Nasty Business: The Marketing and Distribution of the Video Nasties

Mark McKenna | 2020

In 1984, a disparate group of horror films imported from the USA and Europe were banned in the United Kingdom. It is popularly believed that these so-called ‘video nasties’ were the product of Britain’s immoral and disreputable independent video industry, and that following a series of public complaints about the advertising being used to promote these films, a moral panic spontaneously erupted that resulted in the introduction of the Video Recordings Act in 1984. While neither of these statements is entirely accurate, both have contributed to a discursively constructed history that holds the independent video distributors entirely responsible for the events that followed, and that ushered in a scheme of government- sanctioned censorship that continues in Britain to this day. Through an exploration of the marketing and distribution of the video nasties, foregrounding technological, economic and aesthetic concerns, this book will complicate the established history and will seek to contextualise the video nasties within the broader global landscape of emergent home video industry. Moving beyond the explicitly social readings that have positioned the video nasties as an quintessentially British concern, to instead reconsider them as part of a broader global film industry, with promotions demonstrative of wider industrial practice. In so doing, the book tracks the development of the category and reveals other possible motives and benefits in the introduction of the Video Recordings Act.

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