Box of the Banned


Box of the Banned are the words I’m looking at as I survey the morning’s post in front of me. It’s a box set of Video Nasties, banned under the Video Recordings Act of 1984.

For the uninitiated, back in those halcyon days, the home video player had become very popular and there was a big market for straight-to-video titles: movies made for the home market, which weren’t released at the cinema. Unlike cinema releases, straight-to-video films didn’t require BBFC certification and as such, directors had a free reign and material which wouldn’t have been granted a certificate for cinema release by-passed the censors and went straight to video. It’s more complicated than that and there are many caveats but that’s the general gist of things. Following the tragic torture and murder of James Bulger and the – albeit flimsy – finger of blame pointed to Child’s Play, the Video Recordings Act was introduced, requiring all straight-to-video titles to be certificated. Seventy eight titles were banned under the act. Subsequently, many have been re-released, albeit with cuts. Some have been re-released without cuts and there are many different versions of some titles, with varying levels of cuts. I seek out the least censored, or uncensored versions.

A lot of the Video Nasties were purely that: nasty. Some were marketed as snuff movies, although none were ever proven to be so. Other titles though have artistic merit and are actually pretty good films, albeit not for the faint hearted. It’s six movies which fall into this category which make up Box of the Banned: I Spit on Your Grave; Nightmares in a Damaged Brain; The Driller Killer; The Evil Dead; The Last House on the Left; and Zombie Flesh Eaters. There’s a companion DVD containing two documentaries: Ban the Sadist Videos and Fear, Panic and Censorship. I’ve seen all of the films but it’s nice to have them to hand and in uncut form: this box set was quite a find.

And it’s all good material for inspiration of course, when I’m writing horror stories. Often it’ll be something I see in a film which will plant a seed for a story in my mind. I don’t copy or plagiarise but I’m inspired. Sometimes my inspiration will be something I see on TV, or read in a book or a newspaper. I won’t necessarily write about what I’ve seen or read but I’ll spot something which gives me an idea. Such is the case with my latest short story, a work in progress provisionally called Living Loans. Watching a lot of TV as I do, I’m subjected to commercials and during the day, there are a lot of adverts for pay day lenders and their ilk. This has given me an idea. I’ve taken a concept, then taken it further, into the realms of fiction. Living Loans is about, well, you’ll see.

Now that this life of the impoverished alcoholic writer is the one I’ve chosen to follow, it’s all about promotion, of myself as well as the writing. Never one to miss an opportunity to share praise heaped upon me, this is a paraphrasing of the latest review I received:

An exciting new writer who has a talent for scaring the shit out of his readers one second, then making you cry or laugh the next. Each of his stories is unique, the latest bi-polar pieces being COGS and Two Wishes. His book, The Paradoxicon, is guaranteed to frighten: you may even fear life itself.

So with the post out of the way, I’m seated at my writing desk and ready to write. Notepads, reference material, newspaper clippings, coffee and baccy are all within easy reach, so I have all that I need.

If I trawl back through my notebooks, there are a lot of things in them which I didn’t include in the final versions of the stories they were notes for. Some of the ideas were simply too much and might have landed me in trouble under the Obscene Publications Act. All of the stories which the notes were on though were published in the end, so they might have been banned but for me self-censoring.

The next anthology of short stories then: Book of the Banned.

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