Horror movies are frequently blamed for any number of things. People say that something has to be wrong with somebody who watches horror. The movies are even blamed for violence in general. If violent crime is at a high, it must be because of the amount of violence that can be seen on the screen or experienced in a video game.
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Horror movies have been blamed for real events through the years. But it’s worth pointing out that horror films aren’t the only titles that have been used as a scapegoat for horrific behavior. The Dark Knight Rises, The Matrix, Fight Club, Twilight, and more were all accused of inciting real life violence. In fact, there are actually more instances of mainstream flicks being accused of leading to real-life crimes. But horror is what causes the biggest controversy and gets reported on the most. People often look for an easy excuse to explain human behavior and typically use examples like the seven films outlined below to fuel the fire.
In 2004, a South Florida high school student named Michael Hernandez killed a classmate by stabbing them to death. He claimed to model his behavior after fictional serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, saying that he identified with the killers in horror movies and had aspirations of becoming a serial killer himself. Later, however, he claimed that God had given him special powers and He himself had told Hernandez to kill his classmate.
Queen of the Damned
While it’s relatively tame and barely even a horror movie, Queen of the Damned was nonetheless blamed for a pretty shocking crime. After reportedly watching the movie over 100 times in 2002, Allan Menzies believed that the titular—and obviously fictional—queen vampire Akasha came to him in the middle of the night and told him that if he murdered people for her she would make him a vampire. Menzies decided to kill his lifelong best friend, Thomas McKendrick. He stabbed McKendrick to death, drank his blood and ate his head. When authorities came for him, Menzies was found dead in an apparent suicide. Like Hernandez, other motives were apparent. Menzies believed that McKendrick and numerous others were plotting to kill him, and apparently decided to turn on his friend in what he believed to be a preemptive measure.
Given that the film contains the lines “Don’t blame the movies” and “Movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative” it’s somewhat ironic that Scream was blamed for the murder of a woman by two teenage boys. Gina Castillo was killed by her 16-year-old son and his cousin. The two boys confessed to the murder, claiming that they did it in order to fund a murder spree that would reportedly echo the plot of the Scream movies, which is an odd motive, given the cheapness and widespread availability of the film’s costume. But the movie was blamed for the death regardless, which was in part what led Scream 3 to be such a tame film compared to the first two.
In 2004, a paranoid schizophrenic named Daniel Gonzalez murdered four apparently random people, armed with several knives. Given the nature of the weapons, the then twenty-year-old-film A Nightmare on Elm Street was blamed for the crime. Gonzalez was also on several substances for the duration of the short rampage. The official reports claimed that he was not being properly treated for his mental condition.
More than anything, this one is a case of sheer stupidity. Two teenage girls in Tennessee made a prank call to 52-year-old Beverly Dickson, claiming that there was a trap in her house and it would be filled with toxic gas, and asked her if she wanted to live or die. Dickson was attending a funeral at the time, suffered a stroke and died on the spot. The two 13-year-old girls were charged with phone harassment.
Two 10-year-old boys snatched an infant child from a shopping mall in Liverpool, took him out to the railroad tracks, beat and sexually assaulted him and then left him for dead. They were supposedly inspired by the film Child’s Play 3. This caused an outcry against the picture and horror in general in the UK. Child’s Play 3 was subsequently banned. The controversy bled over into the United States, spawning an entire new outrage against the horror genre. The movie suffered and it would be almost a decade before another entry in the series would be made. It was later learned that the two boys had not, in fact, seen the movie.
While it may be one of the most revered, beloved horror films of all time, The Exorcist has seen its share of controversy as well. Two days after an airing of the film on television, Patricia Frazier cut out her daughter’s heart as she believed the girl was possessed by demons. Psychologists claimed that it was “cinematic trauma” that caused her to murder her own daughter. The fact that Frazier was a paranoid schizophrenic seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the crime. Her condition was deemed as not relevant to the murder and it was the film—which had even been edited for television—that was determined to be the clear cause. In 1976, the feature was also blamed in an armed robbery, with a young man robbing a convenience store as a direct result of seeing the movie. This is no joke, as attorneys claimed it was the film’s negative effect on the viewer and the mind that caused him to commit the crime.