The Truth Behind The Original Viral Video Nasty ‘Faces Of Death’


The legendary VHS movie birthed the snuff movie genre, but is there any truth to it?

Back before the internet was just a glint in the inventor’s eyes, the original viral video was going around via VHS, and it was known as ‘Faces Of Death’.

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The movie was originally released in 1978 at theatres and features a host named Dr. Francis B. Gross showing a bunch of videos of people dying. These included, but weren’t limited to: a ‘bloody’ dog fight, a brutal electric chair execution, American tourists gorging on the brains of a live monkey, a guy getting eaten by an alligator, a Satanic cult cannibal feast and a dumb camper who tries to feed a bear a sandwich and becomes the real lunch. Apparently it managed to make $35 million at those seedy grindhouse cinemas and drive in movie theatres you’ve heard so much about, but when it surfaced on video in 1983 the legend really started to develop.

FAces OF Death Cover

The movie was released in a big VHS box with a skull on it, happily declaring that it had been banned in 46 countries, which pretty much meant that most people who saw it on the shelf at the video store were going to pick it up. After that, rumours about its existence circulated via word of mouth and it soon became the must watched video of a generation – provided you could find a copy of it of course.

There were doubts about its authenticity naturally, because many of the scenes were pretty suspicious in their reality. Why would a camping couple bring multiple cameras with them to film one of them giving a bear a sandwich – that was a much bigger undertaking in the 1980s remember? Do you really bleed from your eyeballs when you get electrocuted? Many more similar questions were asked, but because it was the 1980s and there was no internet, no answers were ever revealed, which only added to the mythos of ‘Faces Of Death’.

Faces Of Death 1

You can watch the whole movie below and decide what you think – it begins with a video of an open heart surgery which is apparently definitely real though and pretty grim, so maybe give it a miss if you don’t want to see something like that today:

What did you think? Still holds up surprisingly well because it’s so low budget and grim eh?

Of course, some of the scenes were made up and ‘Faces Of Death’ finally came clean about it when they released a 30th anniversary edition of the movie. They included a behind the scenes documentary that spilled the beans on some of the more controversial scenes. The monkey brains were just cauliflower and the guy didn’t really get eaten by alligators for example, but if you want to know all the secrets then check it out below. Turns out a lot of it was actually true, and the way they interspersed these scenes with the more shocking fake videos created the illusion that it was all real:

Following its success, there were a whole bunch of ‘Faces Of Death’ snuff movies released in its wake, each one becoming increasingly low budget. I suppose they were onto something though, considering how many websites exist now solely to highlight fucked up ways people have died.

For more snuff movies, check out our oral history of them right here. Prepare yourself for what you’re going to read though – it’s pretty grim.


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