Dir: Bernard Rose. 2005.UK/Romania. 93 mins.

After ivansxtcproved such a cult favourite in certain territories, British director BernardRose now delivers in Snuff adeliciously Machievellian horror movie which has cult hit written all over it.Strictly for adults of a robust constitution, as opposed to the sanitized PG-13horror movies which are so marketable in wide release these days, Snuff ramps up the gore, nudity and shock factor withinthe context of myriad narrative puzzles. Often genuinely scary, sometimeslaughably absurd, the picture is destined to be a favourite of horror fans andmidnight movie aficionados, while amusing critics and buffs with non-stop filmreferences.

Snuff marks an opportunity for international distributorsto buy into a smart genre title with theatrical potential and high DVD value.It nevertheless contains some no-holds-barred imagery which some will take moreseriously than others (or than they should), so buyers should expectprohibitive ratings and a limited free-TV life across the world.

Production values are high.Although almost all set in the ritzy North London neighbourhood of Highgate, itwas shot entirely in Romania and the results are impressive. The $6m film feelslike it's set in London, but could never have been made so cost-effectively hadit been filmed there.

At the heart of themulti-layered drama is a gleeful performance by Dutch star Jeroen Krabbe,playing a film director called Boris Arkadin (note the Orson Welles referenceright off the bat) with the oily charm and menace of Vincent Price at his mostdemented.

The film opens in London,1888, with the arrival of a doctor at the mansion of Mr Maezel (played byKrabbe). Maezel explains that his wife has died in childbirth but the baby isstill alive and he wants the doctor to cut her open and rescue the infant. But,once the operation has been completed, the audience realizes that she was neverdead.

The Hammer-esque sequence,we soon discover, is a clip from a film by the legendary horror directorArkadin being projected in his London house, the same mansion as we saw in thefilm. It is 1975 and all his friends are there for the screening and party, aswell as his pregnant wife Mary (Lisa Enos). A man is shooting the party on aSuper 8 camera. But after Arkadin has been called away on an emergency to go tothe film laboratory, a group of crazed girls and one man (a la Manson) breakinto the party and kill all in sight including Mary.

Next up is a documentarybeing shown on television in present day London. A budding actress Wendy (Enosagain) and her boyfriend Andy (Mackenzie) are making love watching the filmwhile the film's director Nick Broomfield (yes, the same) is explaining howArkadin withdrew into a life of seclusion following the murders with his sonwho was born by Ceasarian section after his wife's death.

But Boris is planning to goback behind the camera to make a film recreating the events on the night of themurders, and he wants Wendy to play Mary. She and three other actors a bustyCaliforninan blonde (Harrison), a leading man (Sharif) and a nerdy guy (Regan) are asked to spend a couple of days in extended rehearsal with Arkadin in hismansion the same one we have seen before.

Arkadin has wired the housewith multiple cameras and starts shooting the movie immediately, forcing theactors to play their roles and setting in motion a series of horrifying eventsfor them to cope with. Andy meanwhile stumbles upon a website which iswebcasting the evening for entertainment, and calls the police in.

Armed with a surprisefinish, Rose manages to keep bluffing the audience while building considerabletension. Krabbe meanwhile camps it up something marvelous as the puppetmaster,laughing his way through various acts of degradation, a decaptiation and aspectacular crucifixion. Lisa Enos is game as the various women in his life,whether having a baby cut out of her without anesthetic or being nailed to across.

From The Devils to Eyes Wide Shut, Peeping Tom to A Clockwork Orange,Rose infuses the drama with tips of the hat to other films, a device which onlystrengthens his theme of the medium's ability to beg, borrow and steal in theservice of illusion. If it's nothing more than a shaggy dog story in the end,hardy viewers will have devilish fun in the process of being deceived.

Prod cos: Junction Films.
Worldwide sales: Focal PointReleasing (+ 1 310 641 5360).
Exec prods: Donald Kushner,Peter Locke.
Prods: Brad Wyman, Lisa Enos.
Scr: Bernard Rose.
DoP: Bernard Rose.
Prod des: Tine Jespersen.
Ed: David Gamble.
Mus: Matt Schultz..
Main cast: Jeroen Krabbe, LisaEnos, Hugo Myatt, Joe Regan, Teri Harrison, Sharif, Alastair Mackenzie