Every Video Nasty ranked from worst to best

Movie

Cannibals! Nazis! Cannibal Nazis! Our definitive guide to the most notorious movies ever made.

In 1979, home video arrived – a new medium which briefly enjoyed a period beyond the legal purview of the British Board of Film Censors (as it was then known), whose influence was confined to public exhibition. For a time video stores – essentially cowboy operations – could rent anything to anyone, unexpurgated and unregulated, and the owners of these establishments were quick to realise that the films with lurid sleeve art and tawdry titles moved off the shelves fastest.

This newfound freedom soon spawned a moral panic, spearheaded by a collection of sensation-seeking tabloids, god-bothering zealots, raid-happy coppers and pig-ignorant politicians. The police and Department of Public Prosecutions compiled an ever-changing list of titles deemed prosecutable, or at least potentially prosecutable, under the Obscene Publications Act 1964, for “tending to corrupt or deprave persons”.

In all, 72 films – mostly horror titles – were proscribed on the Video Nasties list, although only 39 were ever successfully prosecuted. When the Video Recordings Act 1984 was passed, home releases came under the oversight of the BBFC (the ‘C’ now standing for ‘Classification’). Today most Nasties are available uncut, even as the internet unleashes a new cowboy era of unregulated video materials. Below you’ll find our comprehensive guide to all 72 titles. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you…

72. Revenge of the Boogeyman (1983)

Directed by Ulli Lommel
Aka Boogeyman II

Released in re-edited form in 2003

The vast majority of exploitation movies are amateurish by design. In the case of Revenge of the Boogeyman, however, you get the sense that none of the cast or crew had the faintest idea what they were doing, or even cared. Primarily filmed (and presumably edited) in the dark, and featuring extensive flashback sequences lifted wholesale from its predecessor, this sorry sequel to 1980’s The Boogeyman sees returning final girl Suzanna Love (then still married to director Ulli Lommel) rock up in Hollywood, where a coked-up producer expresses an interest in making a film about her prior paranormal experiences. Depending on your purview, this is either a sly meta-comment on horror fans’ willingness to sit through any old bollocks, a deeply cynical satire of Tinseltown itself, or a shameless cash-in by a hack director whose heart just wasn’t in it. Adam Woodward

71. Cannibal Terror (1981)

Directed by Alain Deruelle
Released uncut in 2003

From the absolute bottom of the chum barrel comes this rare French-directed foray into cannibal gut-crunching, as a pair of lanky goons plus a buxom wench kidnap a young girl, spirit her across the border and then hole up in a house that – oopsie! – is smack dab next to a tribe of flesh eaters. During its 90-minute runtime there is, at most, five minutes of actual cannibal material, and much that is looped three times over. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of crushingly dull plot machinations, stock footage, an icky and unnecessarily prolonged rape sequence, and regular use of a completely out of place cover of ‘La Bamba’. David Jenkins

70. Snuff (1976)

Directed by Michael Findlay, Horacio Fredriksson
Passed uncut in 2003 but currently no UK release

There’s quite a bit of history behind this exploitation yarn, originally shot by Michael and Roberta Findlay in Argentina in 1971. Filmed mostly without sound due to the actors not speaking English, it was intended to depict a cult similar to the Manson Family, featuring biker women led by a man named Satán. Some years later, the film’s producer was inspired to revisit it following rumours in the media about snuff movies being produced in South America. Without the permission of the original filmmakers, he shot a new ending and created an entire marketing campaign around the question of whether or not Snuff was, indeed, a snuff film. It worked – almost too well. Theatres were forced to stop showing the film due to protesters and one American cinema owner was arrested on obscenity charges. All  is much more interesting than the film itself, which features meandering, meaningless conversations amid all the murdering. Hannah Strong

69. Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977)

Directed by Cesare Canevari
Aka Last Orgy of the Third Reich; Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler
Refused a certificate in 2021

Essentially a softcore Euro romp in which the Holocaust is used as narrative window dressing, Gestapo’s Last Orgy passes the extremely low bar set by numerous sexploitation movies of its ilk in that it presents a cohesive (albeit stomach-turning) story and semi-credible characters. Some time after World War Two, Lise (UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Daniela Poggi) returns to the site of the concentration camp where she and many other Jewish women were interned and sadistically tortured. Her former Commandant and apparent lover (Adriano Micantoni) tags along on this distasteful trip down memory lane, with Lise concealing a vengeful ulterior motive. Currently still banned in the UK for its anti-Semitic context. AW

68. The Beast in Heat (1977)

Directed by Luigi Batzella
Aka SS Hell Camp; SS Experiment Part 2; Horrifying Experiments of SS Last Days

No UK re-release

Knock-off Gestapo garb and half-hearted ‘Heil Hitlers’ abound in this groan-inducing Naziploitation folly – the second such SS sexcapade made by Luigi Batzella in 1977 under the pseudonym Ivan Kathansky (the Italian director also went by Paolo Solvay, Paul Selvin and Dean Jones at various points in his career). Like Gestapo’s Last Orgy and Love Camp 7, The Beast in Heat portrays POW torture and medical experiments which, for all their schlock value, pale in comparison to the real-life atrocities carried out by the Third Reich. The ‘plot’ sees a genetically-modified human monster, dosed up on aphrodisiacs, unleashed by a fiendish doctor (Macha Magall), while elsewhere a band of Résistance fighters lay siege to an Occupied castle. Yet to receive a UK re-release, to the loss of absolutely no one. AW

67. Visiting Hours (1982)

Directed by Jean-Claude Lord
Aka The Fright

Passed with cuts; passed uncut in 2017

Pure TV movie awfulness in which a gurning Michael Ironside plays a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist named Colt, who becomes fixated on killing a feminist TV news anchor who rubs him up the wrong way. The title refers to the hospital where much of the story unfurls, as we follow Colt’s attempts to finish the job after his initial attack doesn’t quite yield a kill. With endless hobbling chase sequences around conveniently empty corridors, and Ironside sporting a black vulcanised rubber S&M vest, it manages to make this hardened lummox appear completely ineffectual and bumbling. To cap it off, William Shatner turns up as a braying boyf with poofy hair in a role whose fee probably helped him resurface his pool. Why they banned this soft-edged crud remains a mystery. DJ

66. Axe (1974)

Directed by Frederick R Friedel
Aka Lisa, Lisa; California Axe Massacre

Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2005

It was Jean-Luc Godard who coined the immortal maxim “all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun”. Well, he was right on the first count; really, any old weapon will do. Take 1974’s Axe for instance. Written, directed, edited by and starring Frederick R Friedel, the film centres on a trio of petty crooks who prey upon a milk-n-cookies nymphet after randomly bumping off a convenience store clerk William Tell-style. At the farmhouse where our unsuspecting heroine lives with her paralysed grandpa, things quickly take a turn for the depraved before Lisa (Leslie Lee) exacts her bittersweet revenge. With a runtime as economical as its title, this is undemanding, if rather tame, viewing. AW

65. Deep River Savages (1972)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Aka Man from Deep River; The Man from Deep River; The Country of Savage Sex; Sacrifice!

Refused a cinema certificate in 1975; released with cuts in 2016

Before Ruggero Deodato brought Italian cannibal cinema to global prominence in the ’80s, the earlier movement of Mondo cinema – pseudo-nonfiction shot in exotic locales, exploiting the West’s imagination of savagery in far-flung jungles – spawned this trend-setting bloodbath from Umberto Lenzi. A photographer sojourns from Britain to deepest Thailand, where a tribe of locals straight out of a colonist’s worst nightmare take him captive and incorporate him into their grisly tribute rituals. He ultimately defies expectations by going native and adapting to life among his captors, who appear more humane when contrasted with a war-hungry neighbouring sect. A willingness to consider shades of nuanced grey among the film’s big bad bugaboos set it apart from similar works of its era and mini-genre. Charles Bramesco

64. Frozen Scream (1980)

Directed by Frank Roach
No UK re-release

There are some instances of films with the Video Nasty label where you’re forced to question what, exactly, was considered so awful that this had to be hidden from the public eye? Frank Roach’s 1975 zombie/reanimation schlocker Frozen Scream is one such instance, as it’s such an amateur-hour affair that even the occasional splatter interlude does little to raise the pulse. It sees a pair of howlin’ mad scientists running a fake new age educational course with the view to picking off students to use for their experiments. Their aim is to discover the secret of immortality, but all they can manage is the secret of becoming a brain-dead killer zombie, which isn’t really that helpful. DJ

63. Love Camp 7 (1969)

Directed by Lee Frost
Refused a video certificate in 2002; refused a streaming certificate in 2020

Hitler may have only had one ball, but that didn’t stop him from partaking in the occasional orgy. At least, that’s what Love Camp 7 would have us believe. Sound enough in premise but faintly comical in execution, this pulpy, sexually explicit precursor to the similarly notorious ‘Ilsa’ films of the mid-’70s (themselves rejected by the BBFC) sees two Allied female officers enter a concentration camp on a covert recon mission, where they are forced to serve as “whores for the Third Reich”. With full frontal nudity throughout, the film ditches any initial pretensions of authenticity in favour of a seemingly endless stream of masochistic role play scenarios. (Let’s be honest, no one is watching for the period-accurate costume design.) Holds the inauspicious distinction of having kickstarted the Nazisploitation craze. AW

62. Absurd (1981)

Directed by Joe D’Amato
Aka Rosso Sangue; Monster Hunter; Anthropophagus 2; Horrible
Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2017

Ever wondered how the killers in slasher films keep getting up again and again, no matter how many times they are mortally wounded? Joe D’Amato’s sort-of sequel to 1980’s Anthropophagus has an answer: the incredible regenerative abilities of Mikos (George Eastman) are the result of biochemical experiments conducted on him by the Church, with homicidal insanity an unfortunate side effect. It doesn’t really make sense, but hey, the film is called Absurd. Using whatever tools (surgical drill, bandsaw, mattock, oven, scissors) are around, “boogeyman” Mikos would earn himself a DPP prosecution, but has been available uncut since 2017. Anton Bitel

61. The House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Refused a certificate in 1981; re-released with cuts in 2011

Boogieing serial rapist Alex (David Hess channelling Andrew Dice Clay) and his clownish sidekick Ricky (Giovanni Lombardo Radice, otherwise known as John Morghen) crash a yuppie house party in New Jersey – with diabolical results! Director Ruggero Deodato, Italy’s Il Duce of Deviance, shot The House on the Edge of the Park the same year as Cannibal Holocaust, but it has more in common with Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left from eight years earlier (which also stars Hess and is superior in every aspect). With scenes of gratuitous sexual violence against women comprising the bulk of its runtime, this is one entry that fully earns its Nasty status. AW

60. Don’t Go Near the Park (1979)

Directed by Lawrence D Foldes
Released uncut in 2006

It’s your average horror set-up: a Cro-Magnon brother and sister are cursed by their mother to spend 12,000 years subsisting on the entrails of the innocent, and when their time’s nearly up come 1965, they must pass their genetic material on to an infant for use as a blood tribute. So the scene is set for a morbid, grisly, lustful sort of family drama, in which long-simmering tensions between parents, children, and siblings explode into cheap yet effective displays of sensual violence. The oedipal grand finale synthesises the two taboos still unacceptable to the sensibility of polite society: eating or copulating with immediate relatives. CB

59. Night of the Demon (1980)

Directed by James C Wasson
Released with cuts in 1994

In just 92 minutes, Night of the Demon manages to combine Bigfoot, Satanic rituals, rape, disembowelment and a half-mutant child. An anthropology professor investigates a series of brutal murders that some believe to be caused by a Bigfoot (a mythical ape-like creature that lives in the forest and enjoys castrating young passers-by), which leads him to a recluse who has a lot of experience with the creature. Reading a detailed synopsis of the film is actually more disturbing than watching it, but the gore proved too much for censors: the castration and disemboweling had to go. Anna Bogutskaya

58. Human Experiments (1979)

Directed by Gregory Goodell
Aka Beyond the Gate
Passed uncut; no UK re-release

A country singer travelling across America resists the advances of a lecherous bar owner, only to land herself in hot water when her car breaks down. And that’s just the beginning of her troubles. She ends up at the mercy of a sadistic prison doctor who has some radical ideas about “curing” criminality – namely, electroshock therapy. The film starts off promisingly, and the scene in which Rachel comes across a slaughtered family while looking for help with her car is surprisingly effective, but things get a bit boring once our heroine heads off to the clink. Like a fair few of the films on this list, Human Experiments is an excuse for men to ogle women’s bodies rather than an attempt to interrogate the ethics of capital punishment. HS

57. The Burning (1981)

Directed by Tony Maylam
Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2001

The nasty factor of Tony Maylam’s The Burning is augmented by the fact that it’s the first big movie play by serial abuser Harvey Weinstein (and co-written by his brother Bob). Essentially a lively cash-in on the mid-’80s cycle of boogeyman-based teen slashers, this one sees an eccentric summer camp janitor set on fire as a cool prank, then years of skin-grafts later, he returns with a pair of garden shears and an unquenchable thirst for killing semi-naked teens in a bucolic natural setting. The US studio gloss sets this apart from much of the Euro schlock on this list, but a focus on injury details, and blunt objects being wriggled around inside wounds, is what tips it over the top. DJ

56. Fight for Your Life (1977)

Directed by Robert A Endelson
Refused a certificate in 1981; no UK re-release

Robert A Endelson made just two films in his lifetime: 1973’s X-rated obscenity trial satire The Filthiest Show in Town (co-directed with his brother Rick), and this home invasion thriller from 1977. Redneck-on-the-run Jessie Lee Kane (William Sanderson) and his psychotic sidekicks take great pleasure in terrorising the god-fearing Turner family (Kane’s ethnic bigotry is evidently lost on the Chinese Ling and Mexican Chino), which goes some way to explaining the film’s reputation as one of the nastier grindhouse releases of its day. Achieves the rare feat of its worst violence being verbal rather than physical: practically every other word out of its chief antagonist’s mouth is a racial slur. AW

55. The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975)

Directed by Miguel Iglesias Bonns
Aka The Curse of the Beast; Night of the Howling Beast; Hall of the Mountain King
No UK re-release

Travelling from civilised London (scored with bagpipes, for some reason) to exotic Tibet, this psychedelic, absurdly po-faced fantasy action-adventure is a veritable monster mash, featuring a demonic vampiress, a charlatan witch, a wolfman and an abominable snowman (with the latter two having a climactic punch-up in the snow). The eighth instalment in a series of films featuring Count Waldemar Daninsky (played by screenwriter Paul Naschy), and also the one with the greatest amount of sadism and nudity, this was successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act and has never been released in the UK. Anton B

54. Delirium (1979)

Directed by Peter Maris
Aka Psycho Puppet
Released with cuts in 1987

Sadly, this film does not concern an actual marionette on a homicidal rampage; the “puppet” is Charlie (Nick Panouzis, eyes completely devoid of light), a Vietnam vet on the brink of a mental breakdown. He’s been tapped by an underground cabal of reactionary vigilantes to be their enforcer, taking out the criminal element (a notion informed here by white-flight racism) ruled guilty in this clandestine kangaroo court. But of course this mad dog gets off his leash and goes on a killing spree more indiscriminate than his handlers might like, pushing the ‘man with a gun’ antihero pictures following the example of Death Wish to a darker and more sobering place. CB

53. Anthropophagous: The Beast (1980)

Directed by Joe D’Amato
Aka Anthropophagous; Antropofago; The Grim Reaper; Man Beast; Man-Eater; The Savage Island
Released with eight minutes of pre-edits; passed uncut in 2015

Very similar in look and tone to Nico Mastorakis’ Island of Death from 1976, Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagous: The Beast sees a gaggle of dizzy-headed meat puppets stranded on a remote Greek island, only to discover it has been cleared out by a raging cannibal with a wispy beard named Klaus. Gore set-pieces are interspersed with boggy exposition, including one utterly insane flashback in which Klaus, stranded on a life raft with his wife and kids, “accidentally” stabs and eats them. Notable for a deeply unpleasant sequence in which our wackadoo antagonist tears the unborn child from the body of one of his victims and takes a big bite as if it’s a juicy Granny Smith apple. DJ

52. Dead & Buried (1981)

Directed by Gary Sherman
Originally passed uncut for cinema; re-released uncut in 1999

Alongside Matt Cimber’s The Witch Who Came from the Sea, Gary Sherman’s laconic 1981 film Dead & Buried takes a more baroque and philosophical approach to its violent premise. Co-written by the great Dan O’Bannon, the film chronicles an epidemic of murder in a usually sleepy American small town, and the local sheriff draws on the eccentric local coroner (played by Grandpa from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) to help him solve the mystery. Although this is admired as a superior Video Nasty, it’s rather dull and meandering, its ideas dulled by slack pacing and poor dialogue. DJ

51. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Directed by Jorge Grau
Aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie; Don’t Open the Window
Passed with cuts for cinema; re-released uncut in 2002

It’s the kind of honest mistake that could happen to anyone – who among us hasn’t, at some point or another, inadvertently raised an army of the undead while using ultrasonic waves as an experimental insecticide? With Italy standing in for the English countryside, a cop pursues a couple of hippies he suspects of Manson-type devilry right into the aforementioned zombie invasion, which racks up an impressive body count of souls both innocent and not-so-much. Director Jorge Grau was ahead of his time in his anti-police sentiments, treating audiences to crowd-pleasing, gloriously gratuitous offings for overzealous crooked cops. CB

50. Blood Rites (1968)

Directed by Andy Milligan
Aka The Ghastly Ones
No UK re-release

There will be some fuddy-duddies who will dispute this, but there’s a case to be made that the greatest character within the Video Nasties corpus is tragic, put-upon hunchback Colin from Andy Milligan’s Blood Rites. Within this world of dressing up box Victoriana, he plays the manservant at a mansion in which three sisters must stay in order to secure a sizeable inheritance. He sports plastic fangs and a bowl-cut, and hovers in the background of every cramped shot. Milligan is a micro-budget maestro whose films feel like documentaries of their own making, where you see every scintilla of love and energy that goes into getting these malformed delights made. This one is no different. DJ

49. Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

Directed by James Bryan
Aka Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!
Released uncut in 2007

It’s a tale as old as time: sexy young teens go on a camping trip and come a cropper of the local murderous hermit. In one memorable scene, younger honeymooners ‘Dick and Cherry’ are canoodling in their van when the killer (credited only as ‘Maniac’) stumbles upon them. Why is the woodsman chopping tourists up with an axe? Why does he abduct a baby from an artist he slaughters while she’s painting some nice landscapes? Don’t expect any answers to your questions; there’s not an ounce of logic – or indeed decent acting – to be found in this over-the-top turkey. HS

48. Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

Directed by Jack Weis
No UK re-release

Jack Weis’ unauthorised re-do of 1963’s Blood Feast shifts the setting to New Orleans and swaps Ishtar for the Aztec goddess Coatl, while retaining the template of a pseudo-Satanic killer picking off nubile ladies for his torso-tearing sacrifices. Still, there’s enough merit unique to this fraternal twin to set it apart from its predecessor: stark and flat lighting that makes every scene look like an existentialist porno, a stellar soundtrack packed front to back with ’70s grooves, hypnotically stilted readings of the lurid dialogue. Plus, a climax set during a Fat Tuesday parade – when else? – works in some transportive location shooting, a little lagniappe to go with the main course of carnage. CB

47. Zombie Creeping Flesh (1980)

Directed by Bruno Mattei
Aka Hell of the Living Dead; Virus
Passed uncut in an edited version; full version released uncut in 2002

Nobody stole from other films quite like Bruno Mattei, who here adopts the pseudonym Vincent Dawn – perhaps as sly acknowledgement that he is ripping off George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, from the SWAT team and television reporters caught up in a zombie outbreak to the brazen appropriation of Goblin’s score. He even borrows stock footage of elephants – in a film set in pachyderm-less Papua New Guinea! Mattei positively revels in splattery gore, misogynistic machismo and othering Orientalism, although it was probably only the first of these that saw it banned in the UK. Anton B

46. Forest of Fear (1980)

Directed by Charles McCrann
Aka Toxic Zombies; Bloodeaters; Bloodeaters: Butchers of the Damned; The Dromax Derangement
No UK re-release

What’s more terrifying than a horde of flesh-eating zombies? That’s right: a horde of flesh-eating toxic zombies. In Charles McCrann’s ultra-lo-fi cannibal caper, a group of open-shirted pot dealers are turned into bloodthirsty mutants when the local authority dusts their marijuana crop with an untrialled pesticide called ‘Dromax’. Surprisingly competent given its meagre budget and largely non-professional cast, with enough red stuff to satisfy even the greediest gorehound, Forest of Fear is most notable for starring John Amplas, who made his name two years earlier in George A Romero’s Martin and Dawn of the Dead. Marred by its insensitive depiction of a young character with a severe learning disability. AW

45. Bloody Moon (1981)

Directed by Jesús Franco
Aka The Saw of Death

Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2008

In all the obvious ways, Jesús Franco’s 1981 summer school slasher is very poor. The dialogue is ponderous to the point of banal. The effects work is shabby at best. And the acting is risible. Indeed, when one woman is set for decapitation via an industrial circular saw, she’s screaming like someone is spraying a bit of cold water on her. And yet, its manifold deficiencies come together to form a certain absurd charm, where the film is actually so stupid that it ends up being endearing. One major plus point is the costumes, which include some of the gaudiest knits and garish printed tops ever to feature in a major motion picture. DJ

44. SS Experiment Camp (1976)

Directed by Sergio Garrone
Aka SS Experiment Love Camp
Released uncut in 2005

The premise – a Nazi commandant (Giorgio Cerioni) conducts twisted sexual experiments to determine which of his male underlings will be worthy of providing the replacement for Herr von Kleiben’s lost testicle – may have raised some eyebrows in 1976. The poster of a bare-breasted woman hanging upside-down from a crucifix didn’t help. But those coming in expecting a depravity-fest on par with Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS will be surprised to find a comparatively tame paean to sex and violence. Despite the many, many pairs of mammaries on display, director Sergio Garrone went light on the sadism that would nonetheless come to define this film for the moral watchdogs who never bothered watching it. CB

43. Women Behind Bars (1975)

Directed by Jesús Franco (as AM Frank)
Aka Diamonds for Hell; Visa to Die; Sadistic Women’s Prison; Punition Cell

Passed uncut in 2017

The sight of Jesus Franco’s muse and (later) wife Lina Romay strapped to a chair in a dank women’s prison with electrodes attached to her labia is not a pretty one. A goatee’d foreman cackles as he orders his lackey to turn up the voltage, and Romay screams in agony. As the scene drags on, I chose to avert my eyes, mainly because it’s hard to know whether the scene is being played for erotic titillation or unspeakable horror. This trashy piece of exploitation Eurotica combines much casual nudity with scads of abuse and torture, as our heroine is locked up for killing her dirtbag husband and is the only one who knows about a cachet of stolen diamonds. DJ

42. Prisoner of the Cannibal God (1978)

Directed by Sergio Martino
Aka The Mountain of the Cannibal God; Slave of the Cannibal God
Passed with cuts; re-released with cuts in 2018

With its big-name cast (Stacy Keach! Ursula Andress!!) and slick production, Sergio Martino’s jungle adventure is the glossiest feature to radiate from a run of Italian pseudo-ethnographic cannibal gorefests. As an expedition searches for a missing academic in Papua New Guinea and finds its own primitive heart of darkness, the film retains the subgenre’s cruel fixation with real critters being killed on camera. “Animals only follow their instincts… killing and eating”, as one character puts it. “Man too has the same instincts.” Perhaps, though, all the bestial snuff over-literalises the Darwinian dog-eat-dog message. Anton B

41. Devil Hunter (1980)

Directed by Jesús Franco
Aka Cannibal Sex; The Man Hunter; Mandingo Manhunter
Released uncut in 2008

There are two things that prolific Eurotrash auteur Jesús Franco loves: boobs and blood. Released in Spain as Cannibal Sex, a much better title for what the film is actually concerned with, Devil Hunter follows a young model who is kidnapped only for her abductors to unwittingly take her to the site of a tribe of cannibals who love a bit of boob as a side dish. Don’t expect much nuance here, but Franco’s equal opportunities approach to nudity is admirable enough. Any excuse to feature naked bodies, whether it’s a torture scene or an expository monologue, is taken full advantage of. Anna B

40. I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (1978)

Directed by Murray Markowitz
Aka Drop Dead Dearest; Left for Dead
Released with cuts in 1986

One of the odder entries on the Video Nasties list, Murray Markowitz’s Canuxploitationer was ripped right from the headlines, freely adapting the Peter Demeter murder case of 1974. It may begin with model Magdalene Kruschen (Elke Sommer) being bloodily bludgeoned to death, but the rest is sober courtroom drama. As Magdalene’s husband, the Hungarian refugee and self-made construction mogul Charles (Donald Pilon), faces trial for murder, flashbacks muddy the waters with a web of softcore adultery, blackmail, gold digging, hired muscle, an escaped maniac and unprofessional policing. Perhaps best known for being Howard Shore’s first gig as composer. Anton B

39. Contamination (1980)

Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Aka Alien Contamination; Toxic Spawn; Larvae
Released uncut in 2004

If your only pleasure in life is gleaned from watching slow-motion images of men’s stomachs exploding, then Contamination is the film for you. An abandoned freighter is found drifting through the Hudson River, and a search party happens across a crew who look like they’ve been turned inside out. They enter the cargo hold to discover it has been packed with strange glowing eggs that have been designed so they can’t be sued by the makers of Alien. If the eggs crack and their juices happen to spray on an innocent bystander, it’s boom time. Aside from the splat-happy opening 30 minutes, the film lurches into vapid exposition and an unlikely backstory, all leading to a Columbian coffee plantation and a cycloptic alien who looks like he’s been repurposed from a cheapjack carnival ride. DJ

38. The Killer Nun (1979)

Directed by Giulio Berruti
Aka Sister Murders

Released with cuts in 1993; re-released uncut in 2006

At the heart of Giulio Berruti’s nunsploitationer is a misandrist woman maddened by the trauma of childhood abuse, as Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) suffers a mental breakdown after brain surgery, turning to prostitution, morphine and worse, while her besotted lesbian roommate Sister Mathieu (Paola Morra) hides her transgressions. It’s a slow-paced affair – although it certainly escalates – but the conjunction of nuns, sex and murder was bound to raise the prudish hackles of Mary Whitehouse and her Nationwide Festival of Light. Even more goading is the cynical final sequence in which the Church covers up its in-house wrongdoings. Anton B

37. Exposé (1976)

Directed by James Kenelm Clarke
Aka House on Straw Hill; Trauma
Passed with cuts; re-released with cuts in 1997

Bankrolled by Soho porn baron Paul Raymond and starring a heavily dubbed Udo Kier as – wait for it – a louche English erotic novelist suffering an acute case of writer’s block punctuated by extreme paranoid delusions, Exposé is one of the more refined exploitation films to come out of Britain during the 1970s. The three minutes of cuts director James Kenelm Clarke made to secure an X certificate for theatrical release notwithstanding, this is nowhere near as unpleasant as its reputation would suggest. Remade in 2010 under the title Stalker by ex-New Romantic idol/Queen Vic landlord Martin Kemp. AW

36. The Boogeyman (1980)

Directed by Ulli Lommel
Aka The Boogey Man
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2000

“The least you can do is pick up the broken pieces,” says Uncle Ernest. He means specifically the fallen sherds of a shattered mirror, but his words double as a reference to the trauma and guilt afflicting siblings (played by actual siblings Suzanna and Nicholas Love) ever since, 20 years earlier, they were involved in the murder of their mother’s sadistic boyfriend. Ulli Lommel’s supernatural slasher may evoke both The Exorcist’s possessions and The Amityville Horror’s architecture, but its psychologically reflexive looking-glass horror is all its own. Never successfully prosecuted, this should never have been on the Nasty list. Anton B

35. The Funhouse (1981)

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Aka Carnival of Terror

Passed uncut; re-classified in 2007

With its opening montage of design details from a travelling carnival, Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse packs its most chilling punch before any of the action even begins. This is essentially The Texas Chain Saw Massacre-type slasher repurposed to a closed funfair attraction, as a crew of cocky teens who think they’re too cool to be scared are pitted against a murderous troglodyte and his carnival barker keeper. There’s some really great stuff here, but the film’s restrictive setting and uninteresting antagonists make it a mid-tier effort from one of horror’s high kings. DJ

34. Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)

Directed by SF Brownrigg
Aka The Forgotten; Death Ward #13
Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2005

The two definitions of the word ‘bedlam’ – as a state of all-out chaos, and an archaic term for a mental institution – converge in SF Brownrigg’s perverse guided tour through an asylum overtaken by the residents. The unorthodox method employed at the Stephen Sanitarium, a permissive free-roaming policy that allows the patients to indulge their delusions in hope of busting through them, backfires on the staff during a night of wanton madness that flies the freak flag high and proud. Infant-minded men, plastic-doll-obsessed women, and a doctor concealing a dark secret all descend on a blushing newcomer nurse unaware of the full extent of insanity she’ll be dealing with, though Brownrigg still reserves the most depth and sympathy for the non-neurotypical characters. CB

33. Don’t Go in the House (1979)

Directed by Joseph Ellison
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2011

Released when the slasher subgenre was still in its infancy, when not every psycho killer was a silent heavy-breathing type, and when Psycho was still as much an influence as Halloween, Joseph Ellison’s debut feature follows a mother-loving manchild on his misogynistic mission to incinerate women and keep their charred corpses – alongside mama’s – as his best and only friends. Donny (an intense, haunted Dan Grimaldi) is a product of both past abuse and his present environment, making him a monster to pity as much as fear, so that his murder spree comes with an element of tragedy. Anton B

32. Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

Directed by René Cardona
Aka The Horrible Man-Beast; Horror and Sex; Gomar – The Human Gorilla

Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2002

Ladies wrestling in catsuits, graphic scenes of open heart surgery, and a half-man, half-ape monster terrorising the locals – what more could you want? This Mexican entry into the Video Nasty Hall of Fame sees a doctor attempt to cure his son of leukemia by replacing his son’s heart with that of a gorilla (which seems scientifically ill-advised) and the resulting pandemonium that follows when he transforms into a strange hybrid beast with murderous intent. Beyond its whacky premise, the film’s biggest problem is its painfully low budget; the fake blood appears to be red paint and there’s not a single convincing actor among the cast. Even so, the use of genuine footage of surgery warrants a mention. Perhaps that’s where all the money went. HS

31. Evilspeak (1981)

Directed by Eric Weston
Released uncut in 2004

You know how it goes: you banish a Satanic priest from feudal Spain, only for him to be summoned by a book of black mass and cause havoc at a military reform school centuries later. Bumbling cadet Stanley Coopersmith (Clint Howard) draws the ire of his fellow students and teachers alike for being bad at football and, err, having dead parents. After he inadvertently summons the evil Father Lorenzo Esteban using a computer, a gaggle of murderous boars turn up and start offing the staff and students quite indiscriminately. It’s all very silly, but this is somewhat dampened by the overwhelming focus on poor old Stanley’s schoolyard trials and tribulations rather than the promise of Satanic priests. HS

30. The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Directed by Lucio Fulci
Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2009

An air of wintery melancholy pervades this semi-neglected Boston-set haunted house horror by Lucio Fulci, with snow-flecked landscapes and dusty brown interiors despoiled by a regular glossing of human blood. Inspired by Henry James (and borrowing heavily from The Amityville Horror and The Shining), the film sees a family of happy city folk purchase a house once owned by one Dr Jacob Freudistein. Though locals assure that there’s nothing to worry about, there’s definitely some dark shit happening underfoot. With its ace gore set-pieces nicely parcelled out against a ticking-clock plotline, the main downer is the character of Bob, a blonde, bowl-cutted pre-teen who just can’t seem to stop wandering into the basement and stirring up whatever lives down there. DJ

29. Inferno (1980)

Directed by Dario Argento
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2010

Dario Argento’s follow-up to Suspiria has much of the style but little of the substance of its predecessor. Inferno is the story of a young man investigating the disappearance of his sister in a spoooooky apartment building that houses a centuries old witch called Mater Tenebrarum. Argento’s glorious gift for colour and depth renders many of the violent set pieces grotesquely spectacular but tied to a wholly unexciting plot they have limited impact. While watching the giallo master at work is always fun, this is firmly in the second tier of his oeuvre. Leila Latif

28. The Last House on the Left (1972)

Directed by Wes Craven
Refused a cinema certificate in 1974 and 2000; released uncut in 2008

This infamous rape-revenge flick hasn’t aged particularly well. Two teenage girls head to a rock concert as a birthday treat are kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed by a group of psychotic escaped convicts. Wes Craven’s directorial debut seems to leer at the naked teenagers with as much grotesque intention as their assailants. It is not without merit, there are interesting ideas at play about suburban fear of counterculture and Craven competence as a director and knack for suspense is evident but there’s not much else to warrant its enduring reputation. LL

27. The Slayer (1982)

Directed by JS Cardone
Aka Nightmare Island

Released with cuts in 1992; re-released uncut in 2001

The moral panic around Video Nasties was in part based on the erroneous notion that their release would lead to a wave of copycat crimes. Yet even the most disturbed and industrious viewer would be hard pressed to reenact the elaborate murders depicted in JS Cardone’s debut feature, in which two couples become stranded on a remote island where an evil spirit is seemingly lurking. With its grisly premonitions, ambiguous, elliptical narrative, and atmospheric (albeit more exotic) setting, The Slayer is cut from the same creepy cloth as Robert Altman’s 1972 psychological thriller Images. A little baggy in places, but good fun. AW

26. The Toolbox Murders (1978)

Directed by Dennis Donnelly
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2017

The Toolbox Murders (not to be confused by true crime aficionados with the Toolbox Killers or the Toy Box Murders) is a surprisingly subversive look at men who commit violence against women. The plot is bare-bones: a ski-masked psychopath murders beautiful young women using, well, tools. The murderer himself has a few intriguing quirks but most interestingly the camera seems to flick the misogynist lens on and off depending on which character is in the driving seat. Whilst it is no masterpiece it definitely gets points for an ahead of its time #NotAllMen final act twist. LL

25. Madhouse (1981)

Directed by Ovidio G Assonitis
Aka There Was a Little Girl; And When She Was Bad
Released uncut in 2004

Horror cinema loves a good set of evil twins, and Madhouse is no exception. Sweet teacher Julia Sullivan struggles with horrific memories from her childhood, having been tormented by her sister Mary. After much encouragement she goes to visit her estranged sibling in a psychiatric hospital, which goes about as well as you might expect. Poor Julia becomes increasingly paranoid after her trip, worried that Mary has escaped and is intent on harming her. It all sounds simple, but Madhouse has a few tricks up its sleeve, and certain moments are genuinely gruesome. HS

24. The Beyond (1981)

Directed by Lucio Fulci
Aka 7 Doors of Death
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2001

A woman inherits a Louisiana hotel with a grim past and a foundation that may or may not be located on an entryway to Hell – but that description fails to convey the depth of the madness director Lucio Fulci holistically integrated into his finest film. The plot splinters into disconnected shards of hazy narrative, throwing together a melange of terrors including zombies, carnivorous spiders, apparitions, and a whole lot of mutilated eyeballs. The gore was so potent that the American distributor recut the film to achieve an R rating, and even in this diluted form, the release was still a commercial success. At midnight showings, genre enthusiasts in the ’80s lined up to be horrified. CB

23. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

Directed by Meir Zarchi
Aka Day of the Woman
Released with cuts in 2001

A rape-revenge movie par excellence, Meir Zarchi’s character study of a woman (Camille Keaton, an avenging angel without mercy) coping with trauma by internalising and weaponising her own pain has more to offer than superficial shock value. Roger Ebert may have called it a “vile bag of garbage,” but academics and grindhouse enthusiasts alike have recognised the undercurrent of warped empowerment, wrapped up as it may be in a problematic politics no less imperfect than the highly personal process of coming to terms with one’s violation. It’s not easy and it’s not always just, but what about that experience is? CB

22. Unhinged (1982)

Directed by Don Gronquist
Passed uncut; released uncut in 2004

Following a car accident, a young girl becomes stranded at a strange house occupied by an even stranger woman and her elderly mother. They run their household like a deranged matriarchy, treating any men in the household as second-class citizens. The odd, emotionally abusive and codependent relationship between mother and daughter is the true horror of the film. Naturally, there is some slashing too. Heavier on atmosphere and general eeriness than it is on gore, Unhinged feels like a low-rent version of The Beguiled. Anna B

21. Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)

Directed by Paul Morrissey
Aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein
Passed with cuts; released uncut in 2006

Never mind the Andy Warhol bit – he showed up once during shooting and once during editing, really just lending his celebrity to the project as a favour to his friend, director Paul Morrissey. Even so, the freewheeling carnality that charged this revisionist interpretation of Mary Shelley’s proto-horror myth (featuring a fetching young Udo Kier as the Baron himself) was very much in keeping with the pop artist’s spirit. An arch sense of downtown-influenced camp blended smoothly with the opulence of the film’s Italian and West German origins, amounting to an over-the-top parody of itself screened in eye-popping 3D just to drive the excess home. CB

20. Pranks (1982)

Directed by Stephen Carpenter
Aka The Dorm That Dripped Blood; Death Dorm
Released with cuts

Coeds getting carved up on campus – if there’s a simpler or more effective set-up for a Video Nasty, we haven’t seen it. Co-written and directed by Jeffrey Obrow and Stephen Carpenter (no relation), Pranks follows four college students who have more than their nerves shredded when they become the target of a faceless prowler. Boasting some decent performances and a neatly-executed third-act twist concerning the killer’s true identity, the film astutely debunks the popular myth that women are more likely to be attacked by strangers than someone they know. AW

19. Cannibal Ferox (1981)

Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Aka Make Them Die Slowly; Woman from Deep River
Passed with cuts; re-released with cuts in 2018

Cleaving to the sick formula set by the previous year’s Cannibal Holocaust, this one takes dimestore anthropology as an excuse to pile on the limb-lopping yucks. It all hinges, rather amusingly, on a young academic who is out scavenging the Columbian rainforests for proof that cannibalism is a myth among indigenous tribes. As punishment for not realising you can’t prove that something doesn’t exist, she and her small gang are fed through the meat-grinder. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that they arrived just after a small-time drug dealer has just finished carving up members of a tribe after he was unable to locate massive quantities of cocaine and emeralds. If you can stomach its weird fixation on castration, then it’s well worth sticking with to see the drug lord cop it in epic fashion. DJ

18. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Released with cuts in 2001

Sure, Ruggero Deodato singlehandedly conceived the found footage subgenre with this faux-realist account of one camera crew’s brutal sojourn into the jungles of the Amazon. But the likes of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity never came close to the extremes he charted during a gruelling production process that really did involve multiple cases of animal cruelty and a possible sexual assault. It’s the tactful strokes of fakery for which the film is remembered – the killings so convincing that the director attracted murmurs that he’d made a snuff picture and was eventually arrested on obscenity and murder charges. The latter rap didn’t stick; the former is fair. CB

17. Death Trap (1976)

Directed by Tobe Hooper
Aka Eaten Alive; Hotel Horror; Starlight Slaughter
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2000

The film Tobe Hooper made after The Texas Chain Saw Massacre couldn’t quite live up to the sheer terror that film elicited, but it’s still worth a look for its amusing premise and carnage level. The setting is a rundown hotel in rural Texas, where runaway prostitute Clara Wood runs into some trouble at the hands of creepy proprietor Judd and his pet crocodile. Her father and sister soon roll into town looking for her, while a local family and their pet dog make the mistake of also checking into Judd’s establishment. Incredibly enough, the film is (loosely) based on the story of Joe Ball, who owned a bar with a resident alligator in Texas during the 1930s and was believed to have fed a number of women to his pet. Features Robert Englund in one of his earliest roles. HS

16. Blood Feast (1963)

Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Released uncut in 2005

All hail Herschell Gordon Lewis, king of the splatter picture. In the early ’60s, he pushed the envelope of how violence would be depicted on screen further than anyone had before, pumping buckets of luminescent dyed syrup out of the gaping flesh wounds on which he trained his eager camera. The plot – a nutso event caterer needs female body parts for a grand sacrifice to the Egyptian goddess Ishtar – serves mostly to guide us from one magnificent massacre to the next. The assorted manglings set off an arms race of gleeful violence that would continue topping itself through the 20th century and beyond. CB

15. Faces of Death (1978)

Directed by John Alan Schwartz (as Conan LeCilaire and later Alan Black)
Aka The Original Faces of Death

Released with cuts in 2003

In a 2002 episode of The Sopranos, mob boss Tony goes to visit his sister and her boyfriend, and reacts with disgust when he sees that they’re watching a tape of Faces of Death. “Was The Sound of Music already rented?” he grimaces. Such is the legacy of John Alan Schwartz’s ‘fauxumentary’, starring Michael Carr as pathologist Francis B Gröss who guides viewers through a tour of the many ‘faces of death’ from flesh-eating tribes of the Amazon to a death row inmate destined for the electric chair. It’s the scenes of animal cruelty (including dog fights and a monkey beaten to death by tourists) that attracted most of the controversy, but Faces of Death’s legacy endures to this day; one of the top search terms for the film is ‘Faces of Death real?’ HS

14. Island of Death (1976)

Directed by Nico Mastorakis
Aka Children of the Devil; Devils in Mykonos; A Craving For Lust
Passed with cuts; refused a video certificate in 1987 under the title Psychic Killer II; released uncut in 2010

In Nico Mastorakis’ shocker, British fugitives Christopher and Celia Lambert (Bob Behling and Jane Lyle) go on a killing spree in Mykonos against those they perceive as sinful. The irony of this being condemned as a Video Nasty is that the murderous couple at its centre are also self-appointed moral arbiters, “punishing perversion” in others, while themselves engaging in acts of voyeurism, adultery, sadism, urolagnia, bestiality, incest, rape and, of course, serial homicide. “We do everything vice versa,” as Celia points out, even as she and Christopher embody the topsy-turvy hypocrisy of our censorious guardians. Anton B

13. Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Directed by Lucio Fulci
Aka Zombi; Zombi 2; The Island of the Living Dead; Zombie: The Dead Walk Among Us; Woodoo; Zombie 2: The Dead Are Among Us; Nightmare Island
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2005

Perhaps the defining work from Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci, Zombie Flesh Eaters is the closest that a European rip-off merchant has come to replicating the operatic and thematically rich undead films of George A Romero. Famous for a sequence in which a sub-aqua zombie is filmed taking a bite out of a shark, the film is largely driven by its innovative gore set-pieces, including one that was heavily cut in which a young woman has a large wooden splinter pressed into her eyeball. It lacks the gloss and dynamism of its US counterparts, but there’s ambition and innovation aplenty, as seen in a climax in which a graveyard of fallen (and hungry) Conquistadors rise again. DJ

12. Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters
Released with cuts in 2005

You might recognise the name Antonio Margheriti – Quentin Tarantino borrowed it for the Italian alias of Donnie Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds, and then had Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Rick Dalton fly off to Italy to make a fictional spy thriller directed by Margheriti, entitled ‘Operazione Dyn-o-mite!’. According to Margheriti (who passed away in 2002) Cannibal Apocalypse was Tarantino’s favourite of his many, many films – and it’s actually pretty good. Norman Hopper (John Saxon) returns from Vietnam having been bitten by a fellow soldier who was being held as a POW, and soon develops a curious craving for human flesh. Less gory than its title suggests, the film Cannibal Apocalypse most closely resembles is Dog Day Afternoon, thanks to an intense shoot-out scene. HS

11. A Bay of Blood (1971)

Directed by Mario Bava
Aka Ecology of Crime; Chain Reaction; Carnage; Twitch of the Death Nerve; Blood Bath
Refused a certificate in 1972; released uncut in 2010

Forget about Psycho and Peeping Tom. The slasher flick – the sort with cabins in wooded seclusion and mischievous teens getting sliced and diced by a masked killer – begins in earnest here. Mario Bava’s early cornerstone of the giallo movement revolves around a verdant inlet where a sinister plot to pick off inheritors to a vast fortune turns the swimming hole beet-red with viscera. All the severed arteries, decapitations, and strangulations were enough to scandalise the censors and inspire a generation of American imitators that eventually came into their own. CB

10. Terror Eyes (1981)

Directed by Ken Hughes
Aka Night School; Psicosis 2
Passed with cuts; released with cuts in 1987

The final film from B-movie veteran Ken Hughes (best known for directing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) contains an exemplary pastiche of the shower scene from Psycho that transitions into one of the most unerotic sex scenes ever committed to celluloid. Yes, Terror Eyes is a mixed bag: as full of head-scratching surprises as it is pulse-quickening suspense. A killer is on the loose in Boston and targeting students at a local night school; their rather niche calling card is to dump the severed heads of their victims in water (a duck pond, a fish tank, etc). A slick slasher whose copybook was only slightly blotted by the censors, who deemed it fit for cinema consumption with only minor cuts. AW

9. The Cannibal Man (1972)

Directed by Eloy de la Iglesia
Aka Week of the Killer

Released with cuts in 1993

Eloy de la Iglesia’s sole foray into horror territory, disappointingly, doesn’t feature any cannibalism. The Cannibal Man follows a butcher who accidentally kills a man, and falls into a murder spree trying to cover up the first killing. The film was heavily censored in Francoist Spain, not so much for the murder bits but rather for the erotic subplot between two men, the murderous butcher and his neighbour (played by Eusebio Poncela, who would become one of Pedro Almodóvar’s collaborators a few years later). The film’s erotic scenes were cut out of the Spanish release, but kept in for the UK one. Anna B

8. The Driller Killer (1979)

Directed by Abel Ferrara
Released with pre-cuts in 1999; now in the public domain

Abel Ferrera directs himself as Reno Miller, a wiry, jittery artist living in the seedy underbelly of 1970s New York. The Driller Killer follows Reno’s descent into debt, drugs, psychosis and violence. The film has far more style than the title evokes and possesses all the sweaty neo-noir grit Ferrera is best known for. For all that it follows a predictable, well-trodden route of a troubled man lashing out, The Driller Killer is quite unlike anything else. It seamlessly and uniquely brings together raucous punk, religious allegory, camp extremism and grungy realism all set to an achingly cool soundtrack. LL

7. Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

Directed by Romano Scavolini
Aka Nightmare
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2015

The incessant seediness of Romano Scavolini’s Nightmare places it comfortably within the ranks of time-honoured Video Nasty, but it also feels like a hat-tip to some of the more extreme work by Alfred Hitchcock. Its focus on cod-Freudian rationale links the killer to perennial mommy’s boy Norman Bates, while his cold, lasciviousness feels like a continuation of the work of Frenzy’s “necktie killer”, Bob Rusk. As a way to test out some experimental drugs, a group of bearded eggheads decide to allow a multiple-murderer back into polite society. They lose him instantly, and following a trip to a New York peep show, our clearly-deranged perp decides to stalk and slash his ex-wife. The psychological pieces don’t quite fit together, but this is a well made and atmospheric slasher bolstered by some strong performances. DJ

6. Tenebrae (1982)

Directed by Dario Argento
Aka Unsane
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2003

Dario Argento’s 1982 return to giallo is one of the most twisted and gorgeous examples of the genre. An American horror author in Rome is caught up with a serial killer who is seemingly inspired by his violent, chauvinist horror novels. Tenebrae is a deeply unsettling and phenomenally sexy film where Argento wrestles with his own complicity in a world filled with unspeakable violence both on and off screen. Though it’s a little baggy towards the end each frame is still filled with Argento’s luscious signature blood-splattered maximalism. LL

5. Nightmare Maker (1981)

Directed by William Asher
Aka Night Warning; Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker
Refused a video certificate in 1987 under the title The Evil Protege; no UK re-release

A homophobic cop investigates a murder he he believes to be part of a gay love triangle gone bad, but the truth is far weirder and more morbid: the culprit is an unhinged psycho-biddy who came on to the victim as a way of sublimating the quivering desire she feels for her nephew, the real hero of our story. He’s torn between normal adolescent horniness, the Oedipal attraction forced onto him, and the intimate bond he feels with his coach (the rare instance of a queer character treated as a person rather than an oddity in ’80s horror) in a nasty stew of confused hormones, brought to a high boil by the jealousy-motivated slayings going on all around him. CB

4. Late Night Trains (1975)

Directed by Aldo Lado
Aka Night Train Murders; The New House on The Left; Second House on The Left; Don’t Ride on Late Night Trains; Last House Part II; Xmas Massacre
Refused a cinema certificate in 1976; released uncut in 2008

If Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left transposed the Swedish medieval rape-revenge of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring to early-’70s New York, then Aldo Lado’s film puts it on board a Christmas Eve train from Munich to Italy. As two teens get raped and killed by a pair of thugs, Lado throws in a bourgeois sociopathic libertine (Macha Méril, extraordinary) to spur the young men on while avoiding the consequences. Lacking Craven’s tone-deaf use of comedy cops and silly music, this is a sober, bleakly mean-spirited affair about class, violence and civilisation’s terminus. Anton Bitel

3. The Evil Dead (1981)

Directed by Sam Raimi
Passed with cuts; re-released uncut in 2001

The film that put rapist trees on the map and made stars out of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, this cabin-in-the-woods classic has endured for a reason and remains perhaps the most infamous of all the video nasties. Made on a shoestring budget in Tennessee by a 13-person crew who were forced to sleep on the set, Campbell described the shoot as “12 weeks of mirthless exercise in agony”, which perhaps explains the resulting gorefest. Five college students head to an isolated cabin for a vacation and discover a copy of the Naturom Demonto in the basement, along with a tape recording of incantations which resurrect a demonic entity. Terror ensues in many creative and gory ways (involving a lot of red food dye and corn syrup and some lo-fi prosthetics which physically injured the actors) until the piece de resistance, a mind-blowing stop-animation scene. The film was a commercial and critical success, and its legacy is a whole host of sequels (official and unofficial), spin-offs, remakes. HS

2. The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

Directed by Matt Cimber
Released uncut in 2016

This dreamy exploration of trauma is buoyed by a wonderful central performance Millie Perkins as Molly, a repressed alcoholic unravelling in a seaside town. The film is shaped to her unreliable perspective and fluctuates between abject revulsion and dispassionate indifference towards the violence she receives and inflicts. Even in the peaks of her derangement there is nuance and immense sensitivity towards Molly. Her story is framed not as a titillating “good girl gone bad” but the nadir of a life filled with abuse, degradation and delusion. LL

1. Possession (1981)

Directed by Andrzej Żuławski
Passed uncut; released uncut in 1999

The Video Nasty list is a great example of what is known in media law as The Streisand Effect. This is when, by attempting to remove images of her Malubi residence from some piddling, nothing publication, she inadvertently ended up drawing undue public attention to them as a result of the ensuing legal proceedings. So many of the films on the “banned” list would’ve slipped quietly into the night were it not for the publicity they received via state censorship, and you can find many of those sat at the bottom of the list. Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession, meanwhile, suffered a somewhat worse fate, in that its reputation was tarred by association to some of the lesser works here.

It’s a film closer in spirit to the darker side of Ingmar Bergman than it is to a cheapjack gore flicks, depicting family break-up and mental breakdown as a symbolic symptom of feeling your body is being invaded by an alien being. Its piece de resistance is a midpoint freakout involving leading lady Isabelle Adjani who descends into a primal screaming fit in an U-Bahn station prior to miscarrying what appears to be an alien foetus. Despite the graphic material and its extremely evocative (and admirably subtle) use of a tentacled monster, this is a film which is not only a great art film, but one of the finest works of cinema to come out of the 1980s. DJ

Published 13 May 2021

Tags: Video Nasties Video Nasty

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