Cast your mind back, if you will, to early 1980s. If your mind doesn’t cast back that far (and mine barely does, being born in 1982), you may still have heard of the DPP39. If not of that, then the more visceral sounding ‘Video Nasties’ may ring a bell. In the early 1980s, home video technology was very new and very exciting to the people of Britain. While the VHS player is a mere punch line for many folk these days (although you will have to prise mine out of my cold dead hands), back then it was like DVD and Blu-Rays (and probably Laser Disks) rolled into one, rather unwieldy, fantastic package. Amazingly, Hollywood wasn’t quick to tap into this remarkable new market that would allow the public to watch films in the privacy on their own homes, believing it to be flash in the pan and a needless expense of converting their films to VHS that wouldn’t reap any profit. Wrongity wrong. VHS players were hugely popular, and the demand for new titles was high. Cue many video distributors popping up to help out in this regard. Often simple operations based in people’s garages and the like, they set about buying in the cheapest titles, often from Europe, and distributing them via their own labels. Horror films, cheap to make and buy, were an obvious way to make the most money. Another advantage was that the BBFC didn’t have any power over video distribution, so films that may have been denied a certificate when submitted (a costly procedure) could be released on VHS instead, at no extra expense to the film makers. Everything ticked along merrily for a couple of years and then… PANIC! DISGUST! OUTRAGE! And let’s not forget that old favourite, everyone shout along now; WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?! Video Nasties had arrived. Pursued mercilessly by the press, politicians who really should have had more pressing matters to attend to and the Mary Whitehouse brigade (lead by the lady herself) horror films which otherwise would never have been heard of other than by a handful of people were thrust into the limelight and vilified for all the countries ills, especially children’s exposure to them. Video shops up and down the land were raided for ‘obscene’ titles, that were seized (including, in one memorable police mix-up, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas). Eventually, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) very kindly decided what the unwashed plebs of the UK were permitted to watch, and the films that would turn us all into raging maniacs were consigned to a list, eventually whittled down to 39 titles (the aforementioned DPP39). Distribution of these films was illegal, video shop owners and the people who sold these films to them would face jail sentences if they were found guilty of doing so. And people did. That’s right. People went to actual jail for this. The words ‘fucking farce’ spring to mind. Because it was basically, a horror film witch hunt. And how many of these so called ‘evil’ films did Mary Whitehouse, her cronies and the folk on the panel assigned to this bollocks actually watch? None. They saw clips, out of fucking context clips, and that was enough apparently. The rancid assumption that they, as fine up standing (mostly upper class) citizens, would not be affected by watching this ‘filth’, but the general populace of chumps would surely mentally snap if they saw Evil Dead all the way through is frankly hypocritical and insulting, and also a whole different rant for another day. And believe me, Video Nasties is a topic I can go on for days about (Yes, I am great fun at parties. Thank you for asking). You may have gathered, if you made it this far into the cultural history lesson, that today I am going to be looking at a film that was caught up in the Video Nasties hysteria. It isn’t part of the DPP39 (films that were prosecuted), but was part of the wider list, the DPP72. Many films on both lists have been discussed to death already (I still can’t get over the fact that Evil Dead was on it. A film, by the way, had actually been approved by the BBFC and released at cinemas way before this whole sensationalist bullshit started). Today’s film, children, and I hope you are sitting comfortably, is Don’t Look In The Basement, also known as The Forgotten, made in 1973. Will merely watching it turn me into a raging murderous time bomb? Let’s find out shall we? Spoilers to follow.
While The Film Poster May Have A Familiar Tag Line, The VHS Cover Looks Like A Book Written By R.L Stine.