Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Another day, another easy target

First Blood.

Child's Play 3.


What links these three films? Well, if you believe the UK media over the last twenty-five years, they can all be linked to murder. In 1987, the Hungerford Massacre took place. A man named Michael Ryan killed sixteen people over the course of several hours and injured fifteen others before shooting himself in the town of Hungerford. The media reported links between Ryan and the first Rambo film including the fact he was obsessed with it and various events during the day were mirrored in the film.

Then there was the case of Child's Play 3 being linked to the murder of James Bulger in 1993. Bulger was led from a shopping centre in Liverpool by two ten year old boys. He was tortured and murdered. Bulger was two. There were various reports in the UK press that the two boys had seen Child's Play 3 and copied scenes from it during the torture and murder.

Now we have the case of a fifteen year old boy named Daniel Bartlam who has been convicted of battering his mother to death when he was fourteen. During his trial, the court heard he was obsessed with the first Saw film and a plot in a UK soap which involved a hammer murder.

There's one big problem with all three of these cases. It's not the issue of the media playing up suggestions and ideas given by people involved in the cases in order to generate a moral panic (for example, there was no proof Michael Ryan had seen the first Rambo film. He didn't own a VCR and something tells me he wasn't watching it online or on a dvd in 1987. There was also no proof either of the two boys who murdered James Bulger had seen Child's Play 3. The link came from the father of one of the boys having recently rented it). It's not the willingness certain people have to believe anything the media tells them. It's the matter of finding an easy and obvious target.

I'm not a apologist for all horror films. Nor do I think all kids should see films rated 18. I'm not about to suggest fictional entertainment has no effect on people. What I am going to say is I don't for a minute believe the examples above are to blame for people's actions. If Daniel Bartlam had locked his mother in a bathroom and given her the choice of cutting her foot off or being trapped there, I still wouldn't put the blame on Saw. I'd put it on him. The case could be made he had the idea of how to kill or injure her given that example, but can anyone seriously tell me he wasn't already thinking it before watching the film? And can anyone say the two kids who killed James Bulger weren't planning on at least attacking a small boy before they did so? What, it just came to them after they apparently saw Child's Play 3?

Horror and violent films have always been an easy target for Daily Mail readers and those who think their values and morals are somehow the fallback values for the country if not the world. It's so much easier to say people do horrible, shitty things because of something they've seen in a film than to admit factual evil is so much more frightening and dangerous than fictional evil. It's also so much easier to say horror films are all bad and wrong than it is to admit one simple truth.

Some people are just born bad and wrong. And all we can do is hope they don't hurt us too often. Blame the films all you want. Me? I'll be looking for the quiet neighbour. The one who keeps himself to himself. The man who loves his old mum.

The person who wants the world to hurt.


  1. And of course, all the people who watched the films and didn't do that!

  2. True. Judging by my viewing habits as a kid, I should be a serial killer by now.