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Traumafession:: Unk on Snuff (1976)

March 22nd, 2012 by unkle lancifer · 10 Comments

Me and SNUFF aren’t friends. I’m going to politely decline the invitation from the trickster in my head that is daring me to watch it again. I suppose that over the years, since the first and only time I saw it, there is a possibility that SNUFF like BLOOD SHACK and TERMINAL ISLAND, transformed from diabolical to adorable but I doubt it. It’s not very open-minded of me I guess, but a person has to draw the line somewhere. For those happily not in the know, SNUFF is, if I recall correctly, an inordinately lousy movie with a notorious tacked on ending that pretends to be real way before people were so hung up on things pretending to be real. So I guess that makes SNUFF a trailblazer, a very awful, boring, tasteless and deceitful, trailblazer.

I saw SNUFF back in the early days of video and when I first came across the box, it looked like fine stuff to me. I still do very much enjoy the artwork on the cover and as I recall, it came off hip and modern at the time. SNUFF was actually made back in 1976 and I encountered it on VHS around 1982. That six-year difference doesn’t seem like much now but it was to me back then, and the distance between the grainy hippie movie I got and the slick eighties flick I expected was drastic. Just look at the guy with the maniacal face on the cover- he’s wearing, for all intents and purposes, an Izod! Izods were big at the time! The 3-D letters being slashed apart, the geyser of blood contrasting with the tightening ropes, the crimson nail polish, the blasting lights, the screaming lady in the background (who I now realize also appears in the artwork for DEMONOID), all conspires to suggest an animated, wild, exuberant time which SNUFF is not.

If there’s anything more gratifying in life than renting a pile of tapes and watching them with like-minded people into the wee hours, I still do not know what it is. I was around 14 and I had a friend staying over and we had a pile of rented horror movies. One of them was SNUFF and as it was the most anticipated, it was saved for last. I knew something was afoul as soon as the film began. I tried to stay with it but it was impossible. Nothing was going on and people were just running around in a jungle with no purpose. My head began to wobble and sway and and soon I was asleep. SNUFF had nothing on glorious slumber. Sometime later my friend jostled me awake. I had to see what was happening! We rewound the last moments and watched aghast as an actress was ambushed by a film crew who recorded her murder cinema verite-style and then waved around her entrails. It was gross but not gross enough to keep me from going back to snoozetown. I never at any time wondered if anything in the film actually happened.

Sometime later I was on a bus coming back from the mall reading the latest FANGORIA magazine. In the letters section somebody was complaining about the atrocity of SNUFF and how disgusting it was that it included a real killing. My stomach dropped and I felt nauseous. Had I inadvertently watched a woman being killed? That poor actress! Here I was supporting her victimization with my rental money! Why don’t the police arrest the culprits? They should not rent this movie to people! Why, I do believe there’s something morally questionable about killing people to make entertainment! I don’t like the idea of censorship but perhaps this movie should be banned! I don’t know when or how I came back to my senses but I eventually did. No, they do not rent snuff movies at the mall and yes, the police might intervene if they did. The funny thing is, that one angry letter in FANGORIA convinced me of the film’s authenticity even after the film itself had failed on every level imaginable to do so. All I needed was an outraged voice and I began to see the same exact phantoms that they did. I sold my own perception to the wind in a heartbeat in exchange for nonsense wrapped in misguided righteousness. So I guess I did learn something from SNUFF, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever want to watch it again.

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10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I rented Snuff back in the early 90s on a whim when I was first getting a real taste for horror films. Like yourself, I dozed off until that ending. I admit, it got to me. I think by then I knew it wasn’t real, and it doesn’t even look all that real, but the IDEA of it really stuck with me, and I have been obsessed with movies about snuff movies ever since.

    I have to ask here, does anyone remember school kids talking about this movie? When I was in high school some friends of mine were saying how you could only get the film outside of the US because of the real murder and I was all, “Real murder?!? On film?!? Oh my god!” It was the first time I’d been introduced to the thought someone would do this…

    After many years I was able to see Last House on Dead End Street and I think they took the same kind of ideas from Snuff and made it way more freakier (if “way more freakier” can be used as a phrase!). I also thought the videos the couple watched in Vacancy were really effective as well.

    But as for Snuff… I dunno. I don’t think I could take it on again… mostly because I know I’ll fall asleep, and partially because I know I will be disappointed in that last scene.

  • 2 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I am seriously impressed that, in this story, your trauma was falling asleep. You are continually reworking the meanings of all kinds of concepts for me Unk – and I commend you for it.

    I’ll have to think about my kindertraumas on a much broader scale from now on!

  • 3 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm


    I agree it’s the idea alone here that that gets to you.

    SNUFF is a movie that is way more interesting to talk about then actually watch. Basically it’s 95% filler.

    I love the marketing ploys though- they hired folks to picket the film and the whole “They were never seen again” thing reminds me of the Missing posters used for Blair Witch.

    If only the original Manson movie part (Originally titled “Slaughter”) was even slightly entertaining! I guess if it was though they would not have had to get so creative trying to sell it!


    Boredom is trauma!

    Well, originally I was thinking my panic attack on the bus thinking I had viewed a real murder was the trauma but being bored and disappointed is pretty traumatic too!

    Maybe we should start a series of “Disappointmentfessions” and/or “snorefessions”!

  • 4 RockwaterNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    This fine article brings up a point I make to friends all the time, and that is that invariably the concept of a horror film is better than the film itself. The pictures you form in your mind when confronted with the urban legends, the press, the marketing material trump the actual viewing experience almost all the time, no matter how good the actual film may turn out to be.

    As much as I love Texas Chainsaw and Ringu, the films I gave birth to in my brain were crazier, sexier, and more nightmarish than anything I ended up seeing.

    At least that was the case as a kid of the 80s, before internet.

    Sometimes I think I should have made horror films. Instead I just make videos like this one.

  • 5 ApocalypsejunkieNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I can add to your snorefessions, Unk. I can not for the life of me get through Ken Russell’s Gothic. I have tried three times and fall asleep in the middle every time. I love Ken Russell’s weirdness, so I don’t know what my damage is with that movie but it’s better than a bottle of Jack for passing out. :-$

  • 6 HarryNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Snorefessions! Yesssss.

    Apocalypsejunkie, I can relate. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’ve tried multiple times to get through “The Devil’s Backbone”. I just can’t do it. And it’s the same situation– I love del Toro, and I know I’m missing good stuff by not being able to keep my eyes open in it, but man, I can barely make it past the first half hour.

    On the other hand, personally, I think falling asleep in “Snuff” is just a sign of good taste.

  • 7 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm


    That is a cool video! You should make horror! That’s some creepy stuff!


    I saw Gothic in the theater and so had to stay awake or be mugged. My sleepytime tea movie must be SAW. I fell asleep trying to watch SAW twice! I know it can’t be that bad and yet it still happened and I very rarely fall asleep during movies. There must just be something in it that relaxes me. The second time I at least woke up for the ending.

    I did like SAW2 OK though- but then 3 made me sleepy again so I stopped with the SAWs.

    Now that i think about it maybe it’s the SAW guy’s voice that makes me get drowsy. He’s a talker that one.


    Yes, the shocking thing is not that I fell asleep during SNUFF but that my friend who I watched it with somehow stayed awake. How’d he do that?

  • 8 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Yeah! Snorefessions, Disappointmentfessions, Weirdedoutalittlefessions and – one that I have been contemplating but wasn’t sure if it was cool to post – intriguedtothepointofforminganobsessionfession.

    I’ll get on that one!

  • 9 knobgobblerNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I never watched Snuff but I remember the hoopla surrounding it back in the day. I remember interviews on the local news programs with ‘experts’ who had viewed the movie and declared it nonsense. Even then it had the reputation of being a crappy movie with a tacked-on ending.
    Eventually I saw it on Youtube… where you can watch all the gore/violence you want as long as there’s no nudity involved… and it was pretty forgettable.

    My own weakness for naps comes up in Disney feature animation… I’ve never made it through any of them except Snow White. I’ve tried to watch The Jungle Book multiple times and it just knocks me right out.

  • 10 fart_mikeNo Gravatar // Mar 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    i LOVE the word “unexpurgated” and it’s use in the trailer! besides that, Snuff has a great write-up, basically a whole chapter, in david kerekes’ book Killing For Culture: Death Film from Mondo to Snuff…the tales of picketing and, in turn, free advertising and record box office numbers and hold-overs, are quite interesting for such a bore of a film…

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