Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The meaning of Snuff?

I received a call for papers for a conference on the Snuff film, which I’m thinking of sending in a proposal for, around snuff aesthetics in Argento's The Card Player.

How do you think Snuff is defined, or what meaning do you attach to the term?

My own understanding would be something like the deliberate killing of another person on camera for personal gratification and/or profit. But I don’t know where that places, say, jihadist execution footage in that it is politically motivated.



Don said...

Have you read David Kerekes' 'Killing for Culture'? The book is a very thorough examination of the "myth" of the snuff film while also covering mondo films and examples of actual death caught on video. It's a really interested read about the darker side of cinema and Kerekes ultimately concludes that the snuff film (as he defines it, which would include an underground market for such things) does not exist.

However, reading about Luka Magnotta (the Canadian foot mailer) videotaping himself dismembering his victim and posting it online... well, that seems like a "snuff film" to me.

K H Brown said...

Yes, I've got the Kerekes book. There's a new version of it out now/soon which I think is going to consider the Internet and its impact. It's also strange reading what he has to say about Last House on Dead End Street now, given the subsequent discovery of Roger Watkins and the film being issued on DVD.

docvoltage said...

I personally would define “real snuff” as visual recording of intentional murder in the context of sexual gratification. The gratification is experienced by the murderer and viewer. The killing is a climax, not a means to an end.

That rules out mondo films, fake murder, accidental asphyxiation, necrophilia where arousal does not take place until after the murder, concentration camp footage, and Faces of Death..

I disagreed with Kerekes’ book then as I do now, that “snuff” films do not exist. Unfortunately, there is no depravity to which mankind will not stoop. Yaron Svoray’s “Gods of Destruction” is equally unsubstantiated but an interesting read nonetheless.

As a film genre, it’s a different story altogether, as you already imply when you say “snuff aesthetics”. It typically includes elements of:
--the mystery (who made it?)
--the police procedural (the footwork to solve the mystery))
--the suspense thriller (the dangers faced while doing the footwork)
--the conspiracy (uncovered over the course of the story, usually with a “this thing is much bigger than you are” climax)
--and the melodrama (emotional involvement in the fate of the victims by the main characters)

There’s also the crudest of torture porn (e.g. Amateur Porn Star Killer 1-3, etc.), which I personally think is just too dumb to discuss.

K H Brown said...

Thanks for your comments docvoltage.

I’m not too sure on the sexual gratification aspect of “real snuff” on the part of the producer/murderer, in that they might be doing for it profit. Though obviously you could argue that that is a kind of sublimation of the sexual element.

I will have a look at the Svoray book – thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I’d agree there have now been instances of people making snuff movies; it’s almost as if the concept of snuff would inevitably lead to its actualisation, as a self-fulfilling prophesy.

docvoltage said...

You are quite right to consider the profit motive. I was limiting my thinking to the "auteur" doing this for self-gratification. Undoubtedly, a "snuff factory" would be an entirely different corporate beast.

Anonymous said...

What about Islamic terrorists filming their executions? That would qualify.