Snuff films are live videos of sexual violence where the victim is actually killed. They are the extreme end of sex and torture films, which usually involve excessive abuse and gratuitous violence to unconsenting children and women. Such videos are shown and sold on the black market and difficult to trace. Those that have been seized by police are of questionable authenticity, but nonetheless provide a window into the undercover world of paedophiles, visual obscenity and sexual sado-masochism.
Rumours about snuff movies began circulating in Hollywood in the 1940s; but the term is thought to originate from an Argentine film made in the late 1970s, called "Snuff" (to "snuff it" is "to die"; to "be snuffed out" is to "be killed").
In 1994 in the UK police seized some 5,000 films including films of deliberately staged killings. It is believed that many are made in South America where disappearances are common.