Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera (2008)

“Snuff” films,” largely considered to be urban legends, are supposedly films in which people are murdered on camera for the sole purpose of murdering somebody on camera. These films (again, in theory) are traded and/or sold on a deeply underground black market. Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera brings together several “experts” on the subject and gets their opinions of snuff films.

I used a lot of quotation marks in the above paragraph because nobody has ever uncovered a true, bona fide snuff film. Some of the experts in the film cite this as proof that snuff films do not exist. Others claim that just because you haven’t seen one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. At least a couple of the experts were just people who are into horror films. There are also a couple of FBI investigators who have seen some pretty awful things. But not snuff films.

Seeing as though it’s difficult to talk for long about real snuff films (since as far as we know, there aren’t any), the “experts” (again, in quotes) instead talk about things “like” snuff films. For example, the movie Cannibal Holocaust is discussed. Cannibal Holocaust is a disgusting movie that contains real animal killings, but fake human ones. Thus, it’s not a real snuff film. Serial killers Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, who videotaped themselves torturing and killing their victims, are also discussed. (Non-gruesome portions of the tapes are shown.) But again, these videos weren’t made for resale but rather for the killers’ “enjoyment”, which means they’re not snuff films either. The closest the documentary gets to discussing actual snuff films is the case of Dmitri Vladimirovich Kuznetsov, a fellow who was supposedly involved in “necro pedo” films in which children were abused to death. Again I say “supposedly” because there seems to be a ton of accusations that the case is or isn’t or was or wasn’t what it claimed to be. I searched Google a bit and found people who swear the story is true and people who swear it was fake. I don’t know what to think about that.

Eventually the documentary began discussing footage of US soldiers being killed. Around the time the film began to show footage of American soldiers being beheaded, I turned it off. Not for any moral or patriotic reason, but perhaps because for the first time in all the awful, horrible films I’ve watched (and I’ve watched a lot), this was too much. I’ll watch a documentary about just about anything, but showing footage of captured soldiers being beheaded is not for me. Sorry. Showing footage of captured prisoners being beheaded in a documentary about snuff films is just a cheap way to get some controversy surrounding your project. I’ll pass, thanks.

I really can’t recommend this documentary, not because it was offensive, but because it really doesn’t tell you much about snuff films and it doesn’t really make a statement about them. I went into this film thinking, “I hope to God there’s no such thing as a real snuff film, but there probably is,” and that’s what I walked away from the film thinking as well. I’m no expert on snuff films (everything I know about them I learned from the Nicolas Cage film 8mm), and I didn’t learn anything new about them either. Essentially the film tells us that snuff films may or may not exist, serial killers are pretty demented people, Cannibal Holocaust and Faces of Death were a mixture of real animal and fake human deaths, and combat soldiers sometimes get killed. Again, those are all things I unfortunately already knew.

Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera is available via Netflix streaming, and I hope my kids never stumble across it there.

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