Once upon a time, snuff films were nothing more than an urban legend. Despite the rumours, no actual snuff film was ever found. But that was before 3 Guys 1 Hammer and 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick surfaced on the internet. Now the jury’s out on whether snuff films are still just urban myths – or frightening facts.
Many people argue that snuff films do not exist. The argument depends on how you define a snuff film. Some define it as a movie depicting an actual murder which is specifically filmed for the entertainment of others and distributed for the purposes of making a profit. On that definition, no snuff film has been proven to exist.
However, Kerekes and Slater, authors of Killing for Culture, define a snuff film differently. They say that the video just needs to be circulated publicly or amongst a select few to be considered a snuff film, and that there does not need to be a financial motive. Barbara Mikkelson for Snopes.com writes that even distribution isn’t necessary; the depiction of a real murder is what makes something a snuff film. She says that:
“A psychopath who tortures and murders solely to satisfy his personal demons but who videotapes the event to create a relivable record of the experience has produced a snuff film.”
Snopes.com says that snuff films are not real. However, if you take as correct Kerekes and Slater’s and Mikkelson’s definitions of snuff films, this verdict is wrong, because of films like 3 Guys 1 Hammer and 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick. However, the Snopes article was written in 2006, before those films were made.
The rumoured snuff films
A number of commercially released movies were rumoured to be snuff films when they came out. Snuff (1976) was the first. In fact it was deliberately promoted as a snuff film, with the tagline “The film that could only be made in South America – where life is CHEAP” and the purported actual murder of an actress at the end of the film. However, this was soon exposed as a hoax; the filmmakers just wanted to capitalise on the snuff film rumours, even hiring fake protestors to picket screenings.
Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985) was rumoured to depict a woman actually being dismembered. Actor Charlie Sheen was convinced of this when he viewed the film in 1991 and so he called the FBI. The investigation was closed when the filmmakers demonstrated how they had simulated the murders with special effects.
One of the most notorious rumoured snuff films was Cannibal Holocaust (1980), which people believed depicted the actual killing of the main actors. The film’s director was even charged over the alleged murders, but the charges were dropped when the actors turned up at court. (Still, while Cannibal Holocaust is not a human snuff film, it is certainly an animal snuff film. Six real animal deaths occurred on screen, including a squirrel monkey having its face cut off by a machete. This was actually shot twice, meaning two monkeys were killed.)
The first real snuff films?
In 2008, a video was posted to a website depicting 48-year-old Sergei Yatzenko being struck repeatedly in the face with a hammer, and then stabbed in the eye and the abdomen with a screwdriver. The murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009. You can still watch the video – which acquired the name 3 Guys 1 Hammer – on the internet, though there are warnings everywhere that if you do, it’s likely to never leave you again. I’m certainly not going near it.
Having said that, I imagine 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick is even worse. This film, uploaded to Bestgore.com in May 2012, is the work of Canadian gay porn actor and psychopath Luke Magnotta. Magnotta filmed himself stabbing Chinese student Lin Jun with an ice pick, before decapitating and dismembering him, performing acts of necrophilia on him and feeding bits of him to his dog (what a delightful man). Magnotta was sentenced to life imprisonment, but will be eligible for parole in 25 years (a scary thought). Police also charged Bestgore.com owner Mark Marek for “corrupting public morals” by posting the video online; he’s awaiting trial.
I personally don’t think that 3 Guys 1 Hammer and 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick are snuff films, because of how I would define a snuff film. I think the word “film” is what’s important. Films or movies are commercial forms of entertainment. Something you go to see at the cinema or purchase online or from a video store. Films are made with a profit motive. You wouldn’t normally call a leaked celebrity sex tape a “film” or a “movie”. You also wouldn’t call the Islamic State beheading videos snuff films, just because they’ve been shared online.
To me, a true snuff film would be a professionally made and directed film, produced to entertain paying spectators and make a profit, and featuring the actual death of an actor. And to that end, no snuff film has been found…. yet.
Next week: As my lovely sister’s getting married next week, the blog is taking a week’s holiday and will be back the week after. What it’s about shall be a surprise (because I haven’t thought of it yet :-)).