Snuff Movie

Snuff Movie


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Horror auteur Boris Arkadin has lived in seclusion since 1975, withdrawing himself and his films from circulation after his heavily pregnant wife was murdered by a Manson Family type group. Now he has recruited a few actors to reenact the murders.

A sick and twisted psychodrama with a mise-en-abyme deconstruction, Snuff Movie quickly emerges as the antithesis to writer/director Bernard Rose's earlier stabs at exploring contemporary myths through the horror genre.

Where 1992's Candyman - shot on film and for a major studio - endeavoured for versimilitude and suspension of disbelief on the part of the spectator to establish the reality of its titular character, Snuff Movie - shot digitally and independently with Romanian locations doubling for Home Counties Hammer-house and originally going by the Vertovian name of Man With A Movie Camera - constantly asks us to question the truth of what we are seeing and to reflect upon the way in which violence is represented cinematically.

All very laudable and intellectually worthwhile, no doubt, but it doesn't really work as the "late nite romp" entertainment it is being billed as here.

Of all film genres, horror and pornography - which Snuff-Movie plays with, albeit in the careful, tasteful softcore way implied by the presence of a Playboy Playmate (Teri Harrison, Miss October 2002, trivia fans) among the cast - must be hardest to square with modernist anti-illusionist aesthetics, being fundamentally bodily and cathartic forms: By definition the horror film that is obviously "only a film" - to riff on the oft-used Last House On The Left strapline - is likely to be a failure in terms of audience sensation. So too the porn film where the illusion that these people are really fucking one another and enjoying it rather than going through the mechanical motions for the money, is seen through.

Brechtian-style distanciation thus soon emerges as lazy, double-faced strategy on Rose's part: If something is unconvincing, it was meant to be, laying bare the device, speaking as if in quotes and all that film theory doublethink.

Or, to give one concrete example, we're told the murders happened in 1975, with the infant Marco Arkadin being cut from his heavily pregnant mother's stomach. The main action takes place on the eve of Marco's 14th birthday, placing the time as 1989. But all the technology is of solid 2004 vintage, reliant on the omnipresence of mobile phones, webcams and internet access. It's not conscious anachronism, just very sloppy.

And, in any case, post Peeping Tom, Last House On Dead End Street, Snuff, Boy Meets Girl, Funny Games, My Little Eye, Last Horror Movie et al what is the point of Yet Another Oh So Clever Self-Referential Horror Movie? Haven't we now moved beyond Arendt's "banality of evil" to Baudrillard's "evil of banality"?

Give me an early John Waters any day: at least with Multiple Maniacs or Pink Flamingos you knew the Manson references and "kill everyone now" sloganeering were nothing more than a desire to shock. Here you're not so sure how serious Rose really is. If this is what his "film is dead, long live cinema" manifesto comes down to, then stop the future I want off...

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2005
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Snuff Movie packshot
Psychodrama by horror auteur Boris Arkadin.
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Director: Bernard Rose

Writer: Bernard Rose

Starring: Jeroen Krabbe, Lisa Enos, Hugo Myatt, Joe Reegan, Teri Harrison, Alastair Mackenzie

Year: 2005

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK and Romania


EIFF 2005

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