Snuff Films

A snuff film is a film that depicts a murder or suicide without the use of special effects. They are made for entertainment, sexual gratification, or financially exploitative purposes. Snuff films rely on shock value to scare, disgust, and/or horrify the audience. Recordings of someone’s death does not count as a snuff film; the murder depicted must be done solely for the purpose of the film. Some snuff films exclusively depict a murder, but many also include acts of sexuality and sexual violence. Snuff films are believed to have originated as part of the early pornography industry, but over time they have become more integrated with the horror film industry instead.1 The snuff films included in horror productions today often involve the use of webcams and other forms of modern technology. Some snuff film references in contemporary films include: Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (2011) and Sinister (2012), as well as television shows such as Dexter and the FX horror anthology series, American Horror Story. Though many snuff films do exist, there is no conclusive evidence that the murders in the films are real.


Harmful Effects of Snuff Films

While it is uncertain whether or not some snufffilms depict a real murder, taking someone’s life is illegal. Additionally, snuff films typically depict sexual assault against women, which can have negative effects on viewers who may perceive the behavior depicted on screen as realistic and socially acceptable. Research suggests that watching violent content on television and film can normalize abusive behavior. Cultivation theory states that the more time people spend watching films and television, the more likely they are to believe in the social reality that is portrayed by these mediums.2 This leaves people with a misperception of what is true in the world around them. Therefore, the theory can be extended to the world of snuff and horror films: the more people watch these films, the more likely they are to believe that the horror depicted on screen is acceptable.


Concluding Remarks

In contemporary culture, snuff films tend to be used for entertainment purposes within the horror genre. Both pseudo snuff films and real snuff films can have negative effects on the viewers’ perceptions of what is normal, as they perpetuate murder and violence that is usually against women. It is important to understand that snuff films are not accurate depictions of reality and should not be made under any circumstances. 



  1. Hagin, B. (2010). Killed Because of Lousy Ratings: The Hollywood History of Snuff. Journal Of Popular Film & Television, 38(1), 44-51
  2. Carriere, K. (2014). Culture Cultivating Culture: The Four Products of the Meaning-Made World. Integrative Psychological & Behavioral Science, 48(3), 270-282. doi: 10.1007/s12124-013-9252-0

Last Updated: 7 March 2019.