#10:  Snuff (1976)

This film was an extremely low-budget movie that depicted itself as a real “snuff film”.  The film’s distributor had hired fake protestors for its premiere, which became moot when Women Against Pornography began protesting for real and sexual violence in the film.  The protestors were covered by the media including, CBS Evening News.  Variety magazine exposed the film as a hoax, but not before it became popular in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Boston.  Rumors persisted that the film was a real murder.  The movie’s tagline was, “The film that could only be made in South America…where Life is cheap!”

New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau investigated the film to find out if the rumors were true.  Morgenthau had police track down the actress who played the murdered crewmember and announced that she was indeed alive.  He dismissed the film as “nothing more than conventional trick photography—as is evident to anyone who sees the movie”.

#9:  Nine Inch Nails Music Video “Down In It” (1989)

A Michigan farmer, Robert Reed, was checking on his cornfield one morning when he looked up and saw something floating in the sky.  The wind carried the craft down and he saw it was a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super-8 camera.  The state police took possession of the camera.  They watched the film and saw what appeared to be either a gang or cult murder.  Investigators studied the bizarre film for clues and any indication of where it was shot.  An investigator recognized that the lights were an elevated train track and it was the Chicago-L.  A copy of the film was sent to the Chicago Police in Illinois.

Chicago detectives pinpointed the exact place where the film was shot, but could not figure out who the victim or perpetrators were.  The Chicago PD then sent the film to the FBI for enhancement.  It was about a year after the film had been found.  The Chicago Police then got a tip from an art student that helped identify the victim.  It was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

It turns out that the investigation that lasted a year was over a music video by Nine Inch Nails.  The weather balloons, which were being used to get an overhead shot, were blown more than a hundred miles from Chicago, across the Great Lakes, to Michigan.  The Michigan State Police, The Chicago Police, and the FBI spent more than a year investigating the case, trying to determine who the victim was, and what had happened.

“About 6 months ago, my manager got a call from an investigator in Chicago, who thinks that I might be dead. So there was talk of me having to go to Chicago, to prove that I’m alive, but I never had to do that. I think they felt a little bit silly, which was good…When the news came through that this was some sort of a cult killing, and that I had been killed, this great story, my initial reaction was that it was really funny, that something could be that blown out of proportion, and this many people working on it. And I felt kinda good that the Police had made idiots of themselves.” Trent Reznor said.

#8:  Meat After School (2009)

A teenager found a torso hidden in a remote wooded area when he was walking his dog one night.  He immediately called the police.  Three squad cars and a team of forensic experts rushed to the private wooded area immediately.  It turns out that Geoff Searle (left), 29, was filming a scene in the British woodland, a short horror film called “Meat After School”, for an American competition.  His crew had decided to break for dinner and left the dummy torso in some bushes.  An hour later, it was missing.

The police reprimanded the filmmaker, “Not only will the discovery have caused some distress to the member of public who came across it, but the subsequent police response involved the use of valuable resources.”

Searle insisted he had permission from the owner to film there, but police had not been contacted about the production or about the missing prop.

#7:  A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971)

Carlo Rimbaldi, a special effects legend, most famous for E.T., Dune, and Alien also did a low budget Lucio Fulci film called A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.  It was a crime story about a woman who was accused of murdering her neighbor after having dreamt about the crime.  In one scene, the accused murderer, Carol, walks into a sanatorium to see vivisected dogs.  An Italian court thought the effects were so convincing that they charged Fulci with animal cruelty.  He faced a two-year prison sentence until crewmembers testified that the dogs were not real and in fact made of rubber.  The charges were dropped, but later versions of the film do not contain the dog scene.

#6:  Guinea Pig (1980s – 1990s) and Charlie Sheen

The Guinea Pig film series was a series of seven controversial Japanese slasher films based on Hideshi Hino’s manga comic books.  When Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki was found with the fourth film in the series, it was falsely reported that Miyazaki was re-enacting the film as part of his crimes.  Because of notoriety and controversy, the film went out of production.  The entire series was then reissued on DVD for consumption in the U.S. among other countries.  In 1991, the films received additional media coverage when Chris Gore, independent film writer, met Charlie Sheen and gave him a copy.

After Sheen watched the second film in the series, he mistook it for a genuine snuff film.  Sheen then reported it to the FBI.  FBI agent Dan Codling said that the FBI and the Japanese authorities were already investigating the filmmakers, who had already been repeatedly interviewed.

The makers were eventually summoned to Japanese court and had to prove the effects were fake.  The FBI dropped their investigation after watching a documentary about how the first three films were made.

#5:  New Terminal Hotel (2010)

Firefighters were summoned to the George Washington Hotel, in Pennsylvania, in 2010 because of a fire that had broken out in a long-abandoned room.  When the firefighters discovered that the room looked like the scene of a gruesome murder, they called investigators.  The hotel wasn’t a stranger to death having had 12 deaths since it opened in 1923.  Police Chief J.R. Blyth described the scene as “the most grisly murder scene in my 35 years in law enforcement.”

The room was cordoned off as a crime scene and it took 8 hours of combing over the scene before the police realized that something was amiss.  It turns out that the “crime scene” was actually the two-year-old not cleaned up movie set of Corey Haim’s direct-to-DVD horror movie, New Terminal Hotel.  The hotel’s owner, Kyrk Pyros, decided to leave the room untouched in case the crew needed to reshoot any scenes, but then forgot about it.

#4:  The Veteran (2011)

For days, residents in South London were afraid and confused by gunshots that kept ringing out.  So someone finally called the police.  Cops rushed to the scene to discover 1,700 empty shell casings in the street.  They found no bodies, no one injured, and no bullet holes.  They took the casings as evidence and examined them.  They found that the bloodless gun war was something they had given permission for, an action movie.

The forensics team found that the brass casings were all blank rounds and that they had just investigated the set of the gangster film The Veteran.  Funny thing is, the production studio actually had officers present for three of the days of filming.  The Veteran had previously obtained a filming permit from the police department for the shooting scenes.  Even though the police knew ahead of time that filming was happening, gave permission for filming to occur, and were present at some of the filming, they just couldn’t figure out why there were casings and nothing else.  They threatened the movie with charges for wasting police resources on the investigation.

#3:  Easter Passion Drama

A longhaired, bearded man walked into an Alexandria, Minnesota Fitness Center dripping with blood and headed for the shower room.  The center’s employees immediately called 911 about the sociopathic murderer.  The SWAT team responded to the club and officers went in to question witnesses.  They identified the suspect as Lee Backhaus, an actor in Zion Lutheran Church’s annual Easter Passion Drama.  He had simply just played Jesus and needed to wash off the fake stage blood.

Backhaus was a member of the club and in fact had told the club’s staff he would be there that day with fake blood on him and would need to use the showers.  They okayed it and apparently forgot.

#2:  Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Ruggero Deodato’s Italian mock-documentary “recovered footage” film about indigenous peoples in the Amazon Rainforest and the missing film crew that visited them.  The film contains several scenes of sexual violence and animal cruelty.  In 2006, EW magazine named it the 20th most controversial film of all-time.  In 1981, Photo magazine alleged that the film was real and the actors were actually murdered.  The film was confiscated as evidence 10 days after premiering and Deodato was arrested.  He was held on obscenity charges, which were later upgraded to include murder.  The courts believed that the four actors who portrayed the documentary film crew were killed and that the actress who is shown impaled in one scene by a pole really was.  Deodato had actually had the actors sign contracts to ensure they would not appear in any media, movies, or commercials for one year after the film was released, so that he could promote the film as real recovered footage.  Needless to say when Deodato claimed that he was innocent and the group was not killed, questions arose as to why the actors were not acting anymore.

Deodato was able to prove that the whole thing was fake.  He contacted Luca Barbareschi and told him to get the actors.  He voided their contracts and avoided life in prison.  He brought the four actors onto the set of a TV show, which satisfied the courts.  He also had to prove the impalement scene was in fact a special effect.  He told the court that he had the actress sit on a bicycle seat attached to a pole and hold a short length of wood in her mouth, thus appearing as though she was impaled.  Deodato also entered into evidence pictures of her with the crew after the scene.  Satisfied, the court dropped all the charges against Deodato.

Deodato was exonerated for murder, but was convicted of obscenity and animal cruelty and given a four-month suspended sentence.  His film was banned for three years until in 1984; he won a ruling that granted the film a “cut print” release.  Eventually, he would be able to release an uncut version.  As of 2012, the film is still banned in Malaysia, Singapore, Iceland, Germany, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam, Iran and New Zealand.  Deodato admitted that he did kill real animals during the film.  Seven in total were killed, but only six are shown on screen (a coatimundi, turtle, spider, snake, two squirrel monkeys [scene had to be reshot], and a pig).

#1:  CSI:  Crime Scene Investigation

Kay Fab of Vienna, Virginia came home one night to find her home wrapped in yellow crime scene tape.  In the shadows lay a severed arm, foot, and a weapon.  She also saw human shadows in the windows.  When she saw a man lurking behind her garage, she jumped back in her car and drove to the nearest police station.

When the police responded with her in tow, a man ran out of the house and yelled “surprise!”  All the lights came on and there were a bunch of people clapping.  It was Fab’s birthday and she was a CSI super fan, so her husband wanted to throw her a surprise CSI themed party.  Thankfully, the police did not shoot at him when he ran out of the house at them.  Kay and Joe Fab apologized to the police for the misunderstanding and the waste of time.

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