OUTSIDE EDGE / Jim White on the videos from hell

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The Independent Culture
Nigel Wingrove is addicted to the big screen, hence the size of his telly, a giant parabolic number which takes up most of his tiny Soho flat. On this Wingrove can attend to his fancy: erotic movies soaked in blood - preferably female. On the shelves skirting the flat he has hundreds of videos from which to choose, most of which include words like chain- saw, serial, nympho or necro in their title.

'I call it tongue in a rotten cheek,' he says of his interest. 'I like films that are so camped up they are bordering on the farce.'

Last year, Mr Wingrove started marketing videos of old bad-taste movies, repackaged under his own label, Redemption. Almost immediately he found fellow gore-enthusiasts coming out of the woodwork and into video stores. In less than 12 months, he shifted 40,000 units and prompted the head of the HMV retail chain to remark that Redemption would turn out to be the cult video-seller of 1994.

'It's a kind of antidote to the po- faced film-making in the Eighties,' says Mr Wingrove. 'Some of it is incredibly un-PC: Sado-mania, Bare Behind Bars. I think there has been a reaction to this mainstream blandness and it is that I am tapping into.'

Mr Wingrove has been intrigued by things gore-full ever since he became one of the original punks in 1976, started a fanzine called Stains, hung out with the Banshees and tried not to go out in daylight. When punk expired, his taste did not, and he started to make films to cater for it.

His first - a 10-minute piece of 'very weird, very art-school' erotica - he put out on video. Encouraged by 600 sales, he mortgaged his flat and made a second, called St Teresa of Avilla, which became the first ever video to be banned from a classification on the grounds of gross blasphemy.

'Unfair, of course,' he claims. 'But my whole little world collapsed, my flat was re-possessed.'

While trying to pay off his debt by designing magazines like Nursing Times and The Lancet (he ran photos of operations very prominently), he came up with the idea that other people's film-making might prove more profitable.

'I knew there was a healthy interest out there in the macabre,' he recalls. 'So I persuaded someone to lend me 20 grand and bought out the rights to a load of classic sleaze epics.'

Using his eye for design he repackaged films like Salon Kitty, Venus in Furs and Killer Nun, persuaded HMV to take them on trial and watch them fly out of shops with the speed of damsels chased by red-hot pokers.

'I've been to loads of horror film screenings where you see a fair proportion of Goths, a sprinkling of censorship train-spotters, working out to the second how much has been cut, but the majority there love film. These are our market. It's the punk heritage.'

Indeed, things came full circle last autumn, when Wingrove returned to his first love and launched a fanzine for the gore- gorging classes, called Redeemer. Glossy, well-designed and expensive ( pounds 3.50) it is full of minutely researched articles on film, adverts for specialist clothing companies and fashion spreads featuring decapitations, floggings and bare- breasted female vampires awash in blood. Inevitably, it sold well.

'I'd hate you to think of it as just horror,' says Wingrove of his increasingly profitable obsession. 'I prefer to think of it as something slightly more elevated: art horror if you like.'