6. Scream (1996)
As soon as Scream became a pop cultural phenomenon, it wasn’t long before impressionable (and disturbed) minds started citing the film as inspirations for real-life murders. Perhaps the first incident to draw national media attention was in 1998, when a Californian woman, Gina Castillo, was stabbed to death by her teenage son and nephew with knives and screwdrivers.
Further investigations revealed that one of the suspects also had plans to murder a classmate – simply because she resembled Scream star Drew Barrymore.
The most notorious Scream inspired slaying to date, however, occurred in Belgium in 2001, when 24-year-old Thierry Jaradin murdered 15-year-old Alisson Cambier.
The deranged murderer actually killed Cambier while dressed in the iconic Ghostface costume – after stabbing her in excess of 30 times, he placed a rose in her hand and left her bloody corpse in his bed. When grilled by police, Jaradin made no efforts to mask his inspiration; he bluntly said the murder was premeditated and heavily influenced by his love of the Scream franchise.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are literally dozens of instances of people committing armed robberies while donning the Ghostface garb. Indeed, there were no less than seven bank robberies perpetrated by individuals in Scream get-up in South Carolina, Ohio and Texas in 2016 alone.
7. American Psycho (2000)
American Psycho was being blamed for murders five years before it even became a movie. The hyper-controversial Bret Easton Ellis book (which drew protests from feminists who said the book promoted violence against women when originally released in 1991) was cited as an influence on Paul Bernardo, a convicted Canadian serial killer who preyed upon young high school girls. He reportedly kept a copy of the book by his bedside and oft referred to it as “his bible.”
The 2000 film adaptation starring Christian Bale, unsurprisingly, has likewise been accused of inspiring numerous murders over the last 17 years. In 2004, a 14-year-old boy named Michael Hernandez killed a fellow middle schooler in south Florida; he later told police that the character of Patrick Bateman was a major influence on the crime.
Then in 2012, 19-year-old Brian Douglas White killed his ex-girlfriend’s mother and boyfriend in a bloody axe attack; after White committed suicide at the scene of the crime, investigators discovered his social media profiles were littered with references to and quotes from American Psycho.
Yet another Canadian Psycho emerged in 2012, when Luka Magnotta was arrested for the murder of his lover Jun Lin. Not only did Magnotta butcher his victim with an icepick, he did so while a song from the American Psycho soundtrack blared in the background; then he uploaded a video of the whole disgusting affair online under the grim title “1 Lunatic 1 Icepick.”
And in 2014, Rurik Jutting pretty much became Patrick Bateman when he murdered two Indonesian women, whose bodies were discovered in his swanky Hong Kong apartment.
The Cambridge educated Brit was an equity trader for Merrill Lynch, and the corpses of his victims (one of whom was stuffed into a suitcase) were found surrounded by mounds of cocaine and miscellaneous sex toys. Jutting – who was said to have been a huge admirer of both the book and the film – also purportedly filmed the torture and murder of his unlucky prey.
8. The Saw Series
In 2013, Brit Matthew Tingling was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Richard Hamilton. According to police accounts, 25-year-old Tingling stabbed the 45-year-old Hamilton at least 17 times when he refused to hand over the PIN to his back account.
For the coup de grace, Tingling attempted to sever Hamilton’s spine with his knife – which, as pointed out by Judge Timothy Pontius during Tingling’s trial, eerily echoed a grisly scene in Saw VI. Bizarrely, just a year earlier another deranged Saw fan in the U.K. – 32-year-old Benjamin Scott – was arrested after stabbing his neighbor 120 times in the face.
In 2009, two juveniles were charged in Utah for three counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping. According to police records, their plan was to abduct two classmates and a police officer and literally torture them to death in some sort of elaborate Jigsaw-esque death trap. “They wanted to make sure to have cameras and camcorders so they could take pictures of what they were doing,” the mother of one of the boys told the press. “Because they wanted people to know who did it, so they could become famous.”
And in one of the more bizarre horror film-inspired crimes in recent memory, two teenage girls in Tennessee were arrested in 2007 after prank calling 52-year-old Beverly Dickson, who, at the time, was attending a funeral service. So terrified when she heard the Jigsaw wannabe threatening to fill her house with deadly gas on the other end of the line, she experienced a stroke and had to be hospitalized.
9. Halloween (2007)
On October 3, 2012, 17-year-old Jake Evans shot and killed his mother and sister with a .22 pistol in their Texas home. After being arrested for the double homicide, the teenager stated in a written confession that his crime was directly inspired by Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake – which he had watched three times in the week leading up to the murders.
“While watching it I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders,” Evans wrote, “and how little remorse he had afterwards. I was thinking to myself it would be the same for me when I kill someone.”
Although Evans planned on murdering additional family members, he was so freaked out over how much more difficult the homicides were than he had assumed that he wound up calling 911 and turning himself in. Because he was a minor at the time of the crimes, he was spared the death penalty; in 2015, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
10. The Purge Series
Indiana man Jonathan Cruz, 19, shot and killed three people – seemingly at random – over a four day period in May 2016. A known gangbanger and serial armed robber, among the evidence collected by police included cell phone clips of the murderer stating “better go on Facebook and watch ‘da videos of me shooting people. I Purge every night now.”
It isn’t the only time the dystopian home invasion horror series has been referenced in regards to real street crime. In 2014, chatter of a “purge” in Louisville, Kentucky more or less put the city on lockdown for an entire evening, with high school football games cancelled and more than 80,000 residents locking themselves indoors and tuning into police scanners for info on the impending riots. While widespread anarchy didn’t reign that evening, two shootings were recorded that night – whether or not they had anything to do with the promised “purge,” however, remains a mystery.
Similarly, teens in Kansas City started a “purge” Facebook page that encouraged users to reek virtual mayhem by posting lewd photos online back in 2014. “Purge” social media accounts have also been set up promising mass mob violence in Chicago, Miami, Cleveland and Detroit, among other locales … alas, to date, the only place where an actual “purge” has taken place, thankfully, has been your neighborhood cineplex and the midnight rounds on late night cable TV.
Author Bio: James Swift (@UNJournalism) is an Atlanta-based writer and reporter whose work has been published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, Youth Today, the Center for Public Integrity, the Marietta Daily Journal, AOL, Thought Catalog, The Roswell and Alpharetta Neighbor, The North Fulton Business Journal and the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. His multimedia project “Rural America: After the Recession” received acclaim from both the Community Action Partnership and the Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families, and in 2013, he wrote the foreword for Jan Banning’s “Down and Out in the South.”