Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Web Viles 01 - "Snuff Films Do Not Exist"

It is a commonly held belief today that the Internet has ushered in an era wherein the shockumentary has become a largely superfluous enterprise. The grisly scenes of carnage that one previously had to hunt down on obscure tapes to enjoy/endure, the argument goes, are now widely available on a plethora of Internet shock sites, and we can thusly safely toss the tapes in the trash.  However, while today's greater availability of mondo/shocku footage is certainly undeniable, some of us nonetheless remain of the opinion that the shockumentary continues to have a key role in today's day and age. The shockumentary brings together 60 to 90 minutes of grueling footage in a deathly monotonous onslaught unparalleled by the superficially fragmented presentation of web clips. Watching one or two short Internet clips you chance upon is incomparable to immersing yourself in a feature-length presentation of unbridled doom and demise for hours on end.

The sickly slew of shockumentary fodder being distributed on the danker, darker corners of the web, while perhaps best seen as complimentary sample morsels served alongside the main mondo dish, nonetheless cannot be wholly ignored either. With this in mind, we thus present a new sporadic series entitled The Web Viles, wherein each time we will take a close look at a web-based shocku clip.

For this, our first entry, let us look at one of the oldest online death clips around (the earliest mention of the clip that we could find was in January 2000, although the clip itself was made in 1999). The clip in question does not possess any sort of formal title although it is sometimes referred to as the "'snuff films do not exist' video" (due to the woman in the clip yelling out said phrase prior to being shot) or simply as the 'shot in the head snuff video', and has surfaced under any number of filenames such as snuff.mpg, kidnap.mpg, isitreal.mpg, and real_snuff_film.wmv, to name a few. The extremely short clip of approximately six seconds depicts a woman sitting on a chair (in fact, it is a wheelchair) and crying out the aforementioned phrase about snuff films, only to have a handgun discharged at her head by an unknown assailant.



The clip spawned countless discussions on newsgroups and web forums about whether it was a genuine execution or a fake. One Alexander Jason, a "Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst" specializing in "Shooting Incident Reconstruction / Forensic Photography" even went so far as to post an in-depth frame-by-frame forensic analysis of the video as early as 2001, coming to the oh-so-expert conclusion that it was indeed a forgery.

The video again drew attention the following year when anti-child porn crusader Roche Girard, driven by a "moral duty", downloaded a pack of files entitled 'Cute 12 Year Old Being Taught by Daddy' from a filesharing network only to discover the by now infamous faux execution video, whereupon he promptly proceeded to report it to the FBI:

[Girard] experimented with a Napster-like service called LimeWire, which allows users to download music and movies. He scanned the available titles: Rambo, Rocky, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Terminator. Then one jumped out at him: Cute 12 Year Old Being Taught by Daddy.

Girard downloaded the movie and discovered a list of words appended to the title, including 'Incest,' 'Teen,' 'Preteen,' 'Lolita,' and 'Porn.' When he opened the file, he was shocked. It wasn't child pornography, but something equally disgusting: a blond woman in a nightgown with a gun pressed against her temple. She casts nervous glances at the gunman and blurts, 'Snuff films do not exist!' Blam! Her head snaps back, and dark red splatters the wall.

It would turn out that Girard had stumbled on an infamous fake that has been passed around the Internet for years. But to him, it looked like a real murder. He says he sent an e-mail to the FBI, alerting the agency to what he had found, and sent a copy of the movie to friend Tom Webb to get his opinion. Webb, 22, panicked when he saw the realistic-looking movie. 'I was even pausing it on my computer, and you can see the bullet hole!' he says. Webb tried calling Girard, who wasn't home, so he made a copy of the movie and gave it to police.

By 2003, the video had made its way into Bruno Mattei's 8MM (1999) rip-off Snuff Trap (aka Snuff killer - La morte in diretta), appearing in the 'antechamber of Hades' scene in the film, and leading some to erroneously attribute the origin of the video to Mattei's film.



So what exactly is the story behind this video that seems to have stirred up quite a fuss indeed? Who is the woman allegedly being killed? And where is this all happening? The answers are all fairly straightforward. The video snippet is taken from the final moments of the opening vignette of the 1999 film Snuff Perversions 2: More Bizarre Cases of Death (aka Shock 2000). The scene was filmed at New Jersey-based WAVE Studios, and the woman being shot is none other than b-movie actress Pamela Sutch, who has also appeared in such thematic titles as Strangled 5: The Hypnotic Murders (1998), Strangled 7: The Laughing Strangler (1999), The Go-Go Girl Strangler (2000), The Vegas Showgirl Strangler (2000), The Revenge of the Necktie Strangler (2002), The Blind Date Strangler (2003), Strangled Twins (2003), The Suburban Strangler (2004), and nearly 90 additional WAVE Productions titles.


The film itself is a decidedly low-rent compendium of various faux-snuff vignettes, and--according to the storyline--is compiled by detective Dr. Julia Blanc (Pamela Sutch), who holds a "doctorate in clinical psychiatry as well as forensic pathology" and has been researching snuff films for quite some time indeed. In the first Snuff Perversions, Blanc was making a video presentation intended as training for police officers, only to have the end of the video interrupted by masked thugs who proceeded to steal her snuff tapes and then shoot the good doctor and her partner.

Thus, in the sequel, Snuff Perversions 2, Dr. Blanc now appears in a wheelchair, informing us that she has not only lost the use of her lower body but has also been disavowed by the police force; although lucky for us, she has persisted in gathering evidence of the existence of snuff films. Immediately after this introduction, someone once again breaks into Dr. Blanc's room, the camera goes dark, and when Blanc reappears she is now even more distressed than before and starts forcibly reciting for the camera that "snuff films do not exist" while a gun is pointed at her head. Blanc is then summarily executed and the woman to whom Blanc sent the compilation tape then starts watching the new assortment of alleged snuff vignettes, ultimately ending with the other woman also being executed. It is precisely this very end of the opening vignette depicting Blanc's execution which has been excerpted into the popular web clip. The end of Snuff Perversions 2 further promised a third entry into the series, though it seems as if this third volume never materialized.

The film itself starts off boldly enough, proclaiming that:

What you are about to see is true and contains actual depictions of torture, murder, and suicide. You may think you have seen such things already in news footage of war and crime, but what I'm talking about has never been seen before. What you are about to see is SNUFF.

But ends with a whimpering disclaimer, its tail now firmly planted between its legs:

All of the characters depicted here were created and do not exist. Any resemblance to real people living or dead is purely coincidental. All of the actors who participated in this production are over the age of 18. No human being was actually harmed or killed during the making of this motion picture.

Indeed, the sub-genre of 'faux snuff compilation' is nothing new, as other similar efforts have been made in the past (e.g. Snuff Files (19??), True Gore 2: Empire of Madness (1989)), with the most recent example perhaps being Fred Vogel's Murder Collection V.1 (2009). And this is all to say nothing of the scores of short fetish videos catering to staged executions of all sorts, which number in the hundreds if not thousands.

Thus, the online popularity of the film's clip is essentially the only artifact that propels Snuff Perversions 2 from nameless obscurity into the realm of Internet infamy, a fact that's certainly not lost on the film's current distributors who incorporate the scene's notoriety into the forefront of their product description: "This movie is so realistic, the introduction piece produced by Todd Russell was actually investigated by the FBI and Crime Scene Investigators who thought it depicted the actual snuff murder of a real victim!!" thereby successfully alluding to, and banking on, both Girard's reporting of the clip to the FBI and Jason's analysis of the clip's veracity.

The distributors also offer a downloadable 'remastered' 90-second version of the clip, at the end of which someone can be heard saying "I feel pretty good" and "cut."

Similarly, 'DrDon' (Donald Smith), who was involved in the special effects of the video, was sure to mention the clip as a testament to the superiority of his craftsmanship over that of Hollywood productions:

In 1999 DrDon did some effects work for producer Todd Russell of THR Productions. He sent DrDon a scene that he pulled from his trash bin after viewing DrDon's F/X work on the Internet. The scene was shot on S-VHS and at that time all DrDon had was a low resolution capture card. DrDon repaired the scene and added some effects using Ulead's image editor that came with their Media Studio Pro 2.5 software. The one megabite MPEG scene caused a lot of fuss that resulted in a forensic analysis being done by a crime scene expert to determine if the video was real murder or just a fake. We don't hear about forensic analysis being done on Hollywood movies do we?

Today, more than ten years after its creation, the video continues to generate comments and reactions with some swearing to its reality and others decrying it as a blatant fake; and it is still being sampled into new productions, for instance appearing in the mixtape Sodomatik Vol 1 (2010).


4 comments:

  1. This has been very helpful. I love this sort of thing and have been wondering at the origin of the clipever since I found it on the dearly departed Frances Farmer's Revenge portal. Thank you for your clarifications.

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  2. actually snuff films do actually exist like daisy's destruction and that luca film but most of the "snuff films" are shams

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  3. actually snuff films do actually exist like daisy's destruction and that luca film but most of the "snuff films" are shams

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  4. I love horror movies but snuff movies is totally illogical and nonsense. I don't believe in that.

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