Sunday, 18 May 2014

Snuff 102


Snuff is cinema’s most controversial and disturbing concept. It originally got it’s name after a police raid on Sesame Street found a collection of videos tapes documenting Mr. Snuffleupagus’ years of abuse and murder. Unable to convict due to federal laws not applying to fictional species’ Mr. Snuffleupagus still works to this day and is suspected for the disappearance of scores of live studio audience members.

There has always been a question mark surrounding the existence of these films and what really defines something as snuff. Obviously news and documentary footage exists that depicts real death and torture but what really defines something as snuff is the pornographic intention. It is the carrying out of a murder specifically for the camera and not merely the documenting of an atrocity. It was an idea used by many Video Nasties back in the eighties as a publicity stunt and has been engrained into cinematic culture ever since.
N.B. This is not a bad picture,
the film quality really is that terrible
Snuff 102 is an Argentinian torture porn movie from 2007 which attempts to analyse and comment on how society has been corrupted by the anonymous pornographic influence of the internet. Surprisingly Snuff 102 does have a story line of sorts, it revolves around three young women whom we already know have been kidnapped and prepped for torture. All the characters remain nameless but the main focus is on the titular Victim #102, an investigative reporter looking into a crime wave where young women, mostly prostitutes, have been disappearing. The other two women are both drug addicted prostitutes, or at least desperate enough to be taking on a job as one. There is the suggestion that these girls are being provided for the killer by the men in charge of these young sex workers, in full knowledge of what fate awaits them. Victim #102 visits a man who is supposedly a film critic specialising in snuff films (oh the irony!) who spouts a stream of anti-capitalist propaganda about how we are all consumers and eventually ourselves consumed. This is intercut with the torturing and videotaping of the three girls. Semi naked and tied to chairs the prolonged beating and dismemberment is carried out in an expectantly brutal and sadistic fashion.  
All of this gives the story more credit than it deserves, it is the most basic and lazy plot ever with the inclusion of an investigative reporter being quite laughable. It has good intentions, but many films have been made which try to investigate the same issues with a lot more success. The systematic abuse and control of young, desperate women at the hands of manipulative men is a subject that deserves to be treated with respect. Here however it is little more than an excuse to supply us with characters who are able to feed a serial killer's desire for torture due to their irrelevance to society.
The main point this film repeatedly rams down your throat is spelled out by the film critic character. He repeatedly tells the reporter that society is complicit in the ‘dismemberment’ and consumption of the people around us. The suggestion is that we, in the new internet age of pornography and anonymity, are all constantly ‘dismembering’ human beings by considering them as nothing more than a collection of usable parts. So, through the extended spewing of psudo intellectual criticism (oh the irony again!) he is one step away from pointing at the viewer and spitting in their face. It’s a catch 22 that Machael Haneke (a man who has come up a surprisingly large amount on this site (oi oi)) exploited in Funny Games, criticising the viewer for watching what it is he has created. The difference is Michael Haneke managed to do it with intelligence and wit, not simply through patronising condescension. (Thats the last time I mention Funny Games on this site I promise)
So with the storyline out the way we are left with the meat and bones of any torture porn film, the torture. The most important thing about this genre, even more so than most other sub genres of horror, is the believability. The low budget of the majority of these films results in a visual style that is grainy and cheap, adding to the sense of reality. Snuff 102 is no exception by any means, it looks horrible and, I never thought I’d say this... suffers due to not being found-footage.
Scary stuff!
Camera and editing trickery are employed constantly throughout the violence, every one of which is clumsy and obvious. Yet their repeated use screams of smugness over their clever implementation. The most painful trick is that, whenever the masked torturer strikes one of his victims, the footage suddenly speeds up. They filmed an actual slow motion punch or kick that wouldn’t hurt anybody and then sped it up in the mistaken idea that it would make it look like he had actually hit them with full force. Instead everything turns into a violent Benny Hill sketch for a fraction of a second. This is combined with a constant stream of conveniently changing camera angles or cuts to black. If asked the film makers would most probably spout some film school cliché along he lines of, what the audience ‘doesn’t see’ being more important than what they do (I hate to put words into their mouths but I’m just going by what is on screen). When the shots just happen to conveniently sit at an angle which hides the gory detail, or cut at the moment that would have taken some ingenuity to pull off, it feels like a cheap way of escaping the challenge in front them.
As the final point I want to talk about the inclusion of some real life footage of animal and human torture and dismemberment. I have very strong opinions when it comes to the use of animals in film, people can consent to whatever the fuck they want but as soon as you include an animal for our entertainment you are raising a whole bunch of ethical issues. Here we are shown already existing footage of scientific testing on a monkey and the slaughter of a pig. The fact these haven’t been shot for the purpose does not remove any responsibility for their use from the film makers. The pig slaughter is hard to watch but is done on a farm by what look like farmers and is therefore a regrettable but necessary aspect of everyday life so it’s inclusion as a shock tactic in the film is kind of pointless.
Uwe Boll... No, just no.
The most extreme moment of all is of, what appears to be, a genuine human beheading. It is used in the film to demonstrate that websites that display this kind of footage do exist and are a debate point for free speech and personal freedoms. That does not give a film maker the right to simply display this footage on screen for shock value. Especially in a film as patronising and up it’s own arse as this one. There is a similar moment at the start of the consistently horrendous Uwe Boll’s - Seed where he uses footage of animal torture followed by a logo for PETA as if that makes it all ok. It doesn’t, the film itself has no justification for showing such torture. Using real life footage when you want to bring real problems to the audience’s attention can sometimes be justified, but using it because you don’t have the talent or creativity to actually pull of the shocks yourself is lazy and reprehensible.
The most frustrating thing looking back at Snuff 102 is just how much of a discussion it can provoke. It is a terrible film which is both badly made and patronising, but its complete failure at creating anything with any credibility still raises the question of whether such a thing exists. As audeince sensibilities become more extreme and boundaries continue to be pushed, can film-makers still create works of art that satisfy that lust both ethically and responsibly. There are films out there that raise these questions with elegance and intelligence, and for that reason this film's attempts to sit among them leaves it left behind as nothing more than cheap, badly executed gore.

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