Killing for Culture


“I thought I was desensitized. I’m not. No hope for humanity… I feel like my quest is over.” — Comment online in reaction to the video, 3 Guys 1 Hammer


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Title Information


Subtitle: From Edison to ISIS: A New History of Death on Film


ISBN (pbk): 978-1-909394-34-6

ISBN (ebk): 978-1-909394-35-3


Trim: 152mm x 229mm (6″ x 9″)

Pages: 646

Illos: 36 colour plates & 200 b&w

One of the most influential of modern film texts

Unlike images of sex, which were clandestine and screened only in private, images of death were made public from the onset of cinema. The father of the modern age, Thomas Edison, fed the appetite for this material with staged executions on film. Little over a century later the executions are real and the world is aghast at brutalities freely available online at the click of a button. Some of these films are created by lone individuals using shaky camera phones: Luka Magnotta, for instance, and the teenagers known as the Dnipropetrovsk maniacs. Others are shot on high definition equipment, scripted and professionally edited by organized groups, such as the militant extremists known as Isis.

Killing for Culture explores these images of death and violence, and the human obsession with looking — and not looking — at them. Beginning with the mythology of the so-called ‘snuff’ film and its evolution through popular culture, this book traces death and the artifice of death in the ‘mondo’ documentaries that emerged in the 1960s, and later the faux snuff pornography that found an audience through Necrobabes and similar websites. However, it is when videos depicting the murders of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg surfaced in the 2000s that an era of genuine atrocity commenced, one that has irrevocably changed the way in which we function as a society.

Killing for Culture is a compelling and thought-provoking book, fully revised and expanded since its publication in the (pre-Internet) nineties to critical and public acclaim.

Key points
  • First published in the 1990s to critical and commercial acclaim, Killing for Culture, one of the most influential of modern (film) texts has a complete makeover.
  • Long out of print, the previous edition was ‘pre-internet’, giving some idea of the wealth of new material in this revised and updated edition.
  • Achingly topical and up to date: streaming militant propaganda is viewed by millions and the source of major news stories.
  • Discusses the most enduring of modern mythologies, the ‘snuff’ film.

Table of Contents




1 The actress is alive and well: Slaughter

2 Hundred bucks for a single screening: Hardcore

3 A great Sunday night show for the whole family: Thrill Kill Video



4 New secrets and sights: A History of Mondo Film

5 See! See!! A man actually eaten alive! Mondo & the Burgeoning Death Scene



6 A new kind of pornographic film: The End of Snuff

7 Dark porn and the video underground: Sodom



8 Whatever happens, keep your cameras rolling! Death in the Media

9 You can hear him screaming: Web of Horror

10 Everyone was terrified: Propagating a Myth

11 It’s a big puzzle: Ways of Seeing



Manson inspired movies of the 1970s

Mondo Cane synopsis

The German Faces of Death


Gimme Shelter

Unabridged Agony

Roswell — The Footage



Mexican Doctor

Shock Video Fakery

The Cultural Mythology of the Snuff Film


Selected Bibliography & Sources



A Note on the Text

A Note on the Colour Sections

About the authors

David Kerekes and David Slater are co-founders of Headpress and have written extensively on film and pop culture.

Read An Extract

Killing for Culture - sample

Press reaction

A fascinating, Nietzschean experience of staring into the abyss and seeing what stares straight back.
Adrian Smith, Cinema Retro
Out of print since its first release in 1994, this cult book is now available in an edition that is, at a staggering 630 lavishly illustrated pages, literally twice the size of the previous edition. It’s appropriate because the world has changed significantly in the last two decades, making its subject even more pertinent.
Dejan Ognjanović, Rue Morgue magazine

Refreshing. Stands as a definitive study.
Sight & Sound
Utterly unputdownable.
Melody Maker
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