Faces of Death, the controversial movie that claimed to feature footage of actual gruesome deaths – most of which were, in fact, faked – is getting a Hollywood upgrade. Legendary will make a Faces of Death reimagining with Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber, the team behind the indie horror movie Cam. The story involves a YouTube moderator who discovers a group of people recreating the deaths from the original movie.
If you grew up in the era of video stores, you probably know all about Faces of Death – even if you never rented a copy. The VHS cover art was designed to shock and titillate, featuring a leering skull and boasting a claim that the film was “banned in 40+ countries!” It gained infamy as something akin to a snuff film, but here’s the twist: most of the death in the movie was fake, staged with make-up effects. And while the film was banned in some places, it definitely was not banned in 40+ countries. It was all a rouse to make Faces of Death all the more shocking, and thus more appealing to the morbidly curious.
Written and directed by John Alan Schwartz, the original film took the form of a faux-documentary where a pathologist named Francis B. Gröss (played by actor Michael Carr) presents the audience with a cavalcade of disturbing footage showing different gruesome ways of death, from various sources. While there were a few bits of genuine footage in the film – there’s the aftermath of a deadly car accident that’s real, for instance – the bulk of the movie consists of staged moments.
That didn’t matter, though. As the saying goes, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” And the legend of Faces of Death far outweighed its actual content. The cult appeal was so much that several sequels were spawned – Faces of Death II (1981), Faces of Death III (1985), The Worst of Faces of Death (1987), Faces of Death IV (1990), Faces of Death V (1995) Faces of Death VI (1996).
Now, Legendary wants to turn this whole idea into a feature film. Per THR, producers Susan Montford and Don Murphy of Angry Films are working with Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber, the team behind Cam, on a film that will “revolve around a female moderator of a YouTube-like website, whose job is to weed out offensive and violent content and who herself is recovering from a serious trauma, that stumbles across a group that is recreating the murders from the original film. But in the story primed for the digital age and age of online misinformation, the question faced is are the murders real or fake?”
Mazzei will direct and Goldhaber will handle the script. The story of the film comes from Mazzei, Goldhaber, and Isabelle Link-Levy. And believe it or not, this isn’t the first time Hollywood tried to dip into Faces of Death. Back in 2006, producers Murphy and Montford (along with Rick Benattar) announced they were remaking Faces of Death, and brought on filmmaker J.T. Petty. Petty helmed the excellent faux-documentary S&MAN (pronounced Sandman), in which Petty investigates the world of underground horror and discovers someone who may be making real snuff films. Based on S&MAN, Petty seemed like a pretty great choice to helm Faces of Death, but that version never came together. Now, it’s time to try again. And I’m interested! I kind of dig that plot synopsis, and I’m curious to see how this one pans out.
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