The Snuff Film: The Making of an Urban Legend

  • by  Scott Aaron Stine

The myth of the snuff film s a prime example of a cinematic urban legend. (The term "snuff" in reference to a specific genre of filmmaking where the actors are supposedly killed for the benefit of the viewer was coined by Ed Sanders in his book The Family-The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion . The term was used to describe unsubstantiated claims that Manson and his followers may have been involved in perpetrating such crimes.) Twenty-four years later, many people who have heard of -but have never seen- the movie Snuff, insists that it does contain actual footage of human death and mutilation.

Even those individuals who do not recall the controversy have been affected by it, as belief in "snuff" films persist to this day. Many people attest to the existence of snuff films even though no one has ever actually seen one; authorities, it seems, also have nothing more concrete than vague rumors about the alleged production and distribution of snuff films as well. It is not at all surprising that most of the rumors concerning the existence of snuff films did not surface until after this film made headlines.

It is safe to say that anybody who has seen Snuff (which is obscure, but far from unavailable) knows how ludicrous these claims are, at least with respect to this specific production. Not only is the gore obviously fake, but the execution of the special effects is painfully inept. Snuff is nothing more than a grand marketing scheme that made a shameless little splatter film into one of the most profitable-and notorious-films ever conceived. The clever ad campaign was obviously tongue-in-cheek, but somehow millions of theater-goers were snagged by the notion "But what if it is real?" and it seems that their morbid curiosity got the best of them. Were the producers trying to exploit America's obsession with the macabre? Or did they simply view it as a clever dare to attract a few extra ticket sales? As it turns out, the latter seems closer to the truth. Whatever the motives, it worked, to the absolute joy of the promoters-and to the chagrin of those who would inevitably be confronted with the chore of debunking the hoax in the years to come.

Read the rest of the article at: http://www.csicop.org/si/9905/snuff.html 


source: Skeptical Inquirer magazine

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