Monday, October 7, 2013

15 Movies That Killed People

According to overbearing parents and politicians who are so hopelessly out of touch, violent and sex-filled movies will turn you into a homicidal anarchist, or god will strike you dead from sheer blasphemy. We all know they’re crazy, reactionary and no one has ever died or killed someone because of a movie.  Uh…except when they kind of did.

To all the kids reading this, Scream was a smash hit in the 90s that made way more money than any movie with David Arquette ever deserves to, and inspired several terrible sequels, knock offs and A Brit named Ashley Murray (if he hadn’t been so bad ass) 
Who it (almost) Killed: Ashley Murray
In the months after the release of Scream, dozens of murders were reported to have been perpetrated by attackers wearing the movie’s iconic mask. Ashley Murray stands out because of the sheer irony of his near-death. In the opening scene of Scream (spoiler alert to both of the people who don’t know this) Drew Barrymore is terrified by the killers as they talk to her on the phone. They brutally disembowel her boyfriend, and then hang her from a tree by her own entrails. The most chilling part is how her parents arrive home just seconds too late to save her. 
Daniel Gill and Robert Fuller donned the infamous Scream masks, and attempted to do something similar to Murray, stabbing him no fewer than 18 times, then leaving the young boy for dead. Murray, suffering from stab wounds across almost his entire body, a punctured lung and hypothermia, showed Drew Barrymore that a man named Ashley could be several millions of times tougher than a girl named Drew. He crawled to a nearby road and survived for 40 long hours before being found by a man walking his dog. He even had the strength to testify in court a few months later. If only Scream had been populated by men like Ashley instead of veritable fleshy pincushions, maybe we wouldn’t have had to sit through the sequels. 

The Matrix
The Matrix was a bold, revolutionary movie that questioned the nature of reality and continues to be a powerful influence in movies to this day. In the movie, every human except for a small group of freedom fighters is plugged in to a vast computer system run by evil machines. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss proceed to kill hundreds of people, but it’s okay because they are all part of a vast evil system that only they can know about and have to stop. In case you’re not paying attention, that last sentence pretty much describes exactly how a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath views the world. So you can see where this is going… 
Who it Killed: 10 people in DC in 2002, among others. 
Lee Boyd Malvo, better known as one half of the DC Sniper team, was apparently obsessed with the Matrix. Combined with what might be considered more legitimate outrage at racial injustice and inequality, he became convinced that he was trapped inside of a hostile system that he thought needed a liberal application of homicidal insanity.
But Malvo wasn’t the only one “inspired” by this movie. In what has quite seriously become known as “The Matrix Defense”, at least three other murderers have attempted to use this movie along with a combination of schizophrenia as part of an insanity plea. The lawyers to a 27-year-old Swiss exchange student who dismembered his landlady, and a 36-year-old bartender who shot her landlady, both were able to use their defendant’s obsession with the movie to gain insanity pleas. 

The Passion of the Christ
The Passion of the Christ was widely viewed as a near-pornographic gore fest with a whiff of antisemitism by normal people, and an excuse to make normal people feel uncomfortable by fundamentalists. But it’s hard to envision it inspiring people to kill.  After all, the only person brutalized is Jesus, and you can’t kill him (though Jim Caviezel is another story). Unfortunately, in an occurrence almost as ironic as Jim Caviezel getting struck by lightning during filming, God decided to skip with the whole “voices in the head” thing and did the job himself. 
Who it Killed: Peggy Law, a local respected newswoman. 
A former ABC news employee and apparently all-around nice lady Peggy Law dropped dead during a showing of Passion of the Christ. Apparently the somewhat baffling decision to take the wholesome story of Jesus and turn it in to one of the bloodiest movies of the decade was too much for Law to handle. During the crucifixion scene, Law suffered a heart attack and died almost immediately. Strangely, while people still scream to high heaven about the non-existent deaths that were supposed to have occurred in theaters during showings of The Exorcist as proof of its evil, no one seemed to think that a sudden death and a goddamn bolt of lightning were enough to signal God’s disapproval with this movie. 

The Basketball Diaries
A somewhat forgotten and mediocre movie from 1995, The Basketball Diaries was famous mostly for being shocking and disgusting. It was based on Jim Carroll’s autobiographical account of his descent into heroin addiction and starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll. In the movie, DiCaprio goes on a shooting spree in his algebra class during a dream sequence. The scene is a cudgel-to-the-head depiction of Carroll’s disgust toward his classmates and spiraling insanity. 
Who it Killed: Barry Dale Loukaitis’s Algebra teacher and two students
Loukaitis was a troubled youth that suffered from severe mood swings. Unfortunately, in addition to this he also was possessed of a massive superiority complex. While for most middle schoolers this usually results in a severe case of Watching Anime and Talking About how People Just Don’t “Get” Japan, in 14 year old Loukaitis it combined with his insanity until he felt nothing but murderous rage toward his fellow students.  Quoting Stephen King’s Rage and The Basketball Diaries, he entered his fifth period algebra class armed with three guns and shot his teacher and two students. He held the remaining students hostage before being subdued by a gym teacher. While, like most people on this list, Loukaitis most likely would have caused damage with or without The Basketball Diaries, now he’s forever known as that kid who had to use such lame quotes as “This sure beats algebra, doesn’t it?” while performing the unthinkable. 

Well known as a record-breaking visual orgasmatron, Avatar also cursed humanity with gimmicky 3D for years to come. It’s infamously known to cause depression in rabid fans who are really unhappy with the fact that the world is not as magical or filled with sexy blue ladies as Avatar. While it’s one thing to be unhappy at the fact that the world is a cold, cruel place, being unhappy because it doesn’t compare to some idyllic fantasy world is just naïve and sad. But at least Avatar didn’t inspire a killer. However, it did just straight kill a guy. 
Who it Killed:  A 42-year-old Taiwanese man 
While watching a showing of Avatar in Taiwan, a 42-year-old man apparently fell ill because he became - and this is an actual quote from a real doctor - he became “over-excited”. He slipped in to a coma shortly thereafter and died 11 days later. What the hell is up with this movie?   
There are plenty of better, more interesting movies that transport you to a beautiful, romantic alternate world that haven’t led to deaths and suicidal thoughts. Did not enough people watch The Lord of the Rings for this sort of thing to become newsworthy? This is a movie made by James Cameron, a man who put boobs on Neytiri because he knew people wouldn’t want to be a part of the world if the hot alien chicks didn’t have boobs. Not to infer that it’s possible to just “get over” a stroke as in this man’s case, but to the rest of you: get over it. 

Queen of the Damned
Aaliyah was a halfway decent artist who played roles in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned before dying in a plane crash in August of 2001. Although her death was tragic, her career was generally unremarkable. Queen of the Damned was especially known as the baffling sequel to the far superior Interview with the Vampire, which quite seriously centered around the power of Rock n’ Roll to bring a long-dormant super-vampire (played by Aaliyah) back from the dead. 
Who it Killed: Thomas McKendrick  
McKendrick was a normal guy who had the unfortunate luck of being friends with Alan Menzies, who was not a normal guy. Menzies was fantastically insane. After watching Queen of the Damned for the first time with McKendrick, Menzies begged to borrow it. He then proceeded to watch this terrible, terrible movie more than 100 times over the next few months, sometimes watching it as often as 3 times a day. Menzies became obsessed with Aaliyah’s character Akasha - a millennia old vampire, claiming that she visited him at night and offered to grant him immortality if he killed for her.   
One night, McKendrick told Menzies that he was crazy. According to Menzies, he insulted Akasha.  Menzies bludgeoned McKendrick to death, stabbed him repeatedly, drank his blood, and ate half his head.  He later killed himself in prison, hopefully signaling the last time anyone anywhere will have to hear about Queen of the Damned. 

Well-known as that movie your girlfriend dragged you to and made no sense, Twilight often meanders without a plot or characters, hovering dangerously close to straight-up porn for women who seek unrealistic, semi-abusive relationships. Surprisingly, these movie has caused precisely zero murders of women by their unwilling boyfriends, but it did lead to the mysterious death of an unnamed New Zealand man. 
Who it Killed: A transient who wandered in to the 6pm showing. 
This is the part where the obligatory “I bet he died because the movie was so BAD!” joke usually goes.  Now that we have that over with, we can move onto the vague facts. As far as reports on the internet can say, a man bought a ticket to the 6pm showing, went and saw it alone, and died some time during the film.  Initially, police were unable to determine why the man died. An autopsy was scheduled, after which the police commented that - aside from the whole grown man alone watching Twilight thing - his death was “not suspicious”, and then… that’s it. There’s nothing else on the story that pops up in Google searches or even searches of the news outlets that originally reported the story. It’s as if this indigent man suddenly vanished in the night to become the newest, most smelly version of the Cullen clan. 

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver was De Niro and Scorsese at their prime, telling a twisted story of obsession that starred a lovable, if kind of repulsive, everyman. Long before Scorsese was just going through the motions with unremarkable movies like Shutter Island, and De Niro had just given up all together, they made this masterpiece that reflected the average working man’s confusion and frustration with a world that seemed antagonistic and oppressive. 
Who it Killed: Almost two presidents 
Because how we distinguish (or fail to distinguish) fantasy from reality is so relevant to the topic at hand, perhaps a quick neurology primer on what goes on in your brain when you watch a movie: put very simply, your brain starts firing as if you were acting out what you are watching. While it sounds very science-fiction, it’s actually just how our brains work on a day to day basis. We don’t hear the words a storyteller says; those words simply signal parts of our brain to light up, allowing us to imitate the story all within our cerebral cortex. With movies, it just happens to be that much more realistic.
In most people, these copycat neurons often evoke empathy before anything else, and our higher brain function brings to a screeching halt anything it’s able to tell is false. The problem comes when you are a schizophrenic like John Hinckley and that higher brain resembles Swiss cheese. Physically incapable of putting a halt to a runaway imagination, Hinckley became obsessed with Jodie Foster, who plays an adolescent prostitute in the movie. He was convinced that, like De Niro, the only way he could become noticed by her or society at large was to go on a mad killing spree. After planning to kill Jimmy Carter and having a more sane friend tell him that would be “just too easy it’s sad”, Hinckley pulled a gun on the old Gipper. Reagan survived, and Hinckley became the poster child of the insanity plea. Not to be outdone, Reagan retaliated by slashing funding for mental hospitals and homeless shelters. 

The Deer Hunter
Back before they both cashed in on their own self-referential fame, Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken were actually respected actors. They came together to make The Deer Hunter, which has since become known as the best Vietnam War movie that no one has seen. Alternately, it’s that movie with the Russian Roulette. As the story goes, while interned at a Vietcong prison camp, Walken and De Niro are forced by their captors to engage in games of Russian Roulette for their amusement. The eventually escape, where De Niro slowly reacclimatizes to normal life, while Walken is unable to break himself away from the horror and thrill of the roulette. 
Who it Killed: Lots and lots of stupid people 
While most of the movies on this list gave some already homicidal crazy person the extra gravitas to justify their acts with twisted logic, the Deer Hunter did what Humphrey Bogart did for cigarettes: it made self-destruction cool. Cases of death by roulette popped up in the news for years, supposedly inspired by the Deer Hunter. Though to a certain extent, it’s difficult to feel sorry for someone who watched a movie in which Russian Roulette was a bellowing metaphor for the constant hovering of our own mortality and that awareness shatters a man’s psyche and thinks “Man that is bad. ass.” 

Where would the world be without porn?  Quite possibly the only “movie” besides Die Hard that every man on the planet has seen, porn is the most ubiquitous film in our lives that we rarely talk about. We all recoil in disgust at the man who watched Queen of the Damned every day for months, yet we do little but laugh nervously when it’s pointed out that most men watch a much more terrible movie with essentially the same plot most every day of their lives. But porn never killed anyone, in fact masturbation has a multitude of health benefits that include a boosted immune system, lower blood pressure and chronic pain relief. 
Who it Killed: British Nanny Nicola Paginton 
Awesome as orgasms are and for all their long-term health benefits, while a person is actually doing the deed, a lot of stress is put on their system. Similar to how heart attacks are more likely right after rapid activity, sex and/or masturbation can cause death as surely as a brisk jog. Paginton, who most likely had some sort of pre-existing condition, or was just extremely unlucky, and fell victim to the raw excitement of the most…stimulating type of movie out there.   
Much like how the Taiwanese man mentioned earlier died while getting “over excited” at alien boobs, a movie that is too good can literally kill you. Sleep tight though; the relative stress placed on the body by sex or masturbation is unlikely to kill you - or else we’d all be going around calling orgasms some sort of mini-death. Oh wait, we do. 

American Psycho
American Psycho introduced us to Christian Bale as someone other than that kid from Empire of the Sun and a good movie about the 80s that wasn’t Oliver Stone heavily moralizing. Bale starred as a narcissistic stock broker who murdered hobos because he thought they were lazy, coworkers because of their business cards and prostitutes because… well that’s just what you do with prostitutes when you’re psycho. 
Who it Killed:  A 14-year-old Miami boy 
Michael Hernandez was your average adolescent boy who idolized comic book heroes like Superman, as well as serial killers like Hannibal Lector and Patrick Bateman - the star of American Psycho. Unlike most kids who want to be like their heroes, Hernandez wasn’t normal enough to try and fly off the roof and break his ankle. Instead he murdered a fellow classmate. Hernandez, whose parents testified was insane well before the murder, was most likely just another troubled maniac who wasn’t caught before things turned ugly. On the bright side, I hear they let you listen to Huey Lewis and the News in prison. 

Patch Adams
Starring Robin Williams as a doctor who just “gets” people more than those soulless, terrible people who save thousands of lives a day, Patch Adams confronts the cold, clinical culture of modern medicine. With the message that sometimes a good laugh and a positive attitude are all that are needed to feel better, Patch Adams held itself up as a more humane example of the medical practice.   
Who it Killed: The thousands who die because they got pulled in to the real “Patch Adam’s” bullshit medicine. 
At the end of this movie, it seems to infer that “Patch” Adams opened the Gesundheit institute, practiced medicine for free to people, and used good cheer to lift their spirits while saving their lives. In reality, the Gesundheit Institute became a nexus of “alternative” therapies such as acupuncture, naturopathy, and homeopathy or - as they are known to actual scientists - “kinda bullshit”, “bullshit” and “supreme bullshit”. A bit of acupuncture may relax you, relieve some pain, and improve your mood, but flesh-eating bacteria don’t really give a damn what kind of a mood you’re in, and no amount of good cheer is going to simulate the effects of a powerful antibiotic. And no amount of crackpot theories dissolved a thousand times in water will stop the onslaught of AIDS without the help of a cocktail of anti-retrovirals.   
People buy in to the Gesundheit Institute’s nonsense because they saw Patch Adams and decided that medicine was a bunch of serious old men who had no idea what they were doing since Patch cured those kids with laughter. These credulous but otherwise innocent people then die after taking vitamins for thyroid cancer.   

Made for TV Movies
Before there was the Internet, believe it or not the world was not some strange utopia where people actually accomplished things instead of making the most colossal efforts to do as little work as possible. People found a multitude of ways to sit on their asses and waste time, and made for TV movies were the chief way your parents wasted time while cooking dinosaur eggs and trading jokes with Moses. But much like nannies dying while watching porn, there was a dark seedy underbelly to this seemingly All-American activity.
Who it Killed: Hedviga Golik 
One day Ms. Golik sat down in front of her TV and set a world record in laziness when she stayed there dead for more than 42 years. This poor, poor tortured soul could have theoretically sat through more than two hundred thousand showings of Christmas Cottage. Though theologians will probably debate for centuries whether this would be a worse punishment than the one meted out to Academy Award winner Peter O’Toole, who was forced to play a supporting role in this movie. 

Natural Born Killers
When Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino and Woody Harrelson get together to make a movie, you just know the result is either going to be completely unwatchable, or stark, raving mad. Well-known as perhaps the most scathing indictment of American pop-culture’s perverse fascination with brutal violence, Natural Born Killers tells the story of two troubled youth who become serial killers and are then glorified by an irresponsible media. A uniquely American story, Natural Born Killers teaches us that no matter what you do, as long as you’re doing what you love and are also famous for no reason people will obsess over you.  Even if what you love is gleeful slaughter. 
Who it Killed: Where to start? 
Stone was sued after two 18-year-olds watched the movie then carried out a robbery that resulted in murder. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold supposedly used the movie’s initials, “NBK”, as code for their planned rampage. A seventeen year old shaved his head to look like Woody Harrelson (a sure sign of trouble regardless of what movie we’re talking about), wore the same circular glasses as the character, and then shot his step-mother and half-sister while they slept. The list goes on and on. Forget brief nipple shots; it’s movies like this that prove that violence needs an equal weight in ratings. Clearly this movie inspired troubled yet otherwise harmless crazies to kill. After all, this would never happen with a more wholesome, Christian movie… excepting Passion of the Christ. What about something as harmless and classic as The Ten Commandments? Surely no one has ever… 

The Ten Commandments
There are few movies more wholesome and paternal than Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments. It’s a movie every child is forced to sit through all ass-numbing 4 hours of. It was a monolith in it’s day, and is held up alongside movies like Ben Hur as an example of a more innocent, moral and simple time when people said hello and locked their doors. And it also, just like the subversive, mind bending, moral panic inducing movies of later years, inspired some All-American murder. 
Who it Killed:  About a dozen women 
Having apparently traveled to the future, Heinrich Pommerencke was determined to beat out all the pussy psychos on this list in the most brutal fashions imaginable. Pommerencke didn’t just want to murder someone in a fit of passion, or because they insulted his favorite movie. He went on a raping, murdering, tossing-women-off-trains-then-raping-them-some-more spree. Known as the “Beast of the Black Forest”, Pommerencke raped and murdered between 1959 and 1960 before being finally being captured and brought to justice. 
Under intense interrogation, Pommerencke admitted that he was absolutely obsessed with the idea of sex, and that he had been inspired by the licentious dancing in The Ten Commandments. While Pommerencke deserves credit for remaining awake more than 15 minutes in to The Ten Commandments, this whole situation really begs a few questions. If it is impossible to make what is possibly the most wholesome, moral movie in history this side of Veggie Tales so sparkling clean that someone can’t be inspired to murder, are we all willing to finally grow up and agree that serial killers will be serial killers, whether they watch violent movies or not?

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