In 1984, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom had to do something to protect children. Slasher films were no longer content with seducing the innocent in darkend theater complexes. Thanks to the home video revolution, slashers were now invading American and British homes. Something had to be done to protect future generations from degenerating into bloodthirsty killers and sex-crazed rapists due to the unholy influence of slasher films. Armed with a moral authority, the US and UK governments set out to rid the world of the slasher menace.
I wish this chapter of the Slasher Witch Hunt was a work of fiction. A government crack down on slasher films, film makers, theaters, and home video dealers sounds like something that would only happen in Soviet Eastern Europe, the USSR, and China. One would never suspect such storm-trooper tactics in a free society, especially in the US where the freedom of speech is held in such high regards.
In the US theater of battle, Jack Valenti and the MPAA were given an ulitmatum by Washington; either crackdown on the slasher films or the government is going to crackdown on Hollywood. This caused the MPAA to hand out X ratings at the slightest drop of blood. Any movie theater or video rental store allowing children under 18 to view or rent R rated titles faced severe punishment. Business owners found not complying with the government edict faced fines, jail time, or the loss of their business license.
Spurred on by the Daily Mail’s “Ban the Sadist Videos” campaign, the UK really got the fires of censorship burning bright with the infamous Video Nasty era. British censors butchered slasher films like cattle or either banned them completely. Stores selling or renting banned titles had their merchandise seized and destroyed by authorities. At first, the Video Nasties targeted slashers and Italian gore fests, but the zealots soon turned their attention to Hollywood films like Taxi Driver. What started as a witch hunt to destroy “sadistic” videos became an easy way for the UK to protect their film industry from foreign invaders. By banning or weakening foreign films to the point of banality, the UK ensured only UK films would be seen by the general public.
After twenty-five years, the big government arguments against slasher films seem naive. Politicians found it easy to demonize slashers as the villain responsible for all of society’s ills. A willing public allowed themselves to be blinded by such false claims. Teen violence, drug abuse, bad grades, and disrespect towards parents will end if you just let us ban these slasher movies. It’s pure fantasy, of course, but plenty of educated fools were tricked into thinking government censorship is a good thing.