Based on one of Oscar Wilde’s famous quotes is a common notion that life imitates art. Cinema indeed is one of the most proliferating art forms, with people seeking out something new with every movie they watch. Films are so much more than mere entertainment; they inspire us, make us cheer, cry, frown, laugh and evoke a ton of other feelings known to the human emotional spectrum.
A few of the movies though operate on a different plane altogether, and don’t really look to accomplish any of the abovementioned. Some of them also scare you, numb you, make you uncomfortable, or leave you feeling downright squirmish. But that’s a perceivably normal reaction when you watch such a film. What if, to a mind or two, these films actually seemed fascinating? There are but a few people who took the imitation too far, committing gruesome acts of violence in the process. Certainly not one of the ways filmmakers wanted to ‘inspire’ people. Here is a list of 10 such movies that directly or indirectly inspired horrible real life crimes.
WARNING: Possible Spoilers, and more importantly, some of the instances may contain gruesome details that are upsetting. I would advise personal discretion.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
I do admit, Freddy Krueger scared the crap out of me the first time I saw ANOES. Never in your worst nightmares would you want a character like him anywhere near you. And then there’s this: Daniel Gonzalez was so enamoured with the character that he wanted to become him. Yes, you heard it right. A schizophrenic, the person fantasised about becoming a serial killer. In 2004, Gonzalez went on a killing spree, fueled by drugs, knived four people to death, and fatally injured two in a fashion similar to the antagonist of the ANOES series. He later wrote to himself how much he enjoyed those murders, and was later sentenced to life in prison, where he committed suicide in 2007. All sorts of disturbing, this is.
2. Natural Born Killers (1994)
‘Natural Born Killers’ directed by Oliver Stone with a screenplay by the auteur of stylised violence himself, Quentin Tarantino, is easily one of the most controversial movies ever made. Reception to the movie was mostly mixed when it opened, but the highly graphic violent content and its glorification in the film were mostly detested. Another thing that the movie was notorious for, was inspiring a LOT of copy-cat crimes. Yes, there’s a whole list of it. Undoubtedly, the most infamous among them is the Oklahoma case, where a couple repeatedly watched the film, indulging themselves in substance abuse while they did, went on a drug fuelled fury and lethally shot at least two people, killing one and severely injuring the other for life. The case received widespread attention as the survivor later sued the makers of the film for being irresponsible with their production and inciting acts of violence.
3. Queen of the Damned (2002)
Compared to the other movies on the list, this one is relatively unknown, but the bizarre horror it entails puts them to shame too. The film has a plot somewhat resembling a B-movie, where a vampire turns into a rockstar believing his music will summon the queen of vampires. While the movie isn’t that popular either and is relatively unheard of, it caught the fancy of one particular person. Allan Menzies, after watching the film close to a hundred times, claims to have been visited by Queen Akasha of the film, who ordered him to kill his best friend in return for immortality in his next life (or being turned into a vampire in the next life, as he testified). Menzies stabbed his friend multiple times, reportedly drank his blood and disposed off the body with his father. Further details of this gruesome murder are too disturbing to share here.
4. Child’s Play 3 (1991)
The ‘Child’s Play’ film franchise, starting back in 1988 with the movie of the same name, is centred on a serial killer’s soul trapped inside a good guy doll. Apart from being hugely successful at the time of its release, the film spawned five sequels and popularised the slasher genre. However, the movie reportedly fuelled the violent streak in some people, with numerous cases of torture and murder being reported against attackers who were later revealed to be somewhat fascinated by the ‘Chucky’ franchise. Eerie.
An incident that shook the collective British conscience was the murder of a toddler at the hands of two ten year olds. The assaulters reportedly were inspired by, and had watched the third flick in the series prior to committing the atrocity on a mere two year old child. The incident was met with widespread criticism and extensive media coverage, with parents lobbying for tightening laws on entertainment media, which eventually led to a ban on the film.
5. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Now this is a date night gone horribly, horribly wrong. After watching the 1994 film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, together, a seemingly normal couple came back home. Things got tense when the guy exclaimed, “Tonight you’re going to die. I’m going to kill you and drink your blood” in the middle of the night, following which he brutally stabbed his girlfriend seven times and “drank her blood for several minutes” according to reports. The victim narrowly survived after receiving proper medical care, while the assailant was convicted of attempts to murder and a plethora of other charges, even citing that he didn’t blame the film for his act, but that it did influence him.
6. Taxi Driver (1976)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver is widely regarded to be an iconic, important film, with film tabloids often calling it one of the best films ever made. The film centres on lonely and depressed taxi driver Travis Bickle who attempts to free the city of its murk and sleaze by trying to save a child prostitute (played by Jodie Foster). The film was already marred in controversy relating to its violent scenes and use of blood on the film, yet no one knew that it would entail a controversy as big as an attempt on the life of a US President!
John Hinckley Jr. made an assassination attempt at President Ronald Reagan in 1981, reportedly to impress Jodie Foster, who he was obsessed with after watching the film. The accused mimicked Travis’ mohawk appearance from the film, and was supposedly disillusioned with the scene in the film where Travis tries to assassinate the senator at a rally. Strangely enough, the accused pleaded not guilty on grounds of insanity and was recently released following his term at a correctional facility. During the court trials, the movie was played as part of evidence presented by the defense.
7. The Dark Knight (2008)
As interesting as the Joker’s character was in ‘The Dark Knight’, magnetic or inspiring is not one of the words I would use to describe the character’s personality. Apparently, one man took the Joker’s penchant for chaos too seriously. During a midnight screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ in Aurora, Colorado, the heavily armed assailant James Holmes stepped into the theatre dressed in full tactical gear and a gas mask, and opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd after firing two tear gas canisters. The attack claimed twelve lives and injured seventy people, and was widely condemned as one of the most senseless, brutal, and inhuman acts all over the world. Prior to the attack, Holmes had died his hair orange and set up numerous booby traps in his apartment, rigged to explosives. After committing the atrocity, the assailant is said to have calmly walked outside the theatre, and surrendered to the police, introducing himself as the Joker.
8. SAW VI (2009)
The SAW series is one of the most popular franchises in the horror/gore genre, with Jigsaw being one of the most sadistic antagonists ever, torturing his hapless targets through his eponymous “tests” before killing them in gruesome ways.
An incident reportedly inspired by the sixth film in the series occurred In London, in 2012. A man murdered a fellow flatmate by stabbing him multiple times, as he tried to get the victim’s account and pin number for buying drugs. The incident took an even more aggressively violent turn as the attacker tried to sever the victim’s spine thereafter with his knife, mimicking the infamous scene from the film.
9. American Psycho (2000)
By any standard, ‘American Psycho’ starring Christian Bale is a disturbing film. Having looked at the films on this list, and the subject matter dealt with in the film, it is no surprise that the film inspired acts of violence. However, one instance in particular completely obscures any horrific murder committed by Patrick Bateman in the film. The incident occurred in Florida, when a 14 year old Michael Hernandez stabbed his best friend to death multiple times and slit his throat. He was given a life term in jail, and while there, he admitted to having modelled his violent behaviour after the film. He later also admitted that he believed God had agreed with his plans and had given him special powers to see the task to completion. 12 years later, in a court hearing in 2016, the defendant pleaded not guilty on grounds of insanity. The court, however overruled the plea and slapped another life sentence on the convicted.
10. Scream (1996)
Perhaps no other film on this list has proven to be as impressionable to the criminal mind as this one. The ‘Scream’ film series developed by Wes Craven has been accused of inspiring many violent crimes over the years, with criminals using the ‘Ghostface’ alias, wearing the infamous mask and dressed in black robes to perform heinous acts of violence. In probably the most gruesome and shocking copycat murders inspired from the film’s antagonist, fifteen year old Alisson Cambier was brutally stabbed a total of thirty times by Thierry Jaradin, who she had befriended earlier. Jaradin donned the ghostface mask, and after the horrific incident, called up the cops and confessed. What bewildered the cops and authorities was that reportedly the accused had no criminal record or history of mental illness. I am going to save a lot of grisly details here, but know that reading about the murder made my stomach churn.
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