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Who turned the lights out?

Just like people who claim they can ‘speak to/for the dead,’ the myth about snuff films runs rampant in our society. On Nov 21, 2002, CBS helped perpetuate that myth by having a crime take place that appeared to be a real snuff film. And it was. They caught the killer, and brought him to justice.

The problem is that snuff films are an Urban Legend, a myth. Basically, pure poppycock.

For the uninitiated: Snuff films depict the killing of a human being — a human sacrifice (without the aid of special effects or other trickery) perpetuated for the medium of film and circulated amongst a jaded few for the purpose of entertainment.

alt.folklore.urban has this to say: “By definition, a snuff film is one in which the film is the *purpose* of (rather than incidental to) the murder and with some intent of commercial distribution (i.e. if they ran out of film, the murder would be postponed until someone could run down to the 7-11 & get more).”

Now that said, people have been killed on camera. In movies, almost all were accidents. And if not an accident, then it’s akin to catching the Rodney King beating. Luck and a video camera. But a snuff film, given that it’s made for the express purpose of entertainment, doesn’t exist. It can’t.

Seriously, lets look at the facts:

1. The death is a) the ‘killing of a human being’ or b) a ‘human sacrifice’.
Okay, that happens all the time. Sorry. People are scarified in odd religions, and people are killed daily. No arguments. So point 1 could happen.

2. The death is ‘perpetuated for the medium of film’.
Whoops. Perpetuated for the medium of film. This means premeditated murder. Okay, so now we’re saying that someone planned a murder and planned to film it. Sketchy. Possible, but exceptionally stupid.

3. The film is intended to be ‘circulated amongst a jaded few’
And if this happened, we’d have heard. Honestly, if the ‘jaded few’ saw a real snuff film, they’d do what Charlie Sheen did when he saw what he thought was a snuff film: turn it in to the Feds. This is very unlikely that a snuff film would be seen by (say) two or three people and they’d never tell anyone. It goes against human nature, unless you’re a fucking psycho, weirdo.

4. The film is made ‘for the purpose of entertainment’.
Smut is in the eye of the beholder. Entertainment, according to Merriam-Webster is “something diverting or engaging: as a) a public performance b) a usually light comic or adventure novel”. Hanging onto that thought, one should assume that the point of making a film for entertainment is to show it to other people. Look at point three again. It’s unlikely anyone would see a snuff film and say nothing. Look at the response to the fake snuff film, Snuff. People flocked to see it!

My conclusion? Possible, but fucking unlikely.

Again, from alt.folklore.urban: “Note to the new reader: please don’t send or post e-mail saying “snuff movies *could* exist, because people are naughty enough” – this is not in dispute; the point is that no examples have yet come to light. Until someone shows evidence of their existence, snuff films are in the same category as UFO’s, the Loch Ness monster, and Bruce Willis’ hair — i.e. “believed false.” “

On the flip side, people claim they do exist. After all, just because we don’t see it on TV, read it in the papers, hear it on the radio (etc.) doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. If someone stole the Mona Lisa, they wouldn’t hang it in a gallery someplace else. And people are sick enough to film torture (Iran is most notable in this, as the Shah has tapes of his secret police torturing people to death. In the USA, we film people being put to death. Other nations have some pretty questionable laws regarding sex (Singapore has the fastest rising HIV+ population, and today when you get off the plane, you can fid sex right around the corner), and it’s not a stretch to believe that one of them may find it okay to torture people on film.

By the way, S&M, while it looks dangerous, is actually safe. Seriously. People don’t have an S&M encounter to get hurt, but to be stimulated. You have to be really bad (or inexperienced) at the methods of S&M to kill someone. Most people start out submissive, and once they can handle that, they might consider being a dominant. But that’s sex, and for another entry.

Let’s look at serial killers. Sure, many of them document their crimes and keep mementos. A couple have been known to film themselves beating their victims. Can we be naive enough to think it hasn’t occurred to one of these people to film a murder? And if so, isn’t it possible one of these films is being circulated?

Okay, sure. And I’m not refusing to believe in their existence. Just that it’s not likely. There are animal snuff films, so why not human?

Mostly because it’s murder. And while every nation has a different view on acceptable sexual practices, most nations with the ability to film, process and distribute a snuff film have harsh penalties for murder.

So what do I think are out there?

  1. News footage and the like in which a death is filmed by happenstance.
    Anyone else see ‘Red Asphalt’ in drivers ed?
  2. Filmed executions.
    If that’s being filmed for entertainment, then we have so sick fuckheads in running prisons. Well, we already do, but still. That’s pushing it.
  3. Adult Entertainment films gone wrong.
    Someone cheerfully attempting autoerotic asphyxiation, for example, and killing himself.
  4. Really good fakes.
    Charlie Sheen, supposedly, was fooled by one of these, and turned it in to the Feds. Good man.
  5. Memento films made by serial killers.
    This is the most likely to exist, and yet in all the documented cases, not one killer has been dumb enough to show himself killing someone on camera.

By no means am I suggesting they can’t exist, as I feel it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a snuff film will turn up one day. The notion that there’s a snuff movie industry is absurd. Consider a film crew, lab techs, sacrificial actors and everyone else who’d have to be involved actual filming a murder, and then selling the product to strangers. On top of that, they’d have to successfully cover up all traces of their handiwork.

Exactly how gullible are we?