If you are looking for a subgenre of horror that emphasized graphic violence and shock value above all else, look no further than the Italian cannibal movies of the 1970s and 1980s.
A culturally significant part of the 70s and 80s was the rise of the independent VHS store. The story of the owners, clients, movie stars and producers that shaped the VHS era is captured perfectly by director and writer Mark Williams.
“We actually cover a lot of ground in just over 90 minutes which is quite a feat to achieve!”
Unless one is of a certain age it might be difficult to relate to VIPCO’s feature-length release of the documentary VHS Forever? Psychotronic People. It harkens back to the dawn of serious movie watching, especially those of a subversive and transgressive nature. The documentary manages to capture the thrill of so many cinephiles to be able to access obscure, forbidden and strange films, but at the same time, shows the paranoia and very real legal concerns operators of video stores faced during the era.
“We think censorship is idiotic!”
Directed by the prolific master of the macarbre, Lucio Fulci, The Beyond is the second film in Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell‘ trilogy; a series of horror films all connected by a unifying theme, and actress Catriona MacColl. In each of these films, one of seven gateways to hell is activated, bringing misery to those unfortunate to stumble upon the doors of death.
“The seven dreaded gateways to hell are concealed in seven cursed places… And from the day the gates of hell are opened, the dead will walk the earth.”
For fans of cheese and sleaze, it doesn’t get any better than Jess Franco’s deranged cannibal classic Devil Hunter – finally on UK Blu-ray from 88 Films for the first time to be devoured by Euro cult enthusiasts and video nasty lovers alike.
“Hunted, raped, and tormented out of her mind…”
For years fans waited for the release of a sequel to Ruggero Deodato’s trendsetting Cannibal Holocaust, yet it would take almost a decade for The Green Inferno to arrive… and it wasn’t what followers of the Italian cannibal cycle were expecting.
First there was Cannibal Holocaust… Then came Cannibal Ferox… But somewhere in France, someone was already hatching a plot to cash-in on the Italian intestinal classics with Cannibal Terror!
“The thirst for adventure!”
The Mountain of the Cannibal God was originally released in United Kingdom under the name Prisoner of the Cannibal God, and added to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) list of “video nasties” shortly after its home video release. Although The Mountain of the Cannibal God was one of the 33 “video nasties” not prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, it remained unavailable on home video until 2001.
“Why is everybody so scared of the Puka?”
Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery (1981) is notorious in the United Kingdom for being one of the 39 movies that were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in the 1980s. Dubbed a ‘video nasty’ by the garbage British tabloids, The House by the Cemetery was effectively banned from distribution and personal possession…
If you are prepared to endure the awful dubbing, The House by the Cemetery is deserving of its cult reputation.
“Read the fine print. You may have just mortgaged your life!”
Directed by S.F. Brownigg and released in 1973, Don’t Look in the Basement is an independent horror film that was unfortunate enough to fall foul of the UK media upon it’s 1981 home release; yet fortunate enough to not be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1985.
For me, Don’t Look in the Basement was an impulse buy on home video, spurred on by the film’s cult status and history as a ‘video nasty’.
“The line between sanity and madness can be crossed in a single step. And with this step you enter the nightmare world of terror. On the day the insane took over the asylum!”
One cannot discuss 1976’s most controversial theatrical release without first discussing the mythology of the ‘snuff’ film itself. You see, a snuff film is a filmed sequence that depicts the actual murder of another human being for distribution and financial exploitation. Morbid, yes?
Then came along Snuff: “The film that could only be made in South America…where life is cheap!”
The history behind Snuff however, is far more interesting than the film itself.
“Are the killings in this film real? You be the judge!”
Originally released in 1971, A Bay of Blood was later refused certification from the BBFC in 1972, ensuring that the film could not be shown at any cinema within the United Kingdom. Fast forward to 1984, and the unmonitored home video market was beginning to find traction with consumers. Bava’s A Bay of Blood would finally find a UK audience upon it’s simultaneous release on VHS and Betamax (from Hokushin under the title Blood Bath) that same year.
“Diabolical! Fiendish! Savage… You may not walk away from this one!”
During the videotape format war of the late 1970s and early 1980s, JVC’s VHS would compete for market share against Sony’s Betamax. Betamax was, in theory, the superior recording format but VHS would ultimately emerge as the preeminent home video format in 1986. Consumers could not justify the extra cost of a Betamax VCR, which was often more expensive that the VHS equivalent due to the higher quality construction of Betamax recorders.