Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: Top 30 Video Nasties, Part 3 (Section 3 Films)

August 18, 2016 | Posted by Joseph Lee
The Thing

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

Before we begin, I should remind you that The Bloody Good Podcast is still a thing. In this week’s episode, we talk about the remake of IT, the possibility of David Fincher directing the World War Z sequel and all things Friday the 13th! We’re also officially on Stitcher.

This week concludes our look at the video nasty phenomenon with the best of the Section 3 list. For a film to make this list, it’s a movie that was officially labeled a nasty, but it wasn’t prosecuted for obscenity. Instead it was subject to seizure and confiscation under a “less obscene” charge and copies could be destroyed after they were taken. This list contains a lot of the films you may have heard of as nasties, but weren’t actually on the initial list of 72. So let’s take a look at the best of the nastiest movies according to UK censors!

#10: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

I’m kind of surprised this hasn’t been remade, but I guess it doesn’t have the name value of a Friday the 13th or a Halloween. This film follows a group of high school students called the “top ten”, who are the richest, most popular and snobbiest group of people you’ll ever meet. Someone is really mad at this group of snobs, so they begin offing them in a bunch of grisly ways before we get the shocking twist at the end.

If you’re wondering why a pretty basic slasher movie could end up on any kind of “video nasty” list, it’s because of that poster. Sure, the slasher was a little more violent than others, but that doesn’t matter. It was more or less known that the people confiscating these films weren’t actually watching the films. The box art for this movie features a man getting skewer shoved into his mouth. It didn’t stand a chance.

#9: The Prowler (1981)

This was also known as Rosemary’s Killer in the UK and it featured special effects from Tom Savini. As you probably guessed from The Burning‘s inclusion on the actual list, movies with Savini’s gory effects were frowned upon. So naturally a movie like The Prowler, which features some his nastiest kills, would definitely make the list. It’s one of those that’s kind of shocking that it didn’t get outright banned.

The movie is your average slasher other than the effects, which are the reason to watch. I can’t tell you a single character’s name for this movie without looking it up, but I remember the sickening slit throat with the blade going all the way into the neck. It’s a reasonably fun movie as it was still in that early period of the slasher boom when they weren’t quite cashing in for a quick buck yet and putting effort into the movies.

#8: Friday the 13th

We’re talking about Tom Savini’s gore effects already, so let’s continue that with Friday the 13th. In case you’re wondering, he has four films total spread over the lists, with Maniac also banned but not considered a nasty. He was credited for Nightmares in a Damaged Brain but he’s denied it so that doesn’t count. It’s also a pretty bad movie, only notable for its gore.

This reaches the point of the list in which I’m regurgitating things I’ve said a million times, and it’s pretty early. As a horror fan you should have seen at least the top eight, although I recommend you check out the other two as well. Friday the 13th is one of the most iconic slashers of all time. While it doesn’t hold up as well as other films in its genre (or even its own sequels), it has memorable deaths, an insane performance from Betsy Palmer and it helped cement many of the tropes these films would use (while taking a great deal from earlier innovators). It’s a classic for a reason.

#7: Deep Red (1975)

If this movie seems a little low to you, chalk it up to the fact that I haven’t seen it in years. It’s a Dario Argento film from arguably his best period, so naturally it’s a great giallo movie. As for why it might be picked up for obscenity, you just have to look at how often Argento appears in general. He had two films on the other two lists and another two here. Like Fulci or Savini, it was a master of guilty by association. It was the same way with anything that had a box cover which appeared to show cannibalism. A lot of the times it was little things that had nothing to do with the film’s content.

Deep Red is sort of a mash of earlier Argento and later Argento. It’s styled like the giallo films he made when he was doing Four Flies on Grey Velvet or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but it features more stylish kills like Suspiria or Tenebre. Driving that connection to his later work is the score by Goblin and the more graphic kills than he was using previously. It works as both types of films and I think that’s why it holds up as one of his very best.

#6: Phantasm (1979)

Can you believe that we’re getting a new Phantasm movie later this year and it’s not a remake? Even if it’s terrible (which it could be), it’s pretty awesome that we’ll be able to sit in a theater and watch a brand new entry in this series. Sadly, of course, it will also be the last Phantasm film that isn’t a remake, because Angus Scrimm passed away this year. However Ravager turns out, we’ll always have the original, which is one of the best horror films ever made.

I don’t think I’ve ever been shy of my love of this somewhat conventional horror film. When you really think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Horrific things happen, people die and The Tall Man is creepy, but can you really make heads or tails of the story? It gets even stranger as the series progresses. And yet there is still a loyal, devoted fan base who pick apart the details and ask question after question to figure it out. It’s a great film. As far as why it’s a “nasty”, I would assume the scene with the silver sphere did it.

#5: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

I used to rank this one as the best of Romero’s films, but I’ve grown to love Dawn and even Day more than this. However, that’s not to say Night of the Living Dead isn’t a great film. The story still holds up today even in the diluted zombie genre we have now. This was a groundbreaking movie, without which we wouldn’t have The Walking Dead or World War Z or anything else related to it. No one was clamoring for voodoo zombies like they did the living dead that appeared in Romero’s films.

Night is one of those classic movies that you can watch repeatedly because it never gets old. Even with Judith O’Dea’s questionable performance and the fact that everything that was done in this movie has been done a million times since. It really shows how good a movie is if you can see the same tropes carried over in film after film and you’ll still watch the original. I’ve seen all three of the original Dead films more times than I care to admit. I’ll probably watch them all again and again for years to come.

Oh and because I love you guys, here’s the full film. It’s public domain so I can do that.

#4: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Ten years later came Dawn of the Dead, which I think improves upon Night in many respects. It has better special effects (thanks to Savini), it has a better cast and it has a much better setting to play with. A bigger budget and moving the story to the mall makes it a much more entertaining film to watch, in my opinion. Sure, we have the blue-faced zombies, but it’s really easy to ignore after you see one of them rip a woman’s neck open with a bite.

Dawn of the Dead is the quintessential zombie movie, in my opinion. It seems to get some backlash over the years, either because zombie appearances in general have improved (no argument here) or because all great films get backlash from younger generations. I don’t know, and I don’t care. This movie is great and always will be. It’s far and away George Romero’s best film, and he’s had quite the career of great films.

#3: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

There are some lists that have this as a nasty and some lists that don’t. The official documentary from Severin has it listed so that’s what I’m going with. This movie is a prime example of a movie being banned solely by reputation and the title more than anything else. Anyone who actually sits down to watch this movie knows it’s not as violent as the other films on this list. In fact, it’s a lot less violent than 80% of all of the video nasties, I’d say. There are some kills but they’re mostly bloodless.

When you have a film with the words “Chain Saw Massacre” in the title, you should expect some outcry from people. They don’t even call the new sequels “Chainsaw Massacre” anymore. The last one was Texas Chainsaw and the newest one is using Leatherface again. You can have a chainsaw massacre in your movie if you won’t, but for the love of cinema don’t tell us it’s in there.

#2: Suspiria (1977)

I went back and forth on which one of the top two movies to make my #1. Honestly, I think it’s going to come down to personal preference for a lot of you and I might even change my mind in the future. They’re pretty close. Dario Argento’s last film in this retrospective is one that I’ve said on several occasions is his best. It has everything you’d expect from an Argento film and then some. It has scary moments, gory murders and is beautifully shot. I’m still anticipating Synapse’s blu-ray release so I can see those vivid colors in HD.

Suspiria remains Argento’s best film because it has all of the best elements from his earlier and future works. Score by Goblin? Check. Stylish kills? Check. Crazy gore? Double check. On top of that it has a fun story and kickstarted my favorite series of Italian films, the “Three Mothers” trilogy. I can’t praise this movie enough and if for some reason you never got around to watching it, find the uncut version and enjoy yourself.

#1: The Thing (1982)

Like I said, it was really close. In the end I had to go with John Carpenter’s The Thing, a movie that somehow gets better every time I watch it. There’s not a single moment of this movie where I’m not enjoying myself. If you pick an aspect of it, I like it. I love the cast. I love the special effects. I love the score, the direction, the script. I love the fact that the blood test scene can still make me jump no matter how many times I watch it and expect it. Even 34 years later, it’s still one of the greatest of its genre.

As for why it made the video nasties list when no other John Carpenter movies did, it should be obvious. The special effects made for some incredibly nasty gore. I have a feeling this one did get watched, because it was a big Hollywood production. Or maybe one of the crazy effects made the box cover and some dumb UK cop picked it up just because. Either way, this is one of those movies you can point to as a remake done right and a movie from its time period that absolutely holds up today.

Ending Notes:

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Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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