REVIEW: VIDEO NASTIES – THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE PART 2 – DRACONIAN DAYS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JAKE WEST / SCREENPLAY: JAKE WEST / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Jake West has followed up his excellent documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2011), with a juicy sequel focused on the repercussions of the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the continued demonization of horror movies by the British press, ignorant MPs and clueless Johnny Law. Unlike some of the participants, often featured in archived clips, the documentary is critical but open to the opinions of both sides of the argument. It leaves those spouting the most outrageous and ill-informed nonsense to hang themselves.
The film’s remit is to investigate how the classification process became an even more draconian form of movie censorship than known previously. The BBFC, it can be argued, made the rules up as they went along. How do you define and measure potential harm, exactly? The genius of the BBFC’s argument in the post-video nasties era was based on a premise of home invasion. Horror titles could be accessible to kids and their minds warped forever, thus precipitating the collapse of British society and moral standards. Yep, it really must have sucked being a horror fan in the 1980s and 1990s.
Given the shrill and cynical manner in which the news media reported all things ‘video nasty’, you’d be mistaken in believing watching a horror movie turned you into a depraved criminal. It’s a pretty big and presumptuous call to suggest the masses cannot tell apart fantasy from reality. The BBFC’s policies had an unintended result, however: the formation of an enterprising, rebellious subculture, where collectors traded uncut horror movies through fanzines and at various organised events. They stuck it to the Man!
Class prejudice has always been a mainstay of British film censorship. In the early days, politics and religion were the big no-no. As the times changed, snooty attitudes remained the same. According to the BBFC, sex and violence on the big screen would lead us down the road to social chaos. But they ventured even further into the realms of generalised lunacy. Who knew how the uneducated might react if they watched a Ninja Turtle use a string of sausages as a martial arts weapon?! The BBFC quantify it as ‘imitable techniques’. Yes, even a movie that featured talking ninja turtles was trimmed for its UK release.
Watching Video Nasties: Draconian Days, it’s hard not to feel angry and depressed about what has happened in this country over the past thirty years. Movies do not define social ills, they reflect them. Can the BBFC and those in power not tell the difference?