For those of us left unsated by the critically acclaimed Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship, & Videotape, director Jake West and producer Marc Morris return for a second instalment of the revealing documentary in Video Nasties: Draconian Days. This time the duo tackle everything that came after the 1984 Video recordings Act, filling in the blanks on how the horror fan base reacted to the Nazi-like censorship of the so-called Video Nasties.
For any younger horror fans, those of us who didn’t live in the treacherous times of home raids, jail time for ownership, and the troubles of cross-continental smuggling, Draconian Days seems just as preposterous as Moral Panic. By that I’m referring to the sordid mess of legislation enacted by a group of self-righteous conservative moral rights activists to ban flagrant use of tit and gore, not the documentaries themselves. The world Morris and West present to us is worrying indeed.
Where the first documentary ended on a note of caution, contextualising the Video Nasties mess as a frankly mind-boggling encroachment on civil liberties, Video Nasties: Draconian Days, looks at the fallout of the act and the effects it had on forming the modern-day horror fan base. A plethora of intriguing interviews and footage make this just as fascinating and entertaining a watch as the first, and once the film has dispensed with a ten minute recap of the first (which seems oddly wasteful) the film drive forward into mostly new territory.
Arguably the recycling of previous interviewees keeps much of the film bogged down in defending its own right to exist as a sequel, but in the second half West appears to quickly discard these issues and allow the film to take shape in its own right. Video Nasties: Draconian Days, as the title may suggest, is bothered by the excessive demonization of horror movies in the 80’s and early 90’s. The vitriol of an outraged generation seeps through the celluloid, taking a stand against not only a point in history that the horror fans have almost buried, but daring anyone to try it again.
For horror fans, Draconian Days is a must, not simply as a cautionary tale paralleling the modern day issues of copyrighting and censorship, but as a well-conceived, well-humoured, and often insightful glimpse into a specific point in Horror history. If you weren’t bothered for the first then this is surplus to requirement.
Stars: Sian Barber, Martin Barker, Alan Jones, Niel Marshall, Kim Newman, Christopher Smith