A "snuff film" is a term used to describe a (usually) fictional film that depicts the actual death of one or more of the participants - often a "snuff film" is pornographic in nature or glorifies the murder, though it does not always have to.
Largely confined to the realms of fiction there have, sadly, been killers in the real world depraved enough to film their exploits - unlike the legend of the "snuff film" however, none of these recordings were widely passed onto the public and although many stories continue to exist of large internet-based stuff societies (akin to the fictional Elite Hunting society) there is little hard evidence to support such claims and for now it is generally regarded as in the realms of conspiracy theories and urban myth.
"Snuff films" need not involve humans however and there is documented proof of films created that involve fatal animal abuse, often for fetish sites, some people fear that the logical "next step" for such things would be human killings - leading to calls for tighter control over the internet.
Although not a "snuff film" the real-world practice of "happy slapping" is similar, though usually non-fatal, this crime is when a group of youths record a violent beating on mobile phones and pass it along to friends or other gangs - sites such as Youtube have a special flagging system to detect and delete such material and offenders are often banned (as well as face criminal charges if the police become involved).
Fiction dealing with the topic of snuff films
The following fiction deals heavily with the topic of Snuff Films and has, for better or worse, helped to entrench the concept into the human mind.
- Creepypasta (an internet-based craze focused on creating disturbing versions of real-life shows, often with supernatural and/or snuff-related topics)
- Hostel (the antagonists of the series (Elite Hunting) are a secret society of killers-for-hire who bid human victims online to numerous clients from across the world)
- Saw (some of the Jigsaw killings are recorded - even those that are not involved scenarios associated with "snuff": the original Jigsaw killer was more amoral than his apprentices, who made their traps impossible to escape from)
- Henry: Portrait Of A Serial-Killer (Henry records the rape and murder of an entire family, however, this is not a true "snuff film" as he did not release it for public viewing, keeping it for his own twisted enjoyment)
- Peeping Tom (the antagonist of the film, Mark Lewis, is a serial killer who films his female victim's dying moments of terror using a portable camera)
- Cannibal Holocaust (Alan Yates and his crew film many massacres and a scene of rape during their exploits, the film itself was the subject of a real-world court battle due to its graphic violence, which some believed was a real-life "snuff film" (though it was later proven false) )
- Last House On Dead End Street (the antagonist of the film, Terry Hawkins, takes out his frustrations by creating snuff films)
- Hardcore (a drama that concerned the efforts of a father to find his missing daughter, becoming ensnared in a (fictional) world of pornography and snuff films in the process)
- Tesis (Spanish horror film dealing with a secret snuff ring in a University)
- Mute Witness (horror/thriller film dealing with a mute protagonist and her battle against a snuff ring led by a criminal mastermind known as The Reaper)
- 8mm (the antagonist of the movie, Dino Velvet, is a snuff film director - aided by the masked "Machine")
- My Little Eye (this film deals with the controversial (yet widely believed) legend of the internet snuff-film)
- Untraceable (the antagonist of the film, Owen Reilly, is a snuff film maker with a high internet following (arguably his followers are also guilty as they fuelled his psychosis) )
- Fallout: New Vegas (A seemingly decent man working for the Omerta crime family is discovered to be a sadistic snuff filmer)