movies

The people we need to remember when we watch these highly anticipated true crime movies.

I still remember the moment I first read about James Bulger’s murder.

I was 10 years old. The same age as his killers.

I was visiting my grandparents and I had just been to the bathroom and my hands smelt like my nan’s floral-scented hand wash. When I returned to the living room, I saw the faces of two young boys staring up at me from the front page of the newspaper.

Curious, I picked up the paper. For hours, I pored over the story of two-year-old James’ last moments.

I will never forget the feeling of turning the page, of the story expanding, of the sickly sweet scent of my hands. It was the first time I truly understood that humans could do terrible things to each other.

This was the story that sparked my life-long interest in true crime. It was also the moment I knew I never wanted to experience the nightmare James’ parents, Denise and Ralph, were going through.

The nightmare didn’t end for them that day when I finally put down the newspaper and went outside to play.

It hasn’t ended at any point in the past two and a half decades.

They will never be able to forget James’ last moments. They’ll never be able to forget that something terrible happened to their child at the hands of other children.

They’ll never know when they open a newspaper, or turn on a TV, or drive past a billboard, if they will be reminded of the worst day of their life. Again. 

Now, 26 years later, they’re about to face the biggest reminder. Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe has made a short film called Detainment, which has just been shortlisted for an Academy Award.

Detainment tells the story of James’ murder and, more specifically, the story of his killers – Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

Ralph, now 52, told The Mirror that not only is the content of the film “offensive”, neither he nor anyone from his family had been contacted by Lambe prior to its creation.

“It has been 26 years since my son was taken and murdered and so I have seen many documentaries and news stories about him,” he said.

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“But I have never been so cut up and offended by something that shows so little compassion to James and his family… to make a film so­ sympathetic to James’s killers is devastating.”

Denise, now divorced from Ralph, has called for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to drop the movie from Oscar contention.

“I don’t think [Lambe] had the right to do it… it’s been put on the shortlist now for the Oscar and I think it should be removed,” she told British talk show, Loose Women.

“In my own personal opinion I think he’s just trying to big his career up. And to do that under someone else’s grief is just unbelievable and unbearable.”

Denise and Ralph aren’t the only ones about to be reminded about the worst day of their life.

Later this year, Hilary Duff will play Sharon Tate in the new film The Haunting of Sharon Tate. 

The movie will tell the story of the night in 1969 when Sharon was murdered by members of the Manson Family cult.

Like in James’ case, Sharon’s family don’t want the movie to happen. Sharon’s younger sister, Debra, has called the film “classless” and “exploitative”.

“It doesn’t matter who it is acting in it — it’s just tasteless,” she told People.

“It’s classless how everyone is rushing to release something for the 50th anniversary of this horrific event.”

Then there are the families of Ted Bundy’s 30 plus victims who will have to endure the hype around Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, in which Zac Efron will play the charmingly evil serial killer.

True crime isn’t going anywhere. It’s human nature for us to be fascinated with the worst possible scenario. To want to peel back the layers and learn everything we can about something so horrific that we hope never happens to us or anyone close to us.

It’s a car crash we’ll probably never look away from.

But we need to remember that while we’re enjoying these films, at least two families are reliving the worst day of their lives.

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