Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: The Top 30 Video Nasties, Part 2 (Non-Prosecuted Films)

August 11, 2016 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Before we get going this week, I have something to plug! The very first episode of The Bloody Good Podcast is now live, featuring myself and my friend/co-host Michael Stephens. In the first episode, we talk about Phantasm: Ravager, the revival of Tales from the Crypt, the re-release of several Vestron Video titles and the Pumpkinhead remake.

Last week, we had a brief look at the video nasty phenomenon from the early 80s in the UK. Basically any films deemed obscene were prosecuted, banned or sometimes just confiscated from video store shelves. I presented my picks for the best films that made the DPP’s list of 39 prosecuted films.

This week, we’re looking at the films that made the DPP’s original overall list of 72 films but either weren’t prosecuted or the prosecution attempt failed. So they’re still on the official video nasty list, but actual attempts to go after them didn’t work out well. Which films were the best of the almost banned?

#10: The Funhouse (1981)

This is a movie that starts out well but thanks to a rather silly-looking monster it falls apart by the end. It’s still a decent-enough eighties horror. The movie starts out innocently enough, with a younger kid jumping in on his sister while she’s in…the…shower? Okay, that’s really weird but it was a different time, I guess. After that we finally get to the carnival and it has a tremendous atmosphere. It has everything you’d expect from a carnival: rides, freak shows, contests, and more.

The plot kicks in when the teens decide to spend the night in the fun house, as you do. As I mentioned, it’s a decent film. The deaths aren’t all that interesting, especially considering this movie is a video nasty. It’s a run-of-the-mill slasher with some decent atmosphere and a laughable monster. It’s certainly one of the more puzzling films to make the list.

#9: Contamination (1980)

Okay, this one makes more sense as a video nasty. Contamination is the kind of movie that’s almost solely for the people who are into gore and don’t really care about the somewhat basic story. The special effects in general are pretty good for the time. I really can’t hate a movie with the concept of an alien material that makes you explode if you touch it. Yes, a lot of people’s abdomens burst open spilling their guts everywhere.

After a lot of slow investigating (and a suspense scene that loses its effect due to being too long), the movie gets a little silly when the main creature responsible is revealed. It’s a cyclops-looking thing that belongs in a different movie. Instead it eats a guy with its second mouth and controls others with its eye. It’s definitely a flawed movie, but it does have some definite entertainment value.

#8: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

This one is also known as The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue. The gore is nasty at times but like the film above it, it’s flawed. For starters, it really doesn’t start until fifty minutes in. This is because it wastes time focusing on characters who, honestly, aren’t very interesting or likable. I think they’re trying to go for a bickering couple but the two actually have no chemistry so it doesn’t work.

When the zombie stuff happens, it’s fine. The gore is good (really good, actually) and it features some of the nastier kills in a zombie movie at the time. The ending is kind of a downer, but it’s okay because that’s the logical conclusion for this particular film. It’s a lot better than when a movie throws on a downer ending just to have one, even if it makes little sense.

#7: Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

I’ll start out by saying that this movie isn’t very good. I know you might be wondering why I would even include, but that’s because it’s very entertaining. The voice acting is over the top, as is one of the performance of Franco Garafalo. He absolutely makes the movie for me. You can see him going nuts in the trailer. He has the crazy eyes the entire time and any scene he’s in is instantly better. It’s not great acting but it’s fun.

It’s overall a bad movie with stock footage and stock music (it reuses a Goblin score) but the gore effects are decent and you can’t hate a movie with a hammy performance like Garafalo’s. It’s just a movie that was made to cash-in on the 80s zombie craze post-Dawn of the Dead) and it shows.

#6: Dead & Buried (1981)

You can call this a zombie movie, but that’s not really doing it justice. It’s a film that has reanimated corpses in it, but they’re not the typical zombies you’ve seen before. It’s more about suspense and the conspiracy behind the reanimated corpses than it is the dead rising. A reporter finds out about it and he’s assaulted by a mob before he later gets a needle in the eye to be killed off for real. It’s that last scene that likely contributed to its video nasty status.

It has more of a story than the typical movie of its kind and features strong performances from the cast. It also help that it relies more on building the suspense and the mystery than the kills, although when we do get kills they’re pretty good too. It’s one of the more underrated horror films of the 80s, possibly ever. It’s definitely a movie that you should check out if you haven’t had the chance.

#5: Visiting Hours (1982)

I can only guess that this film made the list due to its violence towards women. Overall, it’s not gory and it relatively tame. However there are some intense moments in which the villain targets women (who are his exclusive targets) and if I were an overbearing super-moral government type, I might consider it worthy of being banned. It shouldn’t have been, neither should any of the films on the list, but I can see why.

As for the film itself, it’s essentially a one-man show. Michael Ironside is the bad guy and he’s terrific. He spends most of the film targeting Lee Grant because she’s a feminist and he’ll kill other people who get in his way or other women just because. The movie also has William Shatner in it, but he always seems out of place and never plays a direct role in the story. It’s a fun, underrated slasher that can be picked up relatively cheap in a two-pack with the equally underrated Bad Dreams.

#4: Don’t Go In The House (1980)

It’s easy to see why this made it. There’s a scene in which a naked woman is set on fire and left hanging and burning for a bit. Outside of that sick scene, we get Dan Grimaldi starring in a character piece about a man who slowly descends into madness. His mother, who tortured him when he was young, dies and he wants to get revenge by settng women on fire. It makes absolutely no sense but it gives us that memorable murder near the film’s opening.

As I mentioned last week, I’m a fan of character-driven horror. If a movie features a strong performance from a somewhat sympathetic character doing horrendous things, I’m on board. This is mostly known for the violence so the performance gets forgotten. I enjoy characters, not cardboard-copy people that I care nothing about. It’s why the early Friday the 13ths are generally considered better than the later ones. It had actual characters being picked off by Jason instead of stereotypes (although there were also stereotypes).

#3: Inferno (1980)

Argento made last week’s list and he makes this one too, because you can’t beat Dario Argento in the 70s and 80s. Inferno is the second of the “Three Mothers” trilogy. It’s inferior to Suspiria but still a very good horror film in its own right. You know it’s a good Italian horror film when it has a tremendous score, and this has one. It’s not Goblin and it still manages to be great. Of course, that’s not all Inferno has going for it.

Like Suspiria before it, it’s a carefully-constructed film with equal moments of suspense and crazy kills. One thing that can always be said about Dario Argento is that he knew how to shoot a death scene, perhaps better than many of his contemporaries. There’s a lot to love form Inferno and given the era of Italian filmmaking it came from, it’s no surprise it made the list.

#2: The Beyond (1981)

Lucio Fulci’s greatest film surprisingly didn’t make the prosecuted films list, although it got close. It’s a movie that features a spider biting a person’s eyeball and the head of a teenage girl is completely blown away with one of the nastiest headshots you will ever see. I’m actually kind of amazing this one managed to get released at all (albeit in 1987 with two minutes cut out) given the atmosphere of the time.

Ignoring the gore, this is also one of Fulci’s most atmospheric movies, with a nightmare ending and several intense moments. It’s light on story, as most of Fulci’s films are, and yet it’s the strongest of his films on that front too. It also, like other films of the film, has a great score. There are other films of his that you may enjoy more like City of the Living Dead or Zombie, but I don’t think anything tops The Beyond.

#1: The Evil Dead (1981)

This one is usually mixed in with the films that were banned when it’s called a video nasty. It was close but apparently attempts to prosecute it when down in flames. I don’t think anyone should be surprised by the film’s inclusion on the list, given it’s intense violence and sometimes extreme gore. All you had to do was see the film’s trailer to know this was going to be very different from the horror fare of the time, even in the early 80s.

As far as quality, you know that already. It’s The Evil Dead. It’s scary, it’s darkly comedic (although not as much as the franchise would get later on) and it introduced the world to Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. It’s one of the greatest horror films of all time and I don’t think there are many who would argue that point.

Ending Notes:

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