Child's Play 3: Venables & Thompson

“It is not for me to pass judgment on their upbringing, but I suspect exposure to violent video films may in part be an explanation.”—Mr Justice Morland, Trial Judge

This 1991 horror movie is notorious for its links to the 1993 murder of three year old Jamie Bulger, in Liverpool, England. The 10 year old killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, supposedly saw the film, and imitated a scene where a victim is splashed with blue paint. There was a lot of mention of the links between the film and the crime in the UK press at the time, and a moral panic ensued. The case against the film, though never really proven, led to new legislation, The Amendment to the Video Recordings Act, contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994)

The Child's Play sequence of movies follows the exploits of evil doll Chucky, in his various reincarnations. The original Chucky was supposedly inhabited by the spirit of multiple murderer Charles Lee Ray, as the result of a deathbed voodoo incantation that went slightly wrong and he spends the rest of the movies trying to transplant his soul into a more suitable, human form. The series has provided an excuse for lots of doll jokes, lots of violent murders made to seem funny because they are being committed by a doll, and some lunatic toystore scenes. For more about the psychology of Chucky's enduring appeal, see Horror Film History.

But it was the third instalment that forever became intertwined with the hysteria surrounding the Bulger case. Could Child's Play 3 be blamed for an utterly horrific murder? Despite the lack of direct evidence, the UK media certainly seemed to think so. A lot of reporting at the time latched on to Venables' father's video rental record (Venables didn't live with his father), and the last movie rented before the murder was... Child's Play 3.

The Murder Case


As with the Columbine killers, Klebold and Harris, as time went by the conclusion by authorities seemed to be that this was a case of two disturbed individuals acting on dark impulses, rather than the end of civilization as we know it. Venables and Thompson were tried (aged 11) as adults, an, although they were originally sentenced to 'detention without limits, they were released after eight years, with new identities. Venables offended again, and was re-imprisoned in July 2010 on charges of handling child pornograph: the moral panic surrounding the original case was renewed across tabloid front pages.