What Is a Snuff Film?

Have you ever watched a snuff film? Or else you are reading this term for the first time? Whatever it is, I am going to give a clear explanation in this article about snuff films. Hope you found it informative.


‘Snuff’ is a movie genre. A snuff film is a film that records an actual murder that took place solely for the purpose of that film. In case of giving definition, I have to say, the content of any filmed or recorded footage specifically commissioned by a paid client to depict an actual on-screen murder.

Maybe you are thinking is it ethical or legally accepted to record such footage? Well, while many will consider these examples shocking and disgusting, they are usually not illegal. It’s the criminal element behind the recording for business purpose. It’s a business transaction or can be said a distribution network for those clients who want to see this type of footage.

Origin of the Term

The word ‘snuff’ refers the meaning to kill someone. It existed before the inclusion of the film genre rubric in English. Ed Sanders used the term snuff film in his 1971 book, ‘The Family’ The book was about the story of Charles Manson’s Dun Buggy Attack Battalion. The Manson family spread rumors that someone had murdered, acted and buried the film in the desert. No one else found the film later.

History Behind Making Snuff Films

There are some people who enjoy watching people die, mostly psychopaths, who used to record their own crimes. As a result, they can relive their experiences. In 1964, Serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka in 1970 recorded, their sexual abuse and murder. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, British police acknowledged the existence of child snooze films made in Russia.

It appeared as a movie genre in the late 70′ s and shows the allegedly real, often cruel killing of people. More recently, a growing number of short video clips have been distributed via the internet, which also belong into this category and were clearly recognized as fictional on the basis of technical details by two study groups at the 80th Annual Meeting of the German Society of Legal Medicine held in Interlaken from 25 to 29 September 2001.

By means of a brief review of film history the article shows that “snuff movies” originated from a certain prevailing trend, examples of which are the murder of the actress Sharon Tate by the group around Charles Manson. With the progress of horror movies, a promotional campaign for a film which flopped in 1971 (renamed several times by the distribution company from “American Cannibal” to “Snuff” to “Big Snuff”) and elements of urban legends.

Retrospectively there are no clues that Snuff films could openly distributed and actually available to the public, which were not private documentations found by the police at the homes of killers during investigations of homicides -show real killings.

False Snuff Films

Most snuff films that circulate, however, are fake. Capitalizing on the Manson rumors, faked snuff films began to spread out in the 1970s. Low-end film producer Allan Shackleton, using the promotional line “Made in South America—Where Life Is Cheap,” released Snuff, in which a faked death was added to the end of a tacky slasher film, previously titled The Slaughter. South American director Cláudio Cunha made Snuff, vítimas do prazer  in 1977, and the Italian director Ruggero Deodato released Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 with a murder scene so realistically filmed that authorities questioned him about whether or not it was faked. Yes, It was!

Other fake snuff films appeared every so many years, including the series of Guinea Pig films made in Japan in the 1980s and early 1990s. These films were with the amateur quality imagined to belong to the authentic snuff film and show the slow torture and murder of female victims. The films were so realistic that they inspired the Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki and caused the actor Charlie Sheen to call the police convinced he had seen a real snuff film. The incidents then inspired an episode of the television program Law and Order. Really horrifying!!! isn’t it….?

Horror King Wes Craven made a documentary about the making of The Evolution of Snuff in 1978. Besides, Final Cut (1993), Snoop Killer (2003), and 8 MM (1999), directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Nicholas Cage, are all films built around the invention of Snuff filmmaking. As such, trying to determine which snuff film is actually the original snuff film.

There is no doubt that with the help of advanced digital technology there can be fake snuff film, which is portrayed more realistically. But the real death shock imagined in the old snuff film will always come into question with this kind of real technology.


As filmmakers have no access to create genuine snuff, what has come to be the snuff aesthetic lacks any real referent; despite its attempts at “realism,” How Snuff images are not actually in these films make sure the original, rather they just adhere patterns of “realism” or “movies of attractions” that have long been a part of film history.