Video Nasties: The Expert Poll

As we continue to restore and release Video Nasties as part of our mission statement, it often frustrates us to see so much of the coverage around the phenomenon being reported by those with minimal knowledge of the situation. We decided to conduct our own poll amongst true Nasty experts to bury all the other listicles and copy/paste junk in a deep, dark grave.

Here's a word of introduction from David Gregory, Co-Founder of Severin Films: "Unbeknownst to me when I was trying to watch as many of these films as I could on video before they were mercilessly snatched away from us by our government after a couple of blissful years film viewing freedom, untarnished by censor interference from our nanny state, that this list and its bizarre accompanying national scandal would play a major part in my life's journey. I was only 12 / 13 when the cull happened and to be honest if you'd asked me then I would have stated that it was the most important thing to be concerned about right now as the clock is ticking, far exceeding any school related interest or activity. But such an impression it made I'm still here licensing, restoring and releasing these movies when we get the rights or new elements surface and I keep commissioning documentaries about them or subjects relating to them and this peculiar era of Britishness. So when I see that ridiculous "Video nasties ranked!" clickbait article resurfacing time and again due to natural selection in my social algorhythms I get irked. The occasion of our re-release of NIGHTMARE(S IN A DAMAGED BRAIN) and Sarah Appleton's accompanying documentary DAMAGED: THE VERY BRITISH OBSCENITY OF DAVID HAMILTON-GRANT felt like the right time to consult a selection of venerable pundits to give a more informed clickbait appraisal of the forbidden 72. Harder than you might think to find a distinguished panel of experts who are both familiar with the ins and outs of that tabloid whipped hysteria to put them in that context but who also had seen ALL 72 of the films. So here is the rundown of the special few of the depraved and corrupted."


Marc Morris, Nucleus Films and co-author of The Art of the Nasty and Shock Horror - Astounding Artwork From The Video Nasty Era

Art Ettinger, Ultra Violent Magazine: "What a crazy good list of movies. I had a really hard time ranking them. I don't actively dislike ANY of these films. I tried not to think too hard and go with my gut while ranking them."

John MartinWriter. John Martin has been writing about horror since the early 80s in UK fanzines including Samhain and continues to write for The Dark Side to this day. He published one of the first books examining the video nasties scandal, "Seduction of the Gullible" and its follow up "The Son Of Seduction of the Gullible."

Harvey Fenton, FAB Press: Harvey Fenton is the owner of the book publishing company FAB Press. FAB has been publishing lavish books on genre cinema since the 90s including books on definitive books on the works of Dario Argento, Abel Ferrara, Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Mario Bava and Andy Milligan. FAB also published Kier-La Janisse's "House Of Psychotic Women" and the recent massive volume on London's Scala Cinema. Harvey's work in this field began back in the 80s with his fanzine, Flesh & Blood.

Lovely Jon is a DJ and film/music obsessive who alongside Gareth Godard (Cherrystones) founded the influential exploitation audio visual sound system Jigoku.  Jon is very much a ‘child of the nasties’, growing up at the time of the cultural video boom and intertwining moral backlash (at its most pronounced whilst he was working at his local video shop in Hertfordshire and stockpiling  tapes for himself).  Jon has continued to represent the UK video scene throughout the decades as commentator and collector.

Warren Hart (most of the pics here are from his collection):  "Child of the 70s, teenager of the 80s, it's now exactly 40 years since I started this nasty obsession, to watch and collect, it was the attraction to the unattainable, I needed to have what I was being told I couldn't... Things that haven't changed are my #1 and #72. My #1, will always be the Evil Dead. It was the spark, the catalyst to watch, collect, and generally fill my mind everything 72, from when I first saw the teaser trailer on the TV, to it's video release that motivated me to pester my old mam to rent a VCR, which she did, and The Evil Dead was our first rental, the first of what would become the 72."

Joe Rubin, co-owner of American boutique disc label Vinegar Syndrome. Among their multitude of restorations are a number of video nasties including THE BOOGEY MAN, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN, DON'T GO IN THE WOODS and FROZEN SCREAM.

Rebekah McKendry, PHD, Fangoria's Colors of the Dark Podcast: "I’m Dr. Rebekah McKendry, and I’m proud to say I’ve seen all 72 video nasties. I first became enamored with the video nasty list after learning about them in the late 90s on The Young Ones TV show, and especially The Damned’s tribute song Video Nasty. As a teenager hearing about these films, I could only imagine what types of movies could be so extreme that a government decreed them illegal. What could be so detrimental to the human psyche that you could be arrested for just possessing a copy? I immediately knew I had to watch ALL of them, and I starting working my way through every video nasty title I could find at my local video store.

I went onto to work for Fangoria and Blumhouse, and eventually got a PhD focused entirely on horror films, all the while continuously adding to my nasty viewing repertoire. And several years ago, I finally completed viewing the entire list. 

So looking back, did I find the most heinous abominations of cinema ever created? Did viewing all 72 of these extreme films leaved me a trembling shell of humanity? Nope, not a bit. I mostly found boundary-pushing, transgressive filmmakers who had a lot to say about politics, society, religion, and life. 

My video nasty ranking was not an easy list to make, and I was constantly weighing several factors. For instance, even though some filmmakers may have been inexperienced or had limited budgets, I often have a genuine appreciation for what they were trying to create and therefore bumped them up on the list. Or in other cases, the film may have done something wildly landmark, reshaping horror film history, regardless of whether we consider it a 'well-made' movie or not (looking at you Blood Feast).

Thanks so much for reading. And if you enjoy my list and want to hear about more of my adventures in extreme horror cinema, please check out my podcast Fangoria’s Colors of the Dark for my regular cinematic ramblings."

David Kerekes is author with David Slater of Cannibal Error: Anti-Film Propaganda and the Video Nasties Panic of the 1980s, published by Headpress 2023. "At the top is The Devil Hunter but it could easily be Blood Rites or Axe or Don’t Go in the Woods… Alone!, films lacking the capacity to engage on a traditional art- emotional level and yet are compelling (to this viewer) for other reasons: they are cheap, demented, strange, obscure — aspects that facilitate the notion of ‘video nasties’ as something ‘other’, becoming collectively the thing that moral guardians had accused the ‘nasties’ of being all along. This is to say, in some perverse way, they are not films at all, but danger, psychotropic, unforgiving."

David Slater is co-author of See No Evil - Banned Films and Video Controversy (2000), Killing for Culture - From Edison to Isis A New History of Death on Film (2016), and Cannibal Error - Anti film Propaganda and the Video Nasties Panic of the 1980s (2023)

Andrew Allard: "A lifelong film fan and video collector who rented most of these off the shelves before England bowed down to the censorial minority, very happy to see most of them available again in superior editions!"
Stephen Thrower is the acclaimed author of Beyond Terror: the Films of Lucio Fulci, the groundbreaking Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents and two volumes on the films of Jess Franco, Murderous Passions and Flowers of Perversion. He is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative historians of exploitation and underground cinema writing today. “My first video nasty was I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and I almost fainted during the infamous castration scene. Dizziness, nausea, buzzing in the ears… value for money! I watched it again the next morning and rewound the castration sequence over and over, a natural response when faced with something so overwhelming. Mary Whitehouse and James Ferman thought the pause and rewind controls were the devil’s love-buttons, but they were wrong. Films actually lose some of their power when you stop and start them: the spell weakens rather than doubles. Anyway, once I got over the shock of my first video nasty, I stopped fiddling with the remote control. I did, however, record films onto audio cassette to study later. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, DEATH TRAP, DRILLER KILLER, DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE… I loved not only their soundtracks but the musicality of their dialogue too. Even today I can pretty much ‘sing along’ to the vocal cadences of Krug Stillo, crazy old Judd, long-suffering Reno, and schmucky little firebug Donny Kohler. The British tabloid press and the government tried to spoil our fun, but look how impotent they turned out to be! Within a year of the films being banned there was a roaring trade in copies, passed between eager fans. Devotees, including myself, published magazines celebrating these films and a whole ‘social network’ was born. Forty years later, with labels like Severin bringing the video nasties back to market in stunning new transfers, it’s not so much ‘the return of the repressed’ as the triumph of the repressed. The message? Don’t mess with horror fans!”
And without further ado... the final tally: