FRANCE: The 'Scream' series of films has been blamed for terrible crimes in France, writes Lara Marlowe, from Paris.
A 17-year-old lycée student was yesterday charged with the murder of a school friend in a suburb of Nantes, amid growing concerns in France over the effect of violent and pornographic films on adolescents.
Julien, the self-confessed killer, was obsessed with the Scream series of three horror films by the US director Wes Craven, in which a satanic band of middle-class American teenagers wearing black capes and ghoulish masks stab their school friends.
The Scream mask is modelled on the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's painting of the same name.
Gendarmes found gloves, a black cape and a Scream mask in the black bag in which Julien left the knife he used to stab 15-year-old Alice on the evening of June 3rd.
Autopsy results released yesterday confirmed the girl was stabbed 45 times.
Julien's lycée teachers describe him as a normal boy with no behavioural problems.
But on the afternoon of June 3rd, he watched a Scream video again, then telephoned three girls from his group of friends. The first two were not available, but Alice agreed to see him.
Julien went to her home in a quiet street in the suburb of Saint-Sebastien-sur-Loire and had a drink with Alice and her father. He then suggested that he and Alice go for a walk.
In a grove of trees 100 metres away, Julien took out a knife and donned the Scream mask. He fled when a resident of the neighbourhood approached walking a dog. The neighbour found Alice in a pool of blood and held her in his arms as she spoke her last words, saying that Julien had stabbed her. Alice died in hospital an hour later.
"I wanted to kill someone," Julien told gendarmes, who have been struck by the teenager's inability to distinguish between the virtual and the real.
"He's waiting for the credits at the end of the film so he can go home," an investigator told France-Info radio yesterday. When told that Alice is dead, Julien replies, "It doesn't matter. Just rewind the cassette."
Authorities have reported a similar phenomenon among growing numbers of teenage rapists.
"In their minds, it's as if what happened was some kind of virtual game," the Lyons public prosecutor, Mr Robert Esch, said on May 24th, after eight boys aged 14 and 15 were indicted in the gang rape of a 15-year-old schoolgirl.
"They seem to have no idea of the gravity of the acts they are accused of," he said.
A survey published last month showed that almost half of French children watch hard core pornography before the age of 11.
This is not the first time that Scream has been blamed for terrible crimes in France.
Two years ago, five young men in their 20s wore Scream masks when they raped a 21-year-old hairdresser in her home outside Paris. In September 2000, a 15-year-old stabbed his parents to death in Belfort, eastern France.
He said he had received a message on his cell-phone signed Scream and heard a voice telling him that it was time to kill his parents.
In March of this year, two girls, aged 13 and 14, tortured a 15-year-old school friend and left her for dead in an abandoned building.
The 14-year-old had just seen Scream.
Oliver Stone's violent film Natural Born Killers influenced Florence Rey and Audry Maupin, a young couple who went on a one-night rampage in October 1994.
In the US, another couple killed a man and attacked a woman, whose family sued Mr Stone and Warner studios.
A court in Louisiana ruled in favour of the films' makers, saying they had the right to freedom of speech.