Video Nasties: Draconian Days

Watch Video Nasties: Draconian Days

  • NR
  • 2014
  • 1 hr 37 min
  • 7.8  (327)

In 1984, the British government started to impose a new law that was supposed to protect the public from the “corrupting” effects of horror movies, better known as the Video Recordings Act. Its main purpose was to prevent the distribution, sale and rental of films that were deemed too graphic, violent, or sexually explicit for public consumption, even if they were legally certified in their country of origin. Overnight, dozens of titles were banned and labeled as “video nasties,” some of which were cult classics, some of which were exploitation flicks, and some of which were obscure movies that nobody had ever heard of.

Video Nasties: Draconian Days is a documentary that delves into the aftermath of this controversial policy, exploring its cultural, legal and social implications for the UK and the film industry. The film is directed by Jake West and produced by Marc Morris, who also teamed up to make the previous documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape in 2010, which focused on the historical context that led to the video nasties scandal. Draconian Days is not a sequel per se, but rather an expansion of the first film’s themes and arguments, with new interviews, footage, and analysis.

The documentary is divided into six chapters, each of which deals with a different aspect of the video nasties phenomenon. The first chapter, “The Ban Begins,” sets the scene by describing the political atmosphere of 1980s Britain, when the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher was implementing a series of laws and policies aimed at controlling public behavior, including the banning of “extreme pornography,” the introduction of heavy fines for pirate radio stations, and the tightening of censorship laws for plays, TV shows and books.

The second chapter, “The List,” introduces the audience to the list of the 72 movies that were prosecuted under the Video Recordings Act, showing clips of some of the most famous examples, such as Cannibal Holocaust, The Evil Dead, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film also reveals how the list was not based on any scientific or artistic criteria, but rather on the personal tastes and prejudices of a select group of government bureaucrats, who would watch the movies in secret and report back to their bosses with their recommendations.

The third chapter, “The Prosecutions,” focuses on the legal battles that ensued after the ban, with interviews with lawyers, judges, and defendants who were involved in some of the most notorious cases. The film shows how the prosecutions were often absurdly arbitrary, with some films being acquitted in one court and then banned in another, depending on the mood of the jury or the judge. The documentary also exposes some of the myths and misconceptions that surrounded the video nasties, such as the idea that they caused real-life violence or were more explicit than mainstream movies.

The fourth chapter, “The Defenders,” introduces the audience to the people who fought back against the ban, from journalists and activists to filmmakers and distributors. The film celebrates the role of free speech and artistic expression in a democratic society, and shows how the video nasties scandal galvanized a new generation of filmmakers who were inspired by the DIY spirit of the underground horror scene. The documentary also highlights the irony that some of the very same films that were banned by the government for being too subversive or immoral are now considered classics and exert a huge influence on contemporary cinema.

The fifth chapter, “The Legacy,” examines the lasting impact that the video nasties had on the British film industry, and the wider society. The film argues that the ban not only suppressed creativity and innovation, but also reinforced cultural prejudices and moral panics that still exist today, such as the demonization of video games or the censorship of social media. The documentary suggests that the legacy of the video nasties should be seen as a cautionary tale of what can happen when the state tries to control what people can watch, read, or say, and that freedom of artistic expression is a fundamental right that must be protected at all costs.

The final chapter, “The Future,” looks at what lessons can be learnt from the video nasties scandal, and what challenges the film industry faces in the digital age. The film argues that although the video nasties era is over, there are still threats to artistic freedom and civil liberties in the form of online censorship, surveillance, and fake news. The documentary ends on a note of optimism, however, arguing that there is still a strong appetite for horror, genre, and independent cinema, and that audiences will continue to demand films that are bold, provocative, and daring, whatever the political or social climate may be.

Overall, Video Nasties: Draconian Days is a thought-provoking and engaging documentary that combines historical analysis, personal testimony, and critical commentary to shed light on one of the most controversial and influential periods in British film history. Whether you are a horror fan, a civil libertarian, or just curious about censorship and media politics, this film is a must-watch.

Video Nasties: Draconian Days
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 37 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.8  (327)