Whilst many of our readers freely go about their business enjoying their pleasures in horror movie viewing, it's not quite as free and easy here in the UK. This month we're bringing you one fans own account of what happened to him dur to his interest in the scene...
I have always had a keen interest in the horror genre dating back to my childhood.
This is a true account of how pursuing my hobby landed me in trouble.
In the time around 1990 I began to collect horror films on video. I soon became aware (through various magazine articles and books) of the number of banned horror films which were not available anymore in this country due to the BBFC. I started to look into the possibility of obtaining some of these so-called 'nasties' by replying to the classified ads in the magazines that I was reading at the time. Within a couple of weeks I had, in my possession copies of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Cannibal Ferox, Anthropophagous the Beast and Bloodsucking Freaks. This fuelled my interest and I had to get my hands on more of these dire but at the same time excellent films.
One rainy afternoon I paid a visit to a house clearance shop near where I used to live. To my surprise there on the shelves were Cannibal Apocalypse, Night of the Demon, Don't go into the Woods and Nightmare Maker all were in mint condition and a steal at £1 each. I purchased the videos and went home feeling very smug indeed.
In order to increase my collection, I decided to place my own advertisement and trade copies of films that I had in exchange for ones that I wanted to see. It was at this point that my collection really took off, I was sending out tapes & receiving tapes most days of the week, before I knew it I had most of the 'nasties' and quite a few others that were unavailable over here for some reason or another. I was also selling a few films to people who had nothing to trade.
One evening my family & myself were sitting down for dinner when there was a knock at the door. I answered it; two men stood there and asked for Ben Moore (myself) I said, "yes, that's me". One of them pulled out an ID card and said "we're from Charles Street Vice Squad Leicester, do you know what this is about?" Soon the house was crawling with six members of the aforementioned Vice Squad, most of whom looked the same, short stocky with moustaches apart from their leader who was tall & thin. They were all wearing brown leather jackets or sports tops (traditional get-up).
I kept my films upstairs in my bedroom, so this was where we all went. The police brought in plastic bags from their cars outside and began labeling and putting my tapes into them. They were being very serious about the whole matter, saying things like ". I don't know how you can watch stuff like this, it's sick" (one of them holding up copy of Let me die a Woman) ". This is really nasty". Once all my tapes were bagged up they went downstairs and took every videocassette that was unlabelled. I was recording The Exorcist for someone at the time; they switched off my video and took that too. They then went back upstairs to my room and began to search everywhere, they asked me if I had any drugs and that I should say so now rather than later. They were even suspecting a plant that had been grown from a lemon seed, passing it amongst themselves, each taking a turn to sniff it. I thought that they were getting a little carried away when they considered taking some audio tape copies of some music that I had taped.
The whole incident took around two hours, I was asked to go to the police station where I could be questioned further. Soon after being brought into the station I was fingerprinted and had photographs taken of me. Then I was led into an interviewing room, a tape recording device was set up and the interview started, me, being questioned by the leader guy who I mentioned earlier, with one of his stooges sitting in to keep him company.
The questions I was asked were
"How long have you been trading in these films?"
"How much money did you make?"
"Do you find these films disturbing?"
"Do you think that children should be protected against these films?"
"How could you be sure that children were not ordering these films from you?"
"Where did you get these films from?"
This interview lasted for about 45 mins, I was told that I would need to attend another interview in a couple of weeks after they had viewed the films. Throughout the whole ordeal I could not feel anxious or worried at all, I think that this was due to the absurd nature of the whole state of affairs. The fact that my home had been raided by six plain-clothes officers for these films quite amused me. I was charged under the obscene publications act, then went straight to the pub to meet my friends to tell them about my situation.
The next two weeks past with little activity. I went to see my solicitor (who I should have had present at the first interview) who was unsure as to how things would go in court as he had little experience of this kind of case. I was quite worried when he started talking about a guy who was dealing in child pornography and received a custodial sentence. This was frightening; I didn't want to be associated with the likes of child pornographers; would the court & prosecution see me in the same light as these types? I prayed to god that they wouldn't.
It was time for my next interview at Charles Street police station in Leicester. I was attending a course at De Montfort University at the time; I took the day off to prepare myself and to recover afterwards. Once again I was seated in an interview room with the same guy who interrogated me last time and one of his cohorts. They claimed to have watched all of the videos. They were asking me for details concerning others who I had dealings with. They took lists and correspondence with other collectors with them when they raided my house. I was told to bring to the station any further letters or lists from fellow traders, should any be posted to my house (which of course I never did). Before leaving the station I was told that I was being charged with publication of four of the films that I had, these being Gestapo's Last Orgy, Nekromantik, Cannibal Ferox and Night of he Demon.
I was due in court for my trial. I remember waiting for ages outside in the seating area with my dad. The landlord from my local pub was there to get his license re-newed. My heart sank as I entered the court, the jury was made up of two old women and an old man, surely they would not take kindly to the likes of me peddling this vile material. My solicitor was acting on my behalf, so I only had to confirm my identity. The prosecution was a middle-aged man who was exaggerating everything as far as you possibly could. He told of scenes of graphic mutilation of women, children & animals. Lingering scenes of castration, torture and rape. He was giving the impression that these films were in fact real. My dad couldn't believe what he was hearing, he had seen a couple of the films that I had and found them to be nothing more than poorly produced, acted and directed, laughable horror films (which most of them are). It was obvious that the prosecutor was making more of this than necessary in order to shock the old folk into upping the penalty.
My solicitor, acting in my defense, told a different story. I was only 18 and didn't really realize that what I was doing wrong, I was just interested in horror films, that's all. The three old timers disappeared for a few minutes to consider my fate. When they returned the said that "..Taking into account that you have no previous convictions you are sentenced to a two year conditional discharge and £45 court costs to be paid off at £5 a week (for some reason). They also ordered that my video recorder and films be destroyed.
I left the court feeling relieved and thankful that the whole matter had come to an end. I felt angry with the police for the obvious reasons, why were they not out catching murderers etc instead of targeting me? The whole police operation must have cost thousands of pounds, and what for?? I didn't believe that my videos would be destroyed either, especially not the original ones. I have a friend who's uncle is police, he apparently has a lot of unavailable horror films (mine probably).
About two months after the court case a couple of the vice squad turned up on my doorstep with a big plastic bag full of videos which they said I could have back. These were mostly tapes of stuff that had been taped off the TV. They also wanted to know if anyone had sent me any lists or letters concerning films (loads of people had). I said no.
This whole incident put me off collecting horror films for a while. I was tempted to get my collection up and running again but couldn't be doing with the trouble that it might get me into. Nowadays, with the advent of DVD I can get most of the films I want, with superior picture quality and extra bits and pieces. I wished that I had obtained the interview tapes, as these would have made entertaining listening looking back.
SGM would like to give special thanks to Ben for sharing his story with us.
If anyone would like to contact Ben you can email him by clicking here.