I think we all know by now what a snuff movie is. For those of you who don’t (congrats to your mum for wrapping you up so tightly in cotton wool) it’s a real-life film or video recording of an actual murder, often made or at least circulated for pornographic reasons.
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This is probably the darkest of taboos that you could find, hence why you’d probably have to reach into the depths of the dark web if you wanted to find anything close to what we’re talking about.
While there has been evidence of certain real-life death recordings circulating the internet, and I’m sure during our lowest internet moments we’ve all stumbled across one, there’s no legitimate source or conclusive evidence that a so-called ‘snuff’ production company even exists.
However, since the early seventies, rumours have persisted that in the darkest corners of the world, particularly in sophisticated paedophile rings, murders are routinely filmed and distributed for the most extreme and sadistic form of entertainment. So how and why did this urban legend begin?
Supposedly, it all started with Charles Manson. Of course it did. In a book written by founder of the folk-rock band The Fugs, ‘Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion’, one piece of gossip that is noted down is that Manson’s Family was responsible for various murders that were not reported on in the mainstream media. And that these killings were filmed.
Yet as is the case with many of these rumours, while the police confirmed they seized a camera while raiding the Ranch that Manson’s family were residing on, the movies were never located. Nevertheless, this was enough to start the dark fascination with snuff and with this sprout, an ugly, fucked-up tree started to grow.
This is where the movie industry came into play. Let’s start with the notorious husband and wife grindhouse making team Michael and Roberta Findlay. Back in 1971, this dream team put together the failure of a film named ‘Slaughter’. This low-budget horror flick depicted the actions of a Manson-like cult.
As said, this film pretty much completely flopped, but distributor and producer Allan Shackleton saw an opportunity. After reading an article on the rumour of snuff films in South America, he decided to cash in on everyone’s fascination. He did so by adding a few minutes of shocking, fake “behind-the-scene” footage of a snuff film taking place at the end of ‘Slaughter’. Predictably he renamed the creation ‘Snuff’ and this adaptation was released in 1975.
Shackleton was clearly a man ahead of his time – he knew how to tap into this trend and he even hired fake protestors to picket movie theatres that were showing the film. The movie was exposed as a fake in 1976, but it certainly got the juices flowing even more with this dark and twisted phenomenon.
Inspired by this, many of you will have seen the more commonly known 1980s horror ‘Cannibal Holocaust’. Like ‘Snuff’, this movie raised controversy within the public, but it seems like director Ruggero Deodato did a little too well with the point he was trying to make. The movie itself follows a team of American filmmakers into the Amazon rainforest. The team disappear and are captured by cannibal tribes, and what the viewer sees is the supposedly recovered footage after they had disappeared. Shockingly, people thought this movie was so realistic that Deodato was actually put on trial in Italy on suspicion of murdering his actors. Whoopsie. Although he was cleared of these charges (because the actors were still alive) he was fined for animal cruelty and the movie was banned for three years.
So that’s a brief look into how snuff rumours sparked a series of movies and entertainment. But what about in real life? Sadly, the most solid evidence the world has seen with regards to snuff movies is within sophisticated paedophile rings. Back in the late nineties, there was an international investigation into the production and supply of paedophile snuff movies in which children were allegedly murdered on film. The key suspect was a 30-year-old Russian named Dmitri Vladimirovich Kuznetsov who had distributed thousands of sadistic child porn videos and pictures. Italian police seized thousands of tapes on their way to clients in Italy and they say that some of the purchasers, who were imprisoned, had specifically requested films of killings. Chilling stuff.
These movies even made their way to the UK, as well as many other hotspots around the world. When police eventually seized Kuznetsov’s flat, they found two boys in a makeshift studio. And if that wasn’t messed up enough, check out this e-mail exchange between a potential Italian client and one of the Russian distributors, as printed in an Italian newspaper:
‘Promise me you’re not ripping me off,’ says the Italian.
‘Relax, I can assure you this one really dies,’ the Russian responds.
‘The last time I paid and I didn’t get what I wanted.’
‘What do you want?’
‘To see them die.’
So screwed up. And then of course there’s Peter Scully and his ‘Red Room’. Scully is an Australian man who moved over to Indonesia where he groomed a couple of young Indonesian ex-prostitutes to help him seek out young children to rape and torture. He used to live broadcast or record his vile acts for other paedophiles who would tune in around the world. Ever since his arrest there have been rumours flying around that some of his tapes are available on the internet, the most famous being ‘Daisy’s Destruction’. Although as said, so far this is just a rumour. You can read more dark, dark information about Peter Scully HERE.
So what about non-paedophiles? Just straight up, grown adults getting murdered for the entertainment of others? Well, there’s a load of real-life murder footage floating around on the net – the stuff I was referring to earlier on. I’m sure many of you have seen the video made by the Ukrainian killers (or Dnepropetrovsk maniacs as they’re also known). If you don’t know about this, the case involved two 19-year-old locals, Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk, who went on a murderous and bloody rampage, killing anyone they came across on the street. This case gained additional notoriety because they filmed some of the murders, with one of the videos leaking to the internet. I’ve seen it and trust me, it messed me up for weeks.
Then there’s all of the ISIS beheading videos, some of which are floating about online. Luckily I haven’t seen any of those, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. But as many people will point out, none of these really count as snuff films. Yes, they may show real-life murders unfold in front of the camera, but the sole purpose wasn’t to make a movie. The footage was just a result of that.
None of the above constitutes a snuff movie as the term is usually understood. As the American author Cecil Adams, who did a brilliant analysis of the snuff film legend, wrote:
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one will yet turn up. But the notion that there is some sort of snuff movie industry out there, complete with film crews, lab technicians, and, God help us, sacrificial actors; that these people film themselves committing capital crimes and sell the result to strangers; and that for nearly 30 years they’ve succeeded in concealing all traces of their handiwork, strikes me as absurd.
Is it that absurd? We hear about people being raped, tortured and murdered every day. Surely in the darkest corners of the sadistic underworld, someone out there is churning out snuff films for an aggressive and blood thirsty audience? I guess for now, until a real case is uncovered, we’ll have to keep wondering.
If you enjoyed this post and want to continue reading about disturbing shit, check out this story on the most fucked up audio recordings you will ever hear. Maybe don’t listen to them before bed though.