Holocaust and Guinea Pig: Flowers of Flesh and Blood – which doesn’t actually deal with the subject but is more of an attempt at faux snuff and was so impressive that Charlie Sheen after having viewed a tape of the film from Chas Balum actually believed it to be real and passed it along to the FBI who actually searched into the subject. However, once the Japanese producers came up with their Making Of documentary for the film all scrutiny was dropped. If you know nothing of these films, definitely get on google and start reading!