The Video Nasties phenomenon during the 1980’s was a very English episode in horror history dominated by and summed up perfectly by the words in the subtitle to Jake West’s excellent documentary included in this box set on the subject; moral panic, censorship and videotape.
Across 3 discs this collectors edition serves as the definitive guide on the subject of video nasties with the first two discs packed with the trailers for the 72 titles that caused moral and mass media meltdown as the press, police and powers that be tried to stop the public seeing the gore filled horror films the believed would transform people into mass murdering maniacs.
First up are the trailers from the famous banned list, the 39 titles which fell foul of the Director of Public Prosecutions and were successfully prosecuted in UK courts and deemed liable to deprave and corrupt.
Including such classics as Cannibal Holocaust, The Driller Killer, I Spit on Your Grave, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Snuff and Zombie Flesh-Eaters it is ironic to think all of these have since been released uncut and several have even been given big budget Hollywood remakes.
Disc two features the 33 titles that were initially banned, but then subsequently acquitted and removed from the DPP’s list including many killer classics most infamous and famous among them being The Evil Dead.
Both discs can either be watched as a non-stop trailer show or with new introductions filmed specifically for the box set with each film receiving detailed analysis and background filled in by film journalists and media academics. This is a brilliant bonus and extremely interesting for any horror fan giving tons of insight into the films which caused such an uproar.
The jewel in the crown however is on disc three which is taken up by Jake West’s excellent, entertaining and accessible film Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape. The in-depth documentary details the entire video nasties phenomenon a ravishing real life story full of cover ups and conspiracies from the rise of video tape and influx of horror into our homes to the hysterical press campaign and the subsequent banned list resulting in police video shop busts, VHS burnings and people going to prison for distributing horror movies.
Featuring clips, archive footage and interviews with all of the key people involved including Martin Baker the true hero of the piece we get to hear from politicians to police to film historians all with their own individual take on what happened. Some are surprisingly still outraged by the events and some such as British horror directors Neil Marshal and Christopher Smith where inspired to make their own video nasties.
Exposing the shocking erosion of civil liberties and cinematic suppression, the likes of which may seem slightly archaic and alien to today’s audience who can get hold of any and everything on the internet, it is a pertinent piece which is surprisingly still relevant as shown by events such as the recent removal of A Serbian Film from the Frightfest line up by Westminster council.
A must for all horror fans and anyone interested in censorship and British film history Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide is a bloodletting brilliant box set bursting at the sides with gut wrenching extras which is so good it should be banned.