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From Banned to Beloved: My Ten Favourite Video Nasties

Ah, the 80s, a decade filled with memories of good times and nostalgic charm. Yet, even in those seemingly carefree days, not everything was perfect. As an ardent lover of the 80s, I hold it dear to my heart. However, it's essential to acknowledge that the era had its dark side – a side that can only be described as 'Draconian.'

During my childhood, as I embarked on my journey of discovering horror, I witnessed news reports and read newspaper headlines about a scandal that shook the country: The Video Nasties. These were horror movies deemed too obscene for public consumption. It was during this time that Britain's notorious reputation for being a fiercely censorial country took shape.

Whether it was my burgeoning love for horror or my experiences growing up with a parent who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I developed a deep disdain for censorship. This, in turn, sparked my fascination with the infamous 'Video Nasties List': a compendium of horror movies considered vile and dangerous.

While moral busybodies protested and defamed these films and their directors, and politicians appeared on television claiming that these movies were harmful to our children and even our dogs (yes, seriously, look it up), a thriving underground market kept these video nasties alive. Despite countless police raids on video stores and arrests of bootleggers at conventions, these films found a way to persist. The allure of the forbidden birthed a black market that could not be destroyed.

As a teenager, I finally obtained a copy of that notorious list of movies. Soon after, I experienced my first taste of a video nasty: 'The Evil Dead.' Little did I know, it would mark the beginning of a lifelong appreciation for these films and an expansion of my horror knowledge.

While some movies from that list remain banned in the UK even today, it hasn't deterred British horror fans and collectors from obtaining these cinematic treasures (alongside numerous others that make even the most hardcore video nasties look like a Disney movie). I've devoured countless documentaries and books about the video nasties scandal, immersing myself in as much content as possible. Although I'd love to delve into the subject in depth, for this post, I'll focus on listing my ten favorite movies from the video nasties list.

So, without further ado, let's explore my personal top ten video nasties, the films that have left an indelible mark on my horror-loving soul.



Before we proceed, it is important to address the variations in the number of movies associated with the Video Nasties list. Over the years, the reported count has fluctuated, with sources mentioning figures ranging from 39 to 72. During my teenage years, it was commonly believed that the list comprised 74 movies.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on the 72 movies that are widely recognized as part of the official Video Nasties list. However, it's worth noting that while some films, such as 'Xtro' and 'Shogun Assassin,' are often associated with the video nasty era, they were not officially included in the list. Therefore, they will not be featured in my top ten.

With that clarification in mind, let's delve into my selection of the top ten video nasties.



When I first came across the Video Nasties list, "Don't Go in the House" wasn't one of the films that immediately captured my interest. The title lacked allure, and there were no captivating stories or urban legends associated with it. However, a few years back, thanks to the wonderful folks at Arrow Video, it finally emerged from the cave of banned movies and found its way into the hands of the public with a fresh 18 certification.

Being a film I hadn't seen and with the DVD reasonably priced, I decided to give it a chance—and I'm genuinely glad I did.

The premise of the film is deceptively simple: What if Norman Bates worked at a factory instead of a Motel, and what if he had his own walk-in incinerator?

With that premise alone, you have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. In fact, when I sat down to watch it, I had no prior knowledge of the plot. I went into it completely blind, and I suggest you do the same if you haven't already seen the movie but are intrigued.

Now, let's be clear—it's not a hidden masterpiece, nor is it as shocking as some of the other films on the Video Nasties list. In fact, I wouldn't even classify it as a good movie. But for some inexplicable reason, it pleasantly surprised me, and I've encountered movies that are a million times worse (don't get me started on 'Don't Go Near The Park'). Since laying eyes on this flick, I've developed a peculiar appreciation for it.

While I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it and urge others to watch it, if it ever came up in conversation, I wouldn't hesitate to admit that it's a bad movie—but a bad movie that is still worth giving a chance.



Just like many horror enthusiasts, I was introduced to the works of director Wes Craven through his notorious stalk 'n' slash movie "A Nightmare on Elm Street." While I was aware of the existence of the Video Nasties, at the time, I had no knowledge of the specific titles on the list or any idea that Wes Craven had directed one of them.

When I came across the list of movies deemed too damaging by the UK government, one title immediately caught my attention: "Last House on the Left." There was something incredibly captivating about it, and I yearned to know more. Keep in mind, this was in an era devoid of the internet and smart devices.

A few years later, while working in a store, a colleague shared their interest in the video nasties. Although they hadn't seen many of them, they expressed a desire to watch "Last House on the Left," driven by their admiration for Wes Craven and the intriguing plot they had heard about. As they recounted the story to me, my curiosity intensified, and "Last House on the Left" became one of the video nasties I was most eager to see.

Fortunately, a few weeks later, my sibling started a job in a factory where one of his co-workers happened to be a bootlegger. This newfound connection granted me the opportunity to finally watch "Last House on the Left"—and it was nothing like I expected.

The movie unfolds the tragic tale of a couple who are proud parents to a lovely teenage daughter. After their daughter and her friend fall victim to a band of criminals, enduring a horrifying ordeal of rape and murder, the criminals find refuge with a kind couple for the night. Unbeknownst to the criminals, the couple they seek shelter with are none other than the parents of the girl they brutalized. A quick change takes hold as the parents discover the truth and their desire for revenge emerges.

"Last House on the Left" doesn't hold back. It avoids any attempts to present a glossy or sanitized version of the story. Instead, it remains grimy and dirty from start to finish, a film that would feel right at home in the grind-house on 42nd Street. However, occasional moments with bumbling police officers inject humor into the narrative and tonally clash with the rest of the film—an aspect that, to this day, remains rather odd and out of place.

But if you can overlook these moments, what remains is an intense story with strong themes and unsettling visuals that come together to tell a truly powerful tale.



"The Burning" was one of the Video Nasties that I had the opportunity to view quite early on in my exploration of the infamous list. Thanks to a brick-and-mortar store run by a bootlegger in the late nineties, not far from my home, I was able to obtain copies of several of these films that I could 'borrow'.

Once again, I went into "The Burning" blind, and I'm grateful that I did. If I had spoken to someone who had already seen it, they might have dismissed it as a mere rip-off of the beloved movie "Friday the 13th." However, such a description would oversimplify this fantastic little gem.

Yes, it follows the typical formula of a stalk 'n' slash flick, driven by its plot and populated with teenage characters who may fade from memory once the credits roll. However, "The Burning" stands out due to its beautiful production and cinematography, with the cast delivering entertaining performances. Adding to its allure, the king of horror movie special effects at the time, Tom Savini, is responsible for the blood-soaked splatter that graces the screen throughout the runtime.

"The Burning" deserves just as much praise as the original "Friday the 13th," which was released a year prior. It's worth noting that both films were filmed at the same time and in close proximity to each other, with only a lake separating their production locations.

To simply dismiss "The Burning" as a rip-off would undermine its quality and unique contributions. It holds its own as an exceptional addition to the genre, showcasing craftsmanship and performances that deserve recognition.


TENEBRE (1982)

"Tenebre" wasn't merely another film to tick off my list of Video Nasties. It marked my introduction to the brilliant Italian director Dario Argento and the captivating sub-genre of Giallo.

What initially piqued my curiosity was not only the allure of discovering how the title was pronounced but also the striking poster art. The iconic depiction of a woman with pale, porcelain-like skin, juxtaposed with a thin sliver of deep red blood trickling around her neck, drew me in. Little did I know that the movie itself was subject to censorship and heavy restrictions. The poster, too, faced alterations, covering the small trickle of blood with a large red ribbon tied in a bow, creating an even more sinister effect.

"Tenebre" almost feels like someone took an episode of "Columbo" and infused it with violence, gore, and surrealism. The film follows an author who, while promoting his latest book, is asked to assist the police in capturing a brutal killer who leaves pages from the author's own book in the mouths of the victims. With Dario Argento's artful eye, the presence of B-movie legend John Saxon (also known for his role in "A Nightmare on Elm Street"), and a haunting score by the band Goblin, "Tenebre" weaves a narrative with twists and turns that bend more than a bunch of freshly cooked spaghetti.

While not all the twists and turns immediately make sense, they do not diminish the overall storytelling experience. Argento's dedication to exploring the "Shadow self" of his characters is executed to perfection. Even after multiple viewings of this great movie, I find myself enthralled by its masterful execution.

"Tenebre" holds a special place in my heart, as it introduced me to the mesmerizing world of Dario Argento and the allure of Giallo cinema. Its stylish direction, intriguing plot, and exploration of the human psyche continue to captivate me, ensuring that my fascination with "Tenebre" never wanes.



That's right. "The Evil Dead," the film that ignited my fascination with the video nasties.

"The Evil Dead" goes beyond being just a run-of-the-mill nasty. It stands as an iconic piece of horror cinema, catapulting director Sam Raimi and leading man Bruce Campbell to fame. This little indie movie took the horror genre hostage and revealed what Hell truly looks like.

When I stumbled upon the film, it wasn't through a bootleg copy. At the time, "The Evil Dead" had managed to avoid prosecution under the obscene publications act, resulting in a heavily edited version being released to the British public. It was this edited version that I discovered amidst the dust and broken clamshell boxes of a second-hand store, acquiring it and viewing it—despite being clearly underage and the transaction being illegal.

Even with the censorship, "The Evil Dead" scared the living shit out of me. I couldn't believe what I had witnessed. It was terrifying, shocking, and dark, and it left me yearning for more.

Years later, I had the opportunity to borrow a fully uncut version of the movie from the bootlegger I mentioned earlier. Taking it home and devouring it immediately was a joyous experience, especially since I had become a fervent fan of "The Evil Dead" series by that point. Finally seeing the film in its uncut glory was nothing short of magnificent.

"The Evil Dead" is a truly ground-breaking movie that left an indelible impact on the horror genre. Sam Raimi's unique vision and creative shooting methods make it a classic that, hopefully, will never fade into obscurity.



"Fight For Your Life" is one of the intriguing cases within the video nasties list, as it falls outside the realm of horror but still found its place among the infamous damned movies.

My journey with this film led me to a German Hardbox DVD of "Fight For Your Life" available for purchase on eBay. Despite its higher price, I couldn't resist the temptation and promptly ordered it. As soon as the DVD arrived on my doorstep, I knew the rest of the day would be dedicated to this anticipated viewing.

Upon the film's conclusion, I was left exhilarated. It surpassed my initial expectations.

"Fight For Your Life" remains banned to this day, and if it were to receive certification, the moral busybodies of today would undoubtedly launch a full-scale assault on anyone daring to utter a positive word about the movie.