Horror has never had an easy relationship with the MPAA. It was toughest in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, when a movie’s rating essentially dictated how many people would see that movie. In those days, theaters were the only outlet to see a new movie and the rating determined how many screens it would be playing on. An R-rated movie is naturally going to screen in more theaters than an X-rated movie. This was just before the dawn of the video market, which had its own issues with the MPAA but ratings were not as big of a worry for them in the grand scheme of things. No, the censorship board wanted to focus on the movies that everyone had the potential to go and see, the publicized movies, the ones that in their minds could do the most harm. After all, the people behind the MPAA will always point out that they’re only there to protect people. With that said, here are five movies that were completely butchered by the censors.
Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator was surprisingly untouched by the censors. That was largely due to Gordon not having a problem with and actually embracing an unrated release. The MPAA caught on with his second film, From Beyond. It was a more fantastical film, not as gory as Re-Animator and the violence was clearly not intended to be realistic, yet it was cut to pieces. The movie remained cut for years, virtually until the DVD boom took off and the unrated version was finally restored.
Horror was everywhere in 1981. The massive success of Friday the 13th led to nearly a hundred slasher releases in the subsequent year. Most of them were incredibly violent, showcasing gore in the same way that Friday the 13th had. There were so many that the MPAA couldn’t keep up with everything, so some got lucky and some took a hit for the entire genre. My Bloody Valentine fell into the latter category. It’s a fun, campy slasher that sort of relies on its inventive kills. But nearly every kill was chopped from the final film. Like From Beyond, this was eventually restored to its original uncut version–in this case, to coincide with the release of the remake.
Wes Craven’s debut feature, The Last House on the Left, was pretty controversial when it was first released. It has a great poster, great marketing campaign, and is in itself a violent and shocking film. When the MPAA fought Craven on the feature and refused to give it an R, he cut the rating card off of another movie and spliced it into the beginning of Last House’s print. That wasn’t enough for the ratings board, clearly. It was trimmed for American audiences, but really suffered overseas. In many countries it was banned and the feature was butchered, even more was cut out of it than in the American release.
Lucio Fulci’s movies didn’t have an easy time getting released stateside during the early days of video. Many of them were heavily cut, but it was The Beyond that suffered more than any of them. Released under the title Seven Doors of Death (and many other things) most of the gore, even scenes of great tension were either heavily cut or totally removed. It was one of the first horrors that started to sell fans on the prospect of DVD when the film was finally remastered and restored to its original glory.
This entry is in some ways a placeholder for the entire Friday the 13th series. After the original sort of slipped by them, MPAA came down on the Friday sequels harder than anything else. Out of all of them, The New Blood got it the worst. Unlike some of the cut sequels—Jason Lives, for instance—The New Blood was actually incredibly gory in its original film. Director John Carl Buechler wanted to create a movie so over-the-top bloody that it couldn’t be taken as anything but fantasy. But nearly every incident of violence, every single moment of impact was cut out of the feature. Despite multiple DVD releases as well as a blu-ray release, none of this cut footage has ever been reincorporated into the film.