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.