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Brand New - Exclusive Interview With Director Jake West
By James Whittington, Monday 30th August 2010
Jake West is one the most talked about directors in the UK today. His movies Doghouse and Evil Aliens are fan favourites and this man of many talents also finds time to run a DVD label named Nucleous. At FrightFest 2010 Jake brought with him his documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic and Censorship which charts the era in the UK that saw the birth of the video nasty. We chatted to Jake about this and his memories of the time.
HC: Can you recall the first "video nasty" that you saw?
JW: Yes the first nasty I saw was The Evil Dead. It was a big deal as a teenager because everybody was talking about how amazing it was.
HC: Was it a disappointment to you?
JW: Nope I luckily started with one of the best and the most entertaining films ever (unlike a lot of the nasties which were rubbish)!
HC: Did it give you the urge to try and find stronger material?
JW: I already had that urge as I was into cinema and anything transgressive that pushed boundaries and upset politicians and Daily Mail readers was stuff that I definitely wanted to see. I remember then next seeing a 4th generation copy of Last House on the Left and it was so raw and real feeling, and Cannibal Holocaust which was a clever film that started the "found footage" genre and really played around with representation of the media which I thought was great – but hated the animal cruelty stuff which was unnecessary.
HC: Do you have a favourite "video nasty" from the DPP list of 39 and why is it?
JW: Hard to pick just one…my favourite from the final 39 would be a bloody fight between Dario Argento's Tenebrae and Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters. My all time favourite Nasty would be The Evil Dead - but that was one from the 33 titles that were eventually dropped from the list and not deemed to be obscene. That film influenced me and my career more than anything. My favourite Nasty that was not an official Nasty – but one that most people think is still to this day would be Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This was on the DPP’s list of Section 3 titles and never prosecuted. And later the BBFC had problems with it and it was then withheld for years because of the Draconian days of censorship under James Ferman.
HC: Where do you stand on the censorship debate; is it a good thing?
JW: I'm against censorship and disagree with it. That doesn’t mean to say I like all works of art that push the boundaries but art and expression is about pushing boundaries. Having one person telling somebody else what they can and can’t see does not work for me. While I agree with a classification system for guidance, in my view anything with an 18 Certificate should be uncut – as that material is for adults and adults should be able to choose what they want to watch not be dictated too by others.
HC: Have you ever had any of your work censored?
JW: Yes, more so with the MPAA in the States for cinema release than with the BBFC in the UK where I’ve mainly had run ins about the age certification. Though on DVD in the States they can release stuff Unrated, whereas here you can’t. It’s all really stupid and just frustrates me. Don’t be fooled there’s still a lot of censorship in the UK. Watch what happens with A Serbian Film and I Spit On Your Grave remake, I doubt that either of them will be released uncut in the UK for cinema or DVD.
HC: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
JW: Well the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape is taking up all my time at the moment. This will then be included on the 3 Disc DVD set Video Nasties – The Definitive Guide released on Oct 11th from Nucleus films. Beyond that I’m developing a couple of projects with writer Dan Schaffer including an adaptation of his graphic novel The Scribbler.
HC: Jake West, thank you very much.
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