It is the worst nightmare of certain parents and of groups who have advocated for horror films and similar forms of entertainment to be banned. A movie that depicts gruesome and despicable acts becomes popular among a wide variety of audiences, so much so that it becomes either a blockbuster hit or a cult classic. That same film then, in time, inspires individuals to recreate those crimes in horrific ways that create international headlines and that leave real-life victims. While that may sound like the plot of a horror movie in itself, the thought of films inspiring crimes is hardly a new or fictional concept.
Scream was as much of a cultural phenomenon as it was a movie that, in some ways, even poked fun of the horror genre. The series has also triggered something in the minds of those who looked to recreate the crimes that they witnessed in those movies, and that resulted in some schools banning items such as the “Scream” mask during the Halloween season. That the series has inspired crimes has not prevented it from remaining popular among fans or from Scream being turned into a television series that will, as of the posting of this piece, be good for no fewer than two seasons of programming.
Scream was not the first or last movie to inspire disgusting and terrible crimes. The Child’s Play series has been linked with multiple crimes that possibly could have been avoided had those movies never been produced in the first place. A Clockwork Orange has also, over time, been blamed for real crimes that occurred throughout Britain. The list begins with a movie that was not, when compared with other films in the genre, technically a horror film. The truth of the matter is that Natural Born Killers has become a horror film in a way because of the copycat crimes that have been associated with that movie.
10. “Natural Born Killers” Copycats
It has become one of the more controversial movies of its time, in part because of the copycat crimes that have been linked with it since it was first released. The spree that stands out to this day involves then-teenage lovers Benjamin James Darras and Sarah Edmondson. The two gunned-down victims across multiple states, and it was reported after they were captured that they had ingested LSD and watched Natural Born Killers on a loop before beginning their rampage. Killers has, to date, been said to have been the cause of over a dozen similar copycat crimes.
9. “The Deer Hunter” Suicides
The Deer Hunter was a war drama that was released in the late 1970s. It also happens to ironically be the first movie in this list to feature Robert DeNiro. The controversy surrounding this movie was mentioned in Suicidal Movies: Social Patterns 1900-2009. According to that book, The Deer Hunter inspired acts of suicide even 25 years after it was first released. The book claims that 46 cases of suicide that occurred over a seven-year period can be linked to the Russian Roulette scenes that are depicted in The Deer Hunter. The Deer Hunter has, for what it’s worth, been widely praised by critics since its release.
8. John F. Hinckley Jr. – Taxi Driver
In the movie Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro plays psychologically disturbed taxi operator Travis Bickle. The character portrayed by DeNiro in that film spoke to a man named John F. Hinckley Jr. in one specific way: It inspired Hinckley to attempt to kill United States President Ronald Reagan in a copycat crime taken from the movie. Hinckley was said to be looking to impress actress Jodie Foster, who played a prostitute in the film. A note for those who are looking to reach out to a movie star: There are better ways to do so than to attempt to kill any politician, let alone a president.
7. Serial Killer Martin Bryant – Child’s Play 2
The Child’s Play series is one that tells that tales of a psychotic doll coming to life and then committing horrifying acts of murder. It was the second edition of that movie, Child’s Play 2, that was said to be a favorite of Martin Bryant before the mass murderer took the lives of 35 innocent people in the incident known as the Port Arthur Massacre. It has long been speculated that Child’s Play 2, most notably the main villain of the story, served as in inspiration for Bryant. Director John Lafia disagreed with that assessment, however, claiming that the movie had no direct ties to the killings.
6. “Scream Attackers”
14-year-old Daniel Gill and 15-year-old Robert Fuller watched the movie Scream on a January night in 1999. The two then attacked 13-year-old friend Ashley Murray, stabbing the boy 18 times before leaving the victim for dead. Murray was found nearly two days later by a man who was walking his dog in the right place at the right time, and the young man recovered to the point that he was physically able to testify against his assailants. Drawings of the “Scream” masks worn by the killers portrayed in the series were some of the artifacts found on one of the attackers.
5. “Vampire” Daniel Sterling
There are multiple parts of this crime, one inspired by a film, that are downright disturbing. Daniel Sterling and his girlfriend Lisa Stellwagen watched Interview With The Vampire on November 17, 1994. Stellwagen then, according to a story produced by the New York Times, awoke to find her boyfriend staring at her. Sterling, to his credit, was honest, saying the following to his lover: “I’m going to kill you and drink your blood.” That is exactly what he attempted to do, but Stellwagen survived the multiple stab wounds. One cannot see into the future, sure, but she probably should not have dismissed Sterling’s words as being some weird form of “pillow talk.”
4. John Ricketts Mimics “A Clockwork Orange”
A Clockwork Orange is a polarizing film that has, over time, been said to have been the trigger for multiple copycat crimes. While some of those stories are not easy to read, this one is just plain bizarre. John Ricketts was dressed up as a droog, a character from the film, at a holiday party in December of 2007 when, according to Sky News, he approached and assaulted a woman said to be dressed as Little Britain character Vicky Pollard. While the crime may not have a direct tie to the movie, it is an event that is less disturbing than some of the other incidents that have been linked with the film.
3. Allan Menzies Kills: “Queen of the Damned”
Allan Menzies was 23 years old when he was allegedly told by a character from the Queen of the Damned movie that he had to murder his best friend. Menzies followed these non-existent orders, brutally stabbing 21-year-old Thomas McKendrick 42 times. In an attempt to become a vampire, Menzies then drank the blood of the murdered victim. Menzies, who had reportedly watched Queen of the Damned up to 100 times, received a life sentence for his crime, and he was ultimately found dead inside of his prison cell. His suicide resulted in Scottish Police being heavily criticized, as it was said that officials did not do enough to prevent Menzies from taking his own life.
2. Daniel Gonzalez: “Nightmare”
There are some cases where it is mere speculation that a group of crimes was inspired by horror films. That was not the case with Daniel Gonzalez. It was accepted as fact that Gonzalez, a schizophrenic murderer who killed four people, was deeply and disturbingly impacted by movies such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. It was later learned that the killings may have been prevented had Gonzalez received proper treatment for his mental condition. Gonzalez was given multiple life sentences for the killings, but he took his own life in 2007.
1. The First “Scream Murder”
Mario Padilla was 16 years old when he and cousin Samuel Ramirez, 14 years old at the time of the crime, stabbed the mother of Padilla with multiple blows that left the woman dead. The two teenagers were found guilty, and it was widely accepted after the case that they were inspired by the original Scream movie. Investigators later found that the original stabbing was but one of several copycat crimes planned by the teenagers. Psychologist Madeline Levine told CBS News at the time: “There were a whole bunch of reasons why they acted out that way. But did the movie provide a blueprint? Absolutely.”