Since the dawn of cinema an accusatory finger has been pointed at the movies by self-appointed moral guardians of society who see them as the root cause of humankind’s woes, from the racier films of Pre-Code era Hollywood to the so-called video nasties of the 1980s.
Movies of a more violent nature are often scapegoated as the trigger behind many a real-life crime and unsurprisingly horror films – which are often graphic and gory and sprinkled with gruesome deaths – come under fire on a regular basis, especially when the crime in question is brutal.
The old ‘movies made me do it’ argument is kind of problematic though. When a perpetrator of a crime claims a fictional film or character motivated them, or society whips itself into a moral panic and declares a movie is to blame, they’re neglecting the many more contributing factors at play. Besides, if horror movies cause real-life violent crimes a lot more of us would be locked away.
As any diehard horror fan will tell you, it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a gory movie without resorting to bloody murder. Nevertheless, the following movies became the fall guy in a number of brutal crimes. Whether they were appropriated as no more than a feeble excuse or life really does imitate art is up to you.
15. The Exorcist
William Friedkin’s tale of a young girl’s satanic possession remains today one of the most revered films to come out of the horror genre. In fact, the movie became the first ever horror to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar alongside nine other nominations.
But its reception wasn’t entirely positive and The Exorcist stirred up its fair share of outrage after its 1973 release with religious groups claiming the movie “glorified Satan” and reports of cinema-goers so terrified they fainted after watching it.
That outrage was reignited in 1981 when Patricia Ann Frazier, a 25-year-old woman with a history of drug abuse, was on trial for the murder of her four-year-old daughter the year previously. The victim was stabbed seven times before her heart was cut out, and Frazier's defence claimed her actions were influenced by watching a television airing of The Exorcist a few days before the murder.
Frazier, who said she committed the crime as she thought her daughter was possessed by demons, was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.