It’s hard to imagine, with this years Hollywood rehashing of The Evil Dead, that there was a time in Britain when the owning, distributing or watching of the original Sam Raimi masterpiece was a criminal offence. It was not just confined to this movie alone but 71 others could get in trouble with the law. As a young teenager in the 1980s, the banning of such films only made me more intent on seeing them, giving them the added illicit quality factor. Oh the glorious days of being crowded round with a group of friends, watching a scratchy old 5th, 6th, or even more generation copy of I spit on your grave. This was a widely spread peer bonding session in its day and such was the impact of these experiences they have strongly influenced my love of the horror genre today. I miss video, I miss video trading, I miss the awful quality which only added to the whole nastiness of the affair, in some way making the experience more real. Nowadays of course most things are freely available on the net, but then it was like obtaining actual gold dust to get your hands on a copy of Cannibal Ferox. I remember the sheer anticipation of getting to watch one of these films, and my admiration for them continues to this very day. It really was a special occasion and something I have never forgotten.
Back in the day the watching of video nasties was portrayed by the national press as akin to active Satanism, complete with ritual sacrifice. This attitude was mirrored by the leading politicians of the day, spurred on by Mary Whitehouse Witchfinder General for the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. It was through the Obscene Publications Act that people were prosecuted, a notion which seems ludicrous in this day and age. There has long since been a condemnation by the wider media as they look for a link in watching horror films and violent behaviour, (The child killers of James Bulger and Childs Play 3 for example),yet a link has never effectively been established, and it was from this moral high ground that the agencies of social control stood to criminalize innocent people for their love of innovative and exciting cinema. But apparently our moral fabric was being contaminated by such filth and it wasn’t just humans it was affecting (see clip), this was message being given out by politicians of the time, I bet they feel a bit silly now
My co-writer on this blog was actually busted by the police during these dark times and had all his videos seized and destroyed, imagine that?! To watch gore in those days you might as well have been a peddler of heroin to underage children. One has to imagine the fun the police must have had watching these movies (for evidence purposes of course) and whether any of them were converted to the genre as a result.
I feel they missed the point, these films were really original, the effects used were outstanding in a lot of cases, without the use of cgi, the makers really developed innovative and intelligent ways to convert their mayhemic view to the screen. While now carrying a distinct retro low budget atmosphere (this being a good thing in my book) these movies really were shocking in their day, and still stand the test of time as reshapers of a genre, and need to be appreciated as such. The entire debacle seems so petty now but I would like to thank the creators, the Daily Fail, the police, the politicians, BBFC, Mary Whitehouse, because in doing so only enhanced my experience and made me the die hard horror fan I am today, well done chaps!