20 notorious video nasties

When the advent of the video recorder led to a boom in low-budget horror movies for home rental, moral crusaders were outraged. Many films were banned. This week, 20 years later, they have become available uncut, as a new boxed set shows. Ciar Byrne fast-forwards through 20 of the most notorious offerings
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The Independent Culture

The Evil Dead

RELEASED 1981

Director: Sam Raimi

Plot: Five teenage friends spend a weekend in a cabin in the woods. When they find an old tape recorder and play the tape in it, they unwittingly release demons and, one by one, they start to turn into zombies. Only one of their number is left to battle the evil they have released.

What the critics said: "The ne plus ultra of low-budget gore and shock effects" Variety

What they cut: The censors insisted on cuts that reduced the sight of a pencil twisting in an ankle wound, of a girl chewing off her own hand and of a headless trunk gushing blood. The film was released uncut in 2002.

Zombie Flesh Eaters

RELEASED 1979

Director: Lucio Fulci

Plot: A daughter goes in search of her lost father and together with companions she meets on her journey, travels to a tropical island, where an English doctor is attempting to stem a plague that is turning the inhabitants into zombies who devour human flesh.

What the critics said: "Visceral, gore-filled horror movie owing much to the example of George Romero but made by a director who does not understand that less can be more" Halliwells Film Guide

What they cut: A scene was cut in which a large wooden splinter gets stuck into an eye, as well as scenes of zombies eating human flesh.

I Spit On Your Grave

RELEASED 1978

Director: Meir Zarchi

Plot: Jennifer, a novelist who lives in upstate New York, is gang-raped and beaten by four men. Her novel is destroyed, but when she recovers, she exacts a gory revenge on her attackers.

What the critics said: "Zarchi's only directorial effort is a disturbing, uncomfortable and downright shocking piece of work ... It's a trip into the heart of darkness that will linger in the mind long after its bloody resolution." DVDTimes.co.uk

What they cut: Initially cuts of more than seven minutes were made to excise a gang-rape scene, since reduced to 41 seconds to remove images of a woman being raped over a rock.

Driller Killer

RELEASED 1979

Director: Abel Ferrara

Plot: An artist living in New York is driven mad by the punk band downstairs. In his crazed state, he is driven to killing down-and-outs on the city's streets armed with a power drill.

What the critics said: "Won't be everyone's idea of a rattling good night in, but certainly of historical interest. Cited as one of the archetypal 'video nasties', it provoked many fulminating tabloid headlines in the early 1980s" The Independent

What they cut: The film was originally banned because of a scene in which the murderer drills a hole in a victim's head. It has now released uncut.

Visiting Hours

RELEASED 1982

Director: Jean-Claude Lord

Plot: Misogynistic killer develops a personal vendetta against a female television journalist. He rapes and beats her, but when he realises that she is still alive, he visits her in hospital to finish the job off. William Shatner makes an unlikely brief appearance. The film was criticised by horror fans for its lack of graphic gore.

What the critics said: "A homicidal maniac is at large in a hospital. Tedious shocker wasting a reliable idea" Halliwells Film Guide

What they cut: Details of cuts made to the film are not available.

Tenebrae

RELEASED 1982

Director: Dario Argento

Plot: An American writer is stalked by a serial killer inspired by his work. People connected to the book he is writing are killed off and police begin to suspect a link between the novelist and the murders.

What the critics said: "The one where Dario first pulled off his deservedly famous 'look behind you' shot, Tenebrae is essential viewing for fans of the Italian stallion, thanks to some of his most arterial gore to date" Empire

What they cut: The BBFC cut a scene in which a hand is chopped off with an axe and blood is seen spurting from the stump.

The Killer Nun

RELEASED 1978

Director: Giulio Berruti

Plot: A morphine-addicted nun oversees lesbianism, torture and murder in a hospital. Anita Ekberg, the star of La Dolce Vita, plays the nun, whose behaviour becomes increasingly psychotic.

What the critics said: "This hits all the properly lurid notes. But like many Italian exploitation movies, it's torn between sleaze and artiness" Empire

What they cut: A scene was cut showing the torture of an old woman, including a close up of a needle piercing an eye and a scalpel cutting into her bandaged flesh.

Evilspeak

RELEASED 1981

Director:

Eric Weston

Plot: Occult revenge thriller about a nerdy military cadet who summons demons through his computer and commands them to cast spells on those who have made him a social outcast.

What the critics said: "Professional geek Clint Howard plays one of his more interesting oppressed geek roles ...Though this is essentially a gender-bent rip off of Carrie, there is enough in the way of spooky atmosphere and well-staged shocks to keep less discriminating horror fans interested" Cavett Binion, All Movie Guide

What they cut: The censors cut a scene in which a Black Mass was recited.

Island of Death

RELEASED 1975

Director: Nico Mastorakis

Plot: A young couple wintering on a Greek island at first appear to be reasonably

normal if a little over-sexed, but initial impressions are shattered when Christopher has sex with a lamb and then slaughters it. Strangers end up the victims of torture and murder.

What the critics said: "Sick, weird, crazy, silly, crudely made, swamped by bad songs and badly acted" beardyfreak.com

What they cut: The sight of a woman having her face burnt off with a lighted aerosol, of a sickle blade protruding between a woman's breasts and of a woman being repeatedly kicked by a man.

Cannibal Apocalypse

RELEASED 1980

Director: Antonio Margheriti

Plot: Vietnam veterans who have been starved as POWs return to the US. They have picked up a virus that has turned them into cannibals, a condition which starts to spread through Atlanta, Georgia.

What the critics said: "One of the more engagingly presumptuous video nasties, this whips up ideas from Apocalypse Now and Dawn of the Dead as GIs back from Vietnam turn into rabid gut-munchers. Sleazily demented enough to be great fun if you're in the mood" Empire

What they cut: A scene was cut in which a rat was set on fire with a flame-thrower.

Cannibal Holocaust

RELEASED 1980

Director: Ruggero Deodato

Plot: A film crew making a documentary about cannibalism disappear in the jungle. A year later the footage they shot is brought back to America.

What the critics said: "One of the most notorious and extreme of the Italian cannibal movies that rose to prominence in the 1970s. It's difficult to describe Holocaust's capacity to offend, blending, as it does, rank misogyny, porno-rape fantasy, racism, sadism, cannibalism and real cruelty to animals" Empire

What they cut: Scenes had to be cut that included real cruelty to animals and eroticised sexual violence

Last House on the Left

RELEASED 1972

Director: Wes Craven

Plot: Two men and a woman rape and murder two teenage girls and then unwittingly seek refuge in the house of one of their victims' parents. When the girl's parents discover what their guests have done, they murder them in bizarre ways.

What the critics said: "Low-budget shocker, updating and debasing Ingmar Bergman's Virgin Spring."

Halliwells Film Guide

What they cut: In 2002, this film became a test case for guidelines introduced by the BBFC in September 2000. The Video Appeals Committee reviewed the BBFC's 17 seconds worth of cuts and imposed 28 seconds of cuts after research showed that a majority of people were still concerned about the combination of sex and violence. The banned scenes included a woman forced to urinate, a violent stabbing of a woman and the removal of her entrails and a woman's chest being carved with a knife.

Don't Look In The Basement

RELEASED 1973

Director: SF Brownrigg

Plot: A nurse arrives at an isolated asylum. She soon learns that both the staff and patients are murderous, including the female doctor who is running the establishment.

What the critics said: "Don't ... is pretty representative of grubby, grotty

1970s drive-in movie fare and is occasionally hailed as something of a classic, albeit a very minor one. A negative, bleak movie that's very entertaining and very amusing too, if ... you're that way inclined." thespinningimage.co.uk

What they cut: A scene was removed showing an axe stuck in a nurse's body. Now passed uncut.

The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue

RELEASED 1974

Director: Jorge Grau

Plot: A new batch of experimental pesticides have an unexpected result, bringing the dead back to life to feed on human flesh. The police, however, blame a series of cannibalistic murders on two hippies. This was the only "video nasty" ever set in the UK. Renowned for its huge amount of gore.

What the critics said: "A director with a genuine talent for the macabre mood and unsettling detail" Verina Glaessner

What they cut: The censors objected to the large amount of "munching" - the technical term for zombies feeding on human flesh - and wanted it reduced.

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain

RELEASED 19891

Director: Romano Scavolini

Plot: A mental patient escaped from a hospital kills

innocent people he meets on the streets. There is one family, however, in whom he is particularly interested, but when he attempts to kill them, he begins to encounter difficulties.

What the critics said: "A taut, at times demented Freudian thriller. Disturbing viewing for anyone on heavy medication" movie-gazette.com

What they cut: The censors objected to the large amount of gore, in particular a bloody scene in which a child attacks an adult with an axe.

Don't Go In The House

RELEASED 1980

Director: Joseph Ellison

Plot: A construction worker who was abused as a child, stalks women in night clubs, then takes them home, hangs them upside down and sets fire to them.

What the critics said: "The whole point seems to be the sight of naked, upside-down women being roasted alive, but - as in many similar films of the early 1980s - the victims are so ill-defined as to resist audience identification" Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide

What they cut: Three minutes of footage of a naked girl being set on fire.

The Beyond

RELEASED 1981

Director: Lucio Fulci

Plot: A young woman inherits a hotel in Lousiana. She decides to do a little restoration before realising that it has been built over one of the seven gateways to hell. A series of horrible accidents ensue, and the woman and her lover are attacked by cannibalistic zombies.

What the critics said: "The gory special effects ... are nauseatingly effective, although the script tends to wander and the pacing is a trifle slow" Robert Firsching, All Movie Guide

What they cut: The Beyond was yet another zombie movie that originally had to cut "munching" scenes in which the living dead ate human flesh. It has since been passed uncut.

The Toolbox Murders

RELEASED 1978

Director: Dennis Donnelly

Plot: Another DIY nightmare, in which a madman kills the occupants of an apartment block using the contents of his toolbox.

What the critics said: "Moments of inventive gore can't make up for numerous wasted opportunities, with bland rather than atmospheric interior design, a soundtrack peppered with a pissy synth score and general disregard for dramatic tension" Empire

What they cut: Scenes of sexual violence in which women were being terrorised with no clothes on were cut, including a scene in which a woman is being fired at with a nail gun.

Deep River Savages

RELEASED 1972

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Plot: A photographer is captured in the jungle. When the daughter of the tribal chieftain who find him decides that she wants him for herself, he stays only to find himself set loose against a band of vicious cannibals.

What the critics said: "Forgettable Third World adventure yarn, but it has gained a reputation as the film that laid the template for the Italian cannibal cycle. [It] does have a place in film history, but it's still a rotten movie" thespinningimage.co.uk

What they cut: Nearly four minutes, to remove scenes of real animal cruelty including locking a monkey in a vice and slicing off the top of its head.

Faces Of Death

RELEASED 1978

Director: John Alan Schwartz

Plot: Fake documentary shows the faces of people and animals as they die in a variety of ways. Scenes include the clubbing to death of baby seals, a man setting himself on fire, tourists eating monkey brainds and electrocution as well as a San Francisco cult who eat human organs and satanic orgies.

What the critics said: "The epitome of gross ... but curiosity value keeps the appeal alive" Scott Weinberg, Efilmcritic.com

What they cut: It was banned until 2003, when it was released with more than two minutes of cuts, including scenes in which fighting dogs and monkeys were cruelly beaten to death.

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