Two words that brought cold sweats to the moral majority in the early to mid 80’s. It was said that if you watched more than 8 seconds of a video nasty, that you would kill a pensioner. That films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre displayed acts of limbs and torsos being destroyed by the lumber-tool of the title. Blood and guts would spew across the screen corrupting the minds of the young simpletons watching such monstrosities.
I was one such simpleton. I haven’t killed anyone yet, so that was incorrect, as was the blood and guts of the infamous Tobe Hooper classic which has no more crimson than one of those episodes of Coronation Street where a train falls on the cobbles or the factory burns down again. It was all the furore of people who had heard of someone who might have seen a person across the road who mentioned that they had seen such acts. TCM wasn’t even on the list, which didn’t stop the British Board of Film Classification banning the word “Chainsaw” from the titles of many films after.
I’ve seen all the movies on the banned list (apart from Faces of Death, as I’m not really interested in watching real suffering) and invariably they all share one thing: they are crap. Crap effects, crap acting, crap scripts, crap directing. So why did they take the country by storm?
I feel it comes down to a few things, with word of mouth being the main one. People who saw them boasted of gruesome images that had never been seen before on these shores. This was correct. You would never get the gut ripping scenes of Cannibal Apocalypse on the 3 available channels (yes kids, 3.). The most we had ever seen were the Hammer classics of the early 70s and although they could be a bit bloody, bodies being ripped open and the entrails consumed was never a plot device used on these things. When I finally started to get hold of these films (swapped for cigarettes, booze and some…ahem..photographic literature I stole from my dad’s shed), they were at least 5th or 6th generation copies. Through the tracking and blur, the gore looked as real as it could be. Looking back now with HD transfers it was just a load of waxy playdough with way too red blood, but due to the dodgy copies we had, it was sickening. Regardless of what you saw, you amplified it by 10 when telling schoolmates about it.
I still love horror to this day, but I feel that I am hardened to it. I can’t remember the last time a film scared me. I was probably subjected to that much in my early teens, that I will never get that thrill of my nails digging in to the arm of the sofa ever again, but I live in hope.