The Daily Mail proving they can trolololol even back in 1980

The ‘video nasties’ shitstorm of the early 80’s was largely to do with the fact that perverse film directors had dared to put some of the most graphic and gory content in their films, and often released them straight to video, selling mostly to a faithful audience who enjoyed the cult films, not, as the above article would have you believe, to young children or pregnant women or whatever else it suggested. Still, the British government was sufficiently disgusted by films like ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Driller Killer’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ that they drew up a list of 39 films that contained ‘excessive gore, graphic nudity, sadistic murder and brutal death’, which would “tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it”. Not my words. Though hilariously, the convenient labeling of these films as ‘shock horror’ and ‘video nasties’ only intensified the public at larges’ will to watch them, and watch they did. Some were disgusted, but the large majority lapped up the gore and filth. Here is my top 10 Video Nasties ever. God bless Mary Whitehouse!

#10: Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)


The first, (and absolutely not the last) ‘Cannibal’ film on the list, Cannibal Apocalypse is basically an appalling idea, executed appallingly and filmed exceptionally appallingly. But that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely hilarious, in pretty much every way possible, as well as really endearing and enjoyable. Have you ever wondered what a film would be like, if it was a cross between powerful drama ‘The Deer Hunter’, and gore-fest ‘Dawn of the Dead’ ? You haven’t? Well, oddly enough, Italian director Antonio Margheriti dared to dream what it would be like, and came up this obscure hilarious gem, about ex-POW’s with a craving for ‘forbidden meat’, probably most famous for a horrible scene of a live rat being torched with a flamethrower…Particularly nasty.

#9:  Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

‘Nightmares’  is an odd and enjoyable film with an incredibly violent and gritty undercurrent, similar to that of Taxi Driver. It’s a gory and brutal trip into an insane man’s world, full of disgusting murders, insane halucinations and violent rampages. Our protagonist, George, is a criminally insane member of a grotty asylum, a place he has lived since as long as he can remember. On his release, he embarks on a hilarious and outrageously violent rampage of sex, death and hardcore drugs. Heading back to his provincial home, Florida, George attempts to mess with a family who are mysteriously linked to him, but comes across a major hurdle along the way…

#8: Deep River Savages (1972) 

I couldn't even find an actual picture of the film that wasn't utterly disgusting. Says something huh..!

I’m not majorly up on  ‘cannibal movie history’, (though some people think I love cannibal films – I don’t massively), I am sure this has to be one of the first ‘cannibal horrors’ out there. But at number 8 is ‘Deep River Savages’ (it has so many alternative names I can’t keep up with them), a strange and gore-ridden adaptation of Richard Harris classic ‘A Man Called Horse’. In it, much like the aforementioned ‘Horse’ a man is taken prisoner by an uncivilised tribe, where he becomes accustomed to their bizarre and oddly disgusting way of life. He witnesses the cannibals munching their enemy tribe, and an absolutely abhorrent (Really, it is … unspeakably cruel, bad, poor taste and whatever else you would wish to call it) scene of animal torture. Call it what you will, but at least DRS has a storyline, one which has a cheerfully upbeat and chirpy ending; our main character joining the tribe and being accepted. Aw. 

#7: Zombi II (1979)  

I’ve said it before, and no doubt will say it again (in this blog, no less!), I love Zombie Flesh Eaters. It’s disgusting and extremely graphic take on ‘zombies take over’ is not only really well done (budget; be damned!) but weirdly believable as well. Probably best known for it’s absolutely ridiculous set-piece scene of a zombie wrestling and chowing down on a shark, the film is still revered by gore fans for it’s unbelievably sordid scene of an eyeball being slowly cut in half by a big lump of jagged wood, a scene that is still really gross to this day. Ew…

#6: The Driller Killer (1979) 

It’s odd really that I would love Driller Killer, because, seemingly, it is a pretty shitty film. As a horror film, it can be viewed as a completely nihilistic excursion into one man’s life collapsing around him, using his power drill as a sadistic item to kill his victims. On another level, like that of ‘Nightmares’, it is a pretty interesting view of late 70’s New York, featuring flagship No-Wave club “CBGB’s”, as well as a pretty rocking punk soundtrack, Driller Killer is a story of urban decay, creative block and a society whose turned it’s back on the lower class.  It’s also uh…Really violent.

#5: Island of Death (1977) 

UH OH!....No no no Bob!

A very subversive film, Island of Death sets up the classic horror pitch, a sexed-up couple on holiday, some fairly odd wrinkled locals who don’t like their behaviour, and then smashes it into pieces. The sexed-up couple are the killers, and they are as sadistic, brutal and violent as you could ever (not) hope to meet. Killers who also don’t mind shagging a sheep or two, using a ‘lynx flamethrower’ to torch a woman’s face, and feel pretty alright about committing some insane scenes of torture. ‘Island’ is clever, but only because of it’s main premise, after a while the violence becomes so excessive, so torturous, and so grim, that it’s almost a labour to trundle through it. Still though, if ever a film deserved a place on the ‘nasties’ list, this is it, being one of the most disgusting I’ve ever seen, something which doesn’t necessarily make it the best either.

 #4:  Living Dead of Manchester Morgue (1974) 

Some could see this as an example of historical interest (the only video nasty to be filmed and set IN England), but I see it as a really excellent zombie flick, with just a bit more than the usual horrific gore. Topical in it’s name check of the Manson copycats murdering and eating innocents (long haired freaks amok in Britain! Woo yeah!), who actually turn out to be sociopathic and violent zombies. It’s great, mainly for it’s hilarious DIY ethics, but also for it’s inventive storyline, which, surprisingly for a nasty, is not completely shit and contrived. 

#3: The Evil Dead (1981)

Another film I have previously stated my love of (albeit it, ‘Dead 2), Evil Dead is without doubt the most famous of the video nasties, and with good reason, it’s bloody shots of ‘sexed teens in wood cabin’ is influential to this day. Though it is without doubt my favourite film off this list in it’s own right, it is definitely not the definitive video nasty, the film that sums up the craze and sense of moral panic surrounding them, perhaps because of it’s sense of humour, it’s scenes of intense violence that are so crazed and insane they become hilarious; see ‘pencil stabbing ankle’ for reference.

#2:  Blood Feast (1963)

It’s ironic that the oldest film on this list survived nearly 20 years to make the cut for ‘video nasties’ status. But it did, and that is absolutely nothing more and nothing less than a testament to it’s skill in completely perverse violence, shockingly inventive scenes of brutality and torture, as well as the much needed element of slapstick (or is that ‘splatstick’ ?). Herschell Gordon Lewis is known as the Godfather of Gore, and it is because of this movie alone that he gained that notoriety, his genius shots of cheap blood and absolutely shocking acting coupled with awfully camp music (which he composed himself) and unbelievably convoluted plot remain to this day in circles of lo-fi DIY cinema, Blood Feast is set around a crazed chef who is preparing an ancient Egyptian feast for some snooty party guests, yet the meat he needs is far harder to gain than the average rump steak…

(NB: Recommended ‘Gore Gore Girls’, and ‘Wizard of Gore’, other Herschell flicks that need to be seen to be believed)

#1: Cannibal Holocaust (1980) 

Could there ever be another film at the top of the ‘video nasties’ list, but Cannibal Holocaust? Realistically, it is the film that sumarised the public outrage and sense of moral panic regarding the video nasties list best. It’s notoriety was passed on through word of mouth, and Holocaust really is a truly disturbing and realistic film that has scenes of absolute unrelenting violence, vile scenes of (real life) animal torture, graphic nudity, and a plot that is extremely influential to this day (giving the ‘found footage’ genre it’s name and it’s calling card film). Holocaust is still shocking to this day, and there won’t be a time in the near future where it won’t be. Dazzlingly realistic effects (which called into question the legitimacy of half the films death scenes, giving rise to it’s cult status as a true ‘snuff’ film) along with director Deodato’s singular vision for realism (allegedly, he devised a contract for actors in the film who had died to ‘disappear’ for real for over a year) cascade in one brilliantly brutal, (at times) unwatchable, violent intense and definitely  sickening film, but an undeniable classic. Cannibal Holocaust is a worthy winner, and there is little wonder it’s the most infamous Video Nasty of all time.