What’s in a name?
You will have heard the term ‘Snuff film’ before, but have you ever considered what it actually means or what constitutes as an actual snuff film? The common train of thought is that a snuff film is the murder of a person on camera. This is true however, for a film to be actually considered snuff the filming of a murder needs to be for financial gain and there must be a proven link to show that the film was made solely for financial profit through successful distribution of the film.
There has never been an actual snuff film that has surfaced that fits this accepted mode of what constitutes an actual snuff film.
Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw magazine, offered a reward of one million dollars for anybody who could step forward with evidence of an actual commercially sold snuff film. This sum of money has never been collected.
In 1991 Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen watched a film that showed a woman being tortured and disembowelled by a man dressed as a Samaria. The images were horrifying and Sheen contacted the FBI to report the film. Investigators soon learned that the film was a pirated copy of ‘Flowers of Flesh and Blood’, the second instalment of the Japanese 6 titled horror series that is known simply as ‘Guinea Pig’. This story hit the media around the world and the publicity helped to raise awareness of this underground film movement. The Guinea Pig films had a short-lived distribution that included all six titles along with a seventh film that is a collection of the best or worst parts of the other films.
In 1971 husband and wife filmmaking team Michael and Roberta Findlay shot a film that they called ‘Slaughter ‘for a budget of $30,000 in Argentina. This gore-fest was eventually released in 1976 as SNUFF when Allan Shackleton took the film and shot an alternative ending to make the film look like an actual snuff film. Rumours of this film started to circulate that it was indeed real snuff. On commercial release by Astra Video the film was banned in the U.K. and was labelled as a ‘Video Nasties’ along with similar themed titles such as ‘Faces of Death’ which is a compilation of news real footage, accidents and suicides edited together with crudely staged re-enactment scenes. These films still cause controversy and are highly regarded by horror film fans and widely sought by collectors of original video nasties on VHS, Betamax or Video 2000.
Lights, camera, action…murder!
Many serial killers and murderers have filmed the torture and murder of their victims. These films provide key evidence if and when the murderer goes to trial. Even though the media may get wind that the killer filmed their ghastly deeds and run with the word …SNUFF… in their headlines, the reality is that these films were only produced to satisfy the desire of the individual killer and were never meant for mass audiences.
German Cannibal and murderer Armin Meiwes advertised on the Internet for a person to step forward to be his willing victim. His advert stated that he was “looking for a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed”.Surprisingly there are people out there with fantasies of being castrated and cannibalised. It’s astonishing to learn that there were numerous people who came forward and offered to be the victim. Once man stood out in particular to Meiwes and eventually both agreed the logistics of the plan and it was put into fruition.
Meiwes cut off his victim’s penis and fried it then fed it to his bleeding victim. When the police eventually watched the film that Armin had made it showed in graphic detail the extent of his crimes of castrating and feeding his victim their genitals and the eventual butchery and consumption of the body that was chopped up into parts and sealed tight in containers to keep it fresh for storage.
This astonishing vital evidence gave psychologists and criminologists a rare insight into the mindset of both killer and victim. The evidence captured is of significant importance into helping authorities and medical experts understand the catalyst and motivation that drives such people to undertake such devastating actions.
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley recorded audio of their torture of their young victims. The recordings are some of the most disturbing sounds committed to recorded memory. Thankfully these will never be made public. They offered a rare insight into the mind of Brady and Hindly. California serial killers Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker embarked upon a killing spree in 1979 chalking up 5 victims. At trial audio recordings of Bittaker were played to the jury of him using a pair of pliers on a victim. Families and law professionals alike sickened by what they had just heard fled form the courtroom to compose themselves.
During an eight-month span, between 1984-1985, Leonard Lake and Charles Ng set about an abduction and murder spree. The pair would abduct women and in some cases whole families. They had a twisted dream that was based on the John Fowles’ book ‘The Collector’. They called this ‘Operation Miranda’, named after the character in the book. Their twisted dream was to have sex slaves that they could use and brutalise whenever they felt like it. Eventually their victims were killed, burned then buried in the same property where the pair had their sex bunker adjacent to a modest cabin. Lake and Ng built an effective torture room where their victims would be kept and repeatedly raped and brutalised. During Charles Ng’s trail the prosecution-entered evidence that was in the form of videotapes that show Ng cutting the bra strap of one if their victims, Brenda O’Conner.
Some gangs and drug cartels are known to film the torture and murder of their victims. These graphic films are usually short and climax in the victim being decapitated in some way, usually by machete or chainsaw. These murders are filmed for propaganda purposes and the film is uploaded to the Internet and before long spread like wildfire. Although sickeningly these types of films end up on the Internet they can’t be considered Snuff, as they were produced to intimidate and act as a warning to authorities and rivals. Recently one such video appeared on Facebook which stirred up much controversy. A woman was thrust to her knees while a man stood behind her and cut her throat, decapitating her.
The pain and horror inflicted are mind- boggling.
In 2007, 19 year old friends Vicktor Sayenko, Igor Suprunyuck were arrested for 21 murders in the Ukraine. A third accused was also charged with related offences. The murders were random and brutal with many of the killings filmed on mobile phones. The case gained notoriety when one of the murders was leaked onto the Internet. The video lasted around 4 minutes showed 48 year old victim Sergei Yatzenko lying on his back and one of the defendants repeatedly striking him on the face and head with a hammer wrapped in a plastic bag. The video is graphic and harrowing. The killers and tormentors are heard laughing and joking. They are still filming when they walk back to their car. This brutal murder happened in broad daylight in a public place where members of the public were driving within feet of the murder site.
Steven F Scouller will be writing bi-weekly true crime articles for Popcorn Horror. Find out more about him at his official website.