During the 1980s, when movies first entered homes via VHS tapes, bannings and censorship became rampant in many parts of the world. Perhaps the most well-known of these censorship movements was the United Kingdom’s “video nasties”, a list of 72 horror movies that were in some way censored. Some of the titles were just forced to make censorship cuts, and others were deemed illegal to release and own. For more on the history of the “video nasty” list, click here. There is also a two-part documentary on the “video nasties” from Severin Films.
Thought to be too dangerous for the public to view, a handful of films on the list have gone on to become horror classics like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and EVIL DEAD. But other movies on the list received less notoriety and have since fall into obscurity. Let’s look over 10 great horror films on the “video nasty” list that are lesser-known but certainly worth viewing.
THE BLACK ROOM (1982)
A man (with a wife and family at home) decides to rent an apartment to partake in sexual escapades, but his partners keep disappearing. His wife soon discovers the truth about his rental pad, and together they uncover secrets about the strange landlords.
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)(COVER PHOTO)
Most horror fans point to Lucio Fulci’s THE BEYOND and ZOMBIE 2 as the best of his career. HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is different from Fulci’s established zombie-esque style, rooting itself slightly more as a haunted house film with overt nods to FRANKENSTEIN. Of course, because it is Fulci, the movie has some hyper-gory and violent death scenes which is what landed it on the “video nasties” list.
NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING (1982)
There is so much weird sexuality in this film! NIGHTMARE MAKER is set up like an Oedipus-style story to begin with, including an incestuous aunt, homophobia, a love triangle, and also ample murder. Plus, this is one of Bill Paxton’s earliest films.
KILLER NUN (1979)
KILLER NUN is remarkably tame compared to a lot of the titles on the “video nasties” list and is a fascinating commentary on both psychology and religion. After having a brain tumor removed, a nun (played by Anita Ekberg) undergoes personality changes. She is no longer engaged in her religious beliefs and instead, develops lesbian feelings. But could she also be a murderer and have no recollection of the crimes? KILLER NUN was dropped on the banned list for heavy sexuality.
DEAD AND BURIED (1981)
This Gary Sherman film is one of my favorite movies. It is chilling with stellar twists and turns. Plus, it is written by Dan O’Bannon alongside Ronald Shusett, and the special effects are by Stan Winston! Tourists begin disappearing in a small New England town, and the local sheriff goes on a quest for the killer and his motive. DEAD AND BURIED made the “Video Nasty” list due to the violence and gore.
MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)
There are many films that were “banned” under the video nasties rulings that just don’t seem that bad. Then there are some like MARK OF THE DEVIL which is a parade of torture, gore, and obscenity, making it quite clear why it was deemed inappropriate. Udo Kier plays a witch hunter who, along with some other church cronies, tortures suspected witches. In a savvy marketing move, theaters passed out MARK OF THE DEVIL themed vomit bags during the original theatrical run.
This is one of the first cinematic occurrences of evil infiltrating the internet. The internet was not quite a thing at the time, but a dead Satanist uses a computer network to team up with a teenage outcast (played by Clint Howard) to take out revenge on asshole schoolmates. EVILSPEAK made the banned list due to its Satanic themes and gory climax. Supposedly, the Satanic Church’s High Priest, Anton LaVey was a big fan on this movie.
FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN aka ANDRY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN (1973)
Directed by Paul Morrissey (who helmed several other Warhol projects), this follows the “Frankenstein” story, but with a lot more sexuality. The movie was originally given an “X” rating due to the heavy sex and gore, which includes multiple disembowelments. The gore was also exacerbated during the film’s original 3D theatrical release, employing a device I can only describe as an “exploding organ cam”. This movie is worth a viewing just to see Udo Kier say “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life… in the gall bladder!”
THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1979)
The poster for this movie is totally badass. It looks straight out of HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE or like a Molly Hatchet album cover. The movie itself is fascinating, but in a completely different manner than the poster, focusing on a woman who suffers sexual abuse as a child and now takes revenge on men she meets while waitressing in a small seaside town. This one was shot by famed cinematographer Dean Cundey.
This is one of the early films directed by Charles Band (who would go on to create Full Moon Pictures), and it stars actress Demi Moore in her first film roll! In a post-apocalyptic world, criminals accidentally create a deadly parasite which escapes and infects a scientist and a gang of street thugs. This is a total B monster movie, but it is a lot of fun! PARASITE was also shot in 3D meaning there are a lot of random items propelled at the camera.