Ever heard a story about a big brand or company writing a variation on a cease-and-desist letter to some tiny nickel-and-dime artist for infringing their copyright or violating their trademark?
They’re not just being petty. These are rights that the holder has to actively protect in order to receive the legal protection they offer, meaning that if they don’t write those letters and come across as the big bully, the infringement will continue.
What that means, of course, is that if they don’t know you’ve done it, they won’t tell you to stop - and in the world of cinema, that little bit of leeway has historically allowed for a ridiculous amount of movie rip-offs to take place, as smaller, B-movie outfits and foreign independent filmmakers take successful movies and make their own versions, very often with very few changes indeed.
The horror genre is ripe for this kind of cinematic skulduggery, given that they tend to rely on gonzo high concepts and lurid special effects rather than carefully crafted screenplays or award-winning performances.
In the days before the internet, many of these rip-offs flew completely under the radar for Western audiences - but today, the globalisation of information and multimedia content no longer allows people to get away with this kind of creative larceny...
10. Bloody Murder (2000)
Written by John R. Stevenson and directed by Ralph E. Portillo, Bloody Murder and its sequel, Bloody Murder 2: Closing Camp are like kindergarten collages of ideas and scenes snipped from better movies.
The most obvious lift is from the Friday the 13th franchise – the setting is Camp Placid Pines, covering for Camp Crystal Lake and the killer wears a hockey mask and boiler suit. There’s also a suspiciously similar plotline involving an urban myth of a bullied and abused child who, fully grown, now supposedly haunts the woods near the camp. His name is Trevor Moorhouse, which is in no way intended to ape the name Voorhees.
However, the sinister Trevor Moorhouse is not the central killer in either of the Bloody Murder movies, providing more of a murderous cameo at the end of each film to give them a sting in the tail. Instead, Placid Pines’ not-so-happy camp counsellors are being terrorised by a psychopath with a grudge because of an because of an incident in the past, cosplaying Moorhouse in order to carry out his murders.
Both films spin out various unlikely red herring scenarios before the masked murderer is revealed, and if that sounds oddly similar to the plot of every Scream movie then congratulations, you’ve just identified the other major lift this franchise makes from the established horror milieu. It’s even called Scream Bloody Murder in the UK, just to stick the knife in.
There are also elements ripped off from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, but by this point we’ve already established that Stevenson is the cinematic equivalent of the guy that sells bootleg t-shirts outside of gigs.