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Depraved DPP Darlings With Damaged Brains - Audience and Appeal

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Posted 19th July 2011 at 04:06 PM by necroluciferia

Given that modern audiences are accustomed to highly sophisticated special effects that were inconceivable even for Hollywood productions 25 years ago, it is a reasonable assumption that today many Video Nasties are difficult to take seriously. Paul Navarro, ex. Film Examiner at the British Board Of Film Classification (BBFC), doubts the films would appeal to many contemporary horror fans, given that they are ‘rather passé by current standards’. The recent efforts from Arrow Film and Shameless Screen Entertainment in re-releasing previous Nasty titles, such as New York Ripper and Inferno, however suggests there to be a market for the films beyond the core nostalgic collectors. I wanted to look at the younger audience for the Video Nasties and examine the appeal of these films today.

While effects have come a long way, Julian Petley notes that some young people are sick of CGI-heavy films and want something with a ‘different kind of artfulness’. Petley likens the youth attraction to Video Nasties to the attraction to prog rock, stating both are more ‘imaginative’ and ‘less derivative’ than many modern mainstream alternatives. While over-produced forms of entertainment have mass appeal, there exists a niche market for more authentic alternatives.

David Hyman, a Film Examiner at the BBFC, argues that the majority of people watching horror films today would not be interested in watching a film from the 1980s with ‘shonky effects’. Whilst remakes are often held in low regard by those who like the original, remakes of Video Nasties such as Last House On The Left and I Spit On Your Grave (ISOYG) could offer some explanation for renewed interest in the original versions. These films have been targeted towards the mainstream horror audience. Particularly in the case of ISOYG, which has been released as a double-DVD complete with the original, it is able to introduce the film to a new generation, some of whom will be inclined to learn of its controversial history and lead them to the DPP list. Danielle Hanley, a 22 year old fan of horror, claims to have based her viewing habits to some extent on the DPP list, however while she has used the list to aid her voyage of discovery, she describes the majority of Video Nasties as ‘not great’.

As Petley points out, the Video Nasties encompass a wide range of films of varying qualities. He describes the effects in Night Of The Demon as ‘laughable’ while arguing that Zombie Flesh Eaters is ‘quite good’ and Evil Dead ‘superb’. While the films can be described as ‘hit and miss’, Marc Morris, producer of Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, argues that if one has an interest generally one will want to see them all. This is variable depending on the level of devotion one has to the genre, however the history of the films, the significance of the DPP list and importance of censorship knowledge makes the Video Nasties a phenomenon that seems to appeal more to people looking to actively engage with the films and associated subcultural activities (for example, collecting, reading genre magazines and engaging with fellow enthusiasts), rather than the casual film viewer. Sixteen year old horror fan, Stefan Wright claims that his current aim is to watch all of the Video Nasties, and describes the act of buying a film and waiting for it to arrive as ‘part of the fun’. This demonstrates how some young people are attracted to the collectability of the films and the act of hunting down every film on the list overshadows the issue of film quality. This makes it difficult to separate the act of watching Video Nasties from the associated subcultural activities. The films seem to hold very little appeal to young people who are casual horror film viewers, while having greater appeal to those interested in exploring the cultural history of the Video Nasties and engaging with the censorship issues surrounding them. While the films are regarded to be of varying quality, their appearance on the DPP list makes them relatively accessible to young horror fans looking for an alternative to the mainstream.
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