One of the attractions of The Matrix, the film whose sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, opens in Britain next week, was its blending of fantasy and reality. A series of murders in the US suggests some people have been unable to distinguish between the two.
Josh Cooke, a 19-year-old in Oakton, Virginia, owned a trenchcoat like the one worn by Neo, the character played by Keanu Reeves in the movie, and kept a poster of his hero on his bedroom wall. Then he bought a gun similar to the one used by Neo to fight evil.
In February, he shot his father and mother in the basement of their home and then called the police. His lawyers say he believed that he was living inside the Matrix.
The theme of the films is that computers have taken over the earth, although some humans exist in a computer-simulated world, battling to save humanity.
"He's just obsessed with it," Cooke's defense attorney, Rachel Fierro, told the Washington Post.
Cooke will now be examined by a psychiatrist.
The Matrix seems to have spawned other imitators. Last week in Ohio, a woman was found not guilty of killing the professor whose house she rented, on the grounds of insanity.
Tonda Lynn Ansley, 37, said she had had dreams which turned out not to be dreams.
The local prosecutor said that, "in her warped perception," the Matrix movies played a part in the killing.