Latest posts by James McCormick (see all)
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It’s been a long time coming, but I wanted to dust off the shelves of the Video Reflection series I started way too long ago, and bring it back better than ever. So I was thinking, what topic should I cover? What subject would be something the readers would love to read and what would I love to write. I was thinking about something, a tape or series of tapes that were coveted at any video store. A film that was talked about among my friends about being so horrific. so graphic, so gore-filled, you had to try to rent it. All these friends who said they had seen it were, at least I assume, lying that they had seen it. Mainly because they would talk about scenes within the film that never occurred.
I’m of course talking about the infamous Faces Of Death tape. It was a tape that I was never even allowed to touch, let alone look at when I went to my neighborhood video store. My dad would grab me if I went toward it. I think he knew if I was thinking about it too, because we would go in and he would say, “Don’t you dare go near that Faces of Death. You are never renting it.” Which of course built it up even more in my head. I made up stories in my own mind that it was going to be the worst, goriest and horrific film I had ever seen. And when I heard it was a documentary (I guess?), I was even more horrified and intrigued.
And one day when I was about 16 or 17, I rented it. I was having a bunch of friends over to watch this tape. This infamous tape, where all my friends also heard stories about it and made it out to be this holy grail of awful cinema. And yeah, it was awful. But for all the wrong reasons. But let me back up for a second here. Around those teen years, I wanted to see anything that had any gore in it. The Guinea Pig series from Japan, Hellraiser (a film I will discuss at a later point, but spoiler… I absolutely love that film and many in the series), Cannibal Holocaust (another one I will discuss), Cannibal Ferox (and mostly anything Italian cannibal films), Lucio Fulci’s catalog, the list goes on and on. I just had to devour anything with gore in it. Rotten.com was a site I would frequent and not even bat an eye. Yet if I look at any of that true life crime stuff now, I actually cringe a bit (even though I really enjoyed the Museum of Death in Los Angeles).
So Faces of Death was something that for years I needed to see. It was banned in 46 countries! It’s like I needed to breathe and I needed to watch this film. And I did. And it was probably one of the most sad and pathetic film viewing experiences I’ve ever had with a group of friends. Ever. And that’s because throughout the film (and of course I didn’t know this at the time), that most if not all of the human death scenes were faked. Fabricated. Of course watching it now you can see it like it was night and day. But that’s not what upset us. What ultimately made my friends and I just stop the movie night and go our separate ways was the blatant racism, animal death and cruelty. It was just the worst thing to watch. I couldn’t understand all these people I had spoken with about the film who said they loved it and it was the most extreme thing they had ever seen. I guess I can see where the extreme part was from, but it was extremely depressing. And who wants to eat monkey brains?
Of course they made multiple entries in the series, as well as another separate series called Traces of Death, but I think now, the older I am, I have no desire to seek those out. After watching that initial Faces of Death VHS tape, I didn’t want to see anymore blatant cruelty. I think I’d rather see it made up on screen and please, there’s no place for animal abuse in any film. I can watch someone get their bones hacked in a film, but if I see a dog die, I bawl like a baby. That might be a bit weird for most, but I think some of you out there can relate. Is there any VHS that in your mind you heard such insane things about, but when you finally sat down to watch it after being lucky enough to rent it, you kind of went, “What the hell was everyone else talking about?” Please let us know here at That’s Not Current. And until next time, just make sure to pick a token and rent some tapes.