A View to a Kill: Perspectives on Faux-Snuff and Self

In Neil Jackson, Shaun Kimber, Johnny Walker & Thomas Joseph Watson (eds.), Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media. Bloomsbury Academic (2016)
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Scholarly debate over faux-snuff’s content has predominantly focused on realism and affect. This paper seeks to offer an alternative interpretation, examining what faux-snuff’s form reveals about self. Faux-snuff is typically presented from a first-person perspective, and as such is foundationally invested in the killer’s experiences as they record their murder spree. First then, I propose that the simulated-snuff form reifies self-experience in numerous ways. Faux-snuff’s characteristic formal attributes capture the self’s limited, fractured qualities, for example. Second, I contend that the faux-snuff film’s singular focus lays bare the killer-self. The killer’s identity is principally constituted by the murders they commit. Resultantly, faux-snuff’s victims necessarily affirm the killer qua killer in the moment of murder. However, homicide eradicates the victim. Victims thus vanish in the moment they become the killer’s counter-identity. Consequently, the mock-snuff film centralises not only killing, but also the killer’s self-abnegation. Simulated-snuff’s repeated murders are a compulsive process of becoming in which the killer-self is both reified and erased. Despite presenting events through the killer’s eyes then, the simulated-snuff film can never provide access to the killer. The killer is an absent-presence that also acts as a constant reminder that the viewer is profoundly distanced from the action depicted, despite its apparent immediacy. In sum, faux-snuff commonly combines first-person form with relentless violent content. That melding leads me to scrutinize the apparently absolute binary oppositions at the heart of self-conception. By nature of their approach, these films routinely expose the tipping points between victim/killer, self/other, and life/death. In doing so, simulated-snuff catalyses questions about the self in general, and about our own selves in particular.

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Steve Jones
University of Northumbria at Newcastle


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