A snuff film is a film, sometimes pornographic, that allegedly depicts actual murder, produced for entertainment purposes.
The actual existence of snuff films has been disputed. Such films have long been relegated by skeptics to the realm of urban legend and moral panic.
A possibly credible case emerged in 2000, when an Italian police operation broke up a gang of child pornographers based in Russia who, it was claimed, were offering snuff films for sale to their clients. No such films have been found to date; it is unknown whether the "snuff film" angle to this bust was a scam by the pornographers, whose victims were unlikely ever to complain to the authorities, or a circulation-building ploy by Il Mattino, the Italian daily where the snuff charges were first reported.
The first recorded use of the term snuff as a euphemism for murder was in Ed Sanders' book about the Manson Family murders, The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion (1971). It subsequently reappeared and became more widely known in 1976 in the context of the film Snuff.
Sometimes murderers film their crimes; the resultant movies are not considered snuff films because they are not made for the express purpose of generating a profit from distribution.
The fictional film Hardcore (1979) involves a runaway's father investigating the veracity of an 8mm film that appears to be of a teenage girl being murdered. The fictional Spanish movie Tesis (1996) also concerns snuff movie making. 8mm (1999) is a similar fictional movie about a private investigation of this genre of filmmaking.
The film Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood was designed to look like an authentic snuff film. The video is grainy and unsteady, as if recorded by amateurs. In the film, a woman, apparently drugged, is shown chained to a bed as a man in a samurai costume slowly kills her through torture and dismemberment. The film is so realistic that the FBI, acting on a tip from actor Charlie Sheen, investigated the film, believing it to be a real murder. It was not. The producers made another film, known commonly as Guinea Pig 2: The making of Guinea Pig 1. Likewise, Italian director Ruggero Deodato was once called before a court in order to prove that a murder depicted in his film Cannibal Holocaust had been faked.
The number of Internet downloads of videos depicting actual murders (e.g. the filmed decapitations of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Paul Johnson and Kim Sun-il), plus the popularity of television programs and video releases showing actual or recreated deaths (i.e. Faces of Death, World's Wildest Police Videos - though the latter program usually edits out the more violent footage), reveals how large a market for genuine footage of murderous violence exists, however the context might be labelled.
The film Snuff was originally entitled Slaughter.