What is the scariest horror movie you have ever seen? Everyone is different and has different triggers, but even if you are a tough guy when it comes to watching movies, there is one thing we can all agree on. The most terrifying moment of any horror movie, may be when the words “based on a true story” appear.
It is one thing to be scared by a writer’s own imagination when you can tell yourself that it is not real. But it can be another whole new type of terror when you are sitting there and thinking that these events may have actually happened to people.
Many of the scariest movies out there take inspiration from real life. Though, as you’re about to find out, some definitely take a lot more liberty with the phrase “inspired by a true story.” I guess if you’re going to get technical, anything that a writer does put down is going to be inspired by something in his life in one way or another, but why not try and use the term to boost ticket sales!
Even if some of the movies you’re about to see are not as factual as you may have expected, it can also add a great deal of value to watching the films if you are aware of what the inspiration behind it was. Freddy Kruger is one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, but do you know why Wes Craven created him? If you don’t, you’re about to find out.
These are 10 movies that are seemingly inspired by a horrible real-life incident. Just don’t complain to me when you end up watching them all and scare yourself senseless!
10. Stuck (2007)
Stuck is based on the death of Gregory Biggs, who was a homeless man and died after being hit by Chante Mallard’s car. Instead of trying to help out the man, Mallard left the man stuck in her windshield to die. This doesn’t exactly make her a horror villain on the levels of Hannibal Lecter, but it’s a pretty awful thing to do.
Chante then took the body to the park and burned her car. During the trial, it was stated by several experts that “There’s not a member of the Fort Worth Fire Department that could not have saved Mr. Biggs’ life,” had Chante taken him to the hospital. It was reported that Chante was on ecstasy, marijuana and drunk at the time of the accident.
The film may take more dramatic turns that I won’t spoil here, but at least it gets part of the story right.
9. Hoboken Hollow (2006)
In 1984, a slave ranch was found out in Texas. 30 federal officers raided a 3,500 acre farm after reports that people were being kidnapped from the local Interstate 10 and being forced to work without pay. When the officers did a thorough search, “Among the items seized in the search were human bone fragments and audiotapes of torture sessions in which a cattle prod can be heard as it is used to shock the victim.” It was also reported that one of the workers had died on the ranch, and was cremated so there was no body to be found. The story was the inspiration for the 2006 film, Hoboken Hollow which stars Jason Connery who ends up being caught by the Broderick Family.
8. The Conjuring
The Conjuring is absolutely terrifying. Directed by James Wan, who also was behind the original Saw, the film talks about a real case handled by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were professional ghost hunters and claim the Perron family (who the film is based on) was the toughest case they had ever encountered.
Those who have seen the film will know there were several super creepy things go down. Doors would open and shut, spirits attacked the family and eventually possessed the mother, trying to get her to kill her children. Credit goes to the producers behind the film who went and tracked down the real Perron family and interviewed them. The family confirmed that their legs being pulled at night (something the movie shows several times) was something they all experienced. The mother has also done interviews that indicated that she did in fact believe she was possessed.
Seriously creepy stuff!
7. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
I need to include Texas Chainsaw Massacre because it is one of many (and I mean many – most prominently also Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs) films that were seemingly inspired by Ed Gein. Gein murdered at least two women, and often went to a local graveyard and exhumed corpses which he then covered his apartment in. This included things like covering his chairs with human skin, or making lampshades from the skin found on a human face.
While Ed Gein did wear things like a human scalp and face, Leatherface does so because of a skin disease. Ed Gein’s two victims were also both identified as being shot with a pistol, but you can imagine why a chainsaw had a better sound to it. There is no doubt that Gein was one messed up individual, he just may not be as talented with a chainsaw as you would have thought.
6. Borderland (2007)
The film is based off of Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, who was a drug lord who also led a religious cult that participated in human sacrifice. Adolfo’s cult became more apparent in 1989 after Mark J. Kilroyy, a university student from Texas, went missing. Investigators found the mutilated bodies of Kilroy and 14 other victims in shallow graves at the ranch. All the victims had been sacrificed by Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo and Sara Maria Aldrete, leaders of a cult which combined Palo Mayombe, Santeria, and Brujería practices and performed human sacrifice to feed their spirits.
There might not be a more terrifying image than someone coming up to you with a machete and saying that it’s time for you to die because you’re part of a human sacrifice!
When police arrested Constanzo they found various items boiling in a cauldron, including a human brain and a black cat.
5. Open Water (2003)
Open Water is kind of a tricky case where it’s partially based on a true story, but parts of it need to be elaborated for the big screen. The story is about two American tourists, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who disappeared scuba diving. They were with a tour group but were forgotten about after an improper headcount (so just think of that the next time you wonder if it’s a valuable exercise). There is no doubt that these two individuals passed away after being lost, but nobody knows if the husband really got bit by a shark (as the movie shows) or just what they were thinking when they were about to die.
I suppose that goes without saying, but it doesn’t make me any less terrified to go into the ocean!
4. The Strangers (2008)
The Strangers is about a group of people who break into a house, and then torture the family that is living inside. To make things all the more terrifying, it’s billed as being based on a true story. When the writer Bryan Bertino was asked about this, he related a story from his childhood,
“Somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody that didn’t live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.”
…I mean I guess that’s kind of the same? Not really though…Oh well, can’t really blame them for trying to cash in on the ‘true story’ angle.
3. Fire In The Sky (1993)
Wait what? A movie about an alien abduction is on this list? Sure, this might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s my list! The story is based off Travis Walton who claims he was abducted by aliens and disappeared for 5 days in 1975. Travis’ coworkers claim they saw “a beam of blue-green light coming from the disc and ‘strike’ Walton [who then] rose a foot into the air, his arms and legs outstretched, and shot back stiffly some 10 feet (3.0 m), all the while caught in the glow of the light. His right shoulder hit the earth, and his body sprawled limply over the ground.”
After the movie came out, Walton wrote a book entitled The Walton Experience. We probably aren’t going to get any definitive proof of aliens anytime soon, so why not let those who believe have their own film of a true story? This is probably never going to happen to you, but could you imagine how terrifying it would be if it did?
2. The Exorcist (1973)
One of the scariest films of all time is without a doubt The Exorcist. While some audiences today may not bat an eye at certain eye-popping scenes, they’d be foolish to not realize how especially terrifying this was back in 1973 when the film was first released.
The film was inspired by the exorcism of Roland Doe, which was attempted in the late 1940s. According to reports after Doe’s Aunt Harriet passed away, “the family experienced strange noises, furniture moving on its own accord and ordinary objects flying or levitating when the boy was nearby.”
Doe had multiple exorcisms attempt on him, and during the first one “the boy allegedly slipped one of his hands out of the restraints; broke a bedspring from under the mattress, and used it as an impromptu weapon, slashing the priest’s arm and resulting in the exorcism ritual being halted.” Clearly they realized they needed more backup, and three priests were present for the next attempt at an exorcism.
Words such as “evil” and “hell”, along with other various marks, appeared on the teenager’s body. Ostensibly, during the Litany of the Saints portion of the exorcism ritual, the boy’s mattress began to shake. Moreover, Roland broke one priest’s nose during the process.
While some people have come out and contradicted some of these original findings, it was clearly more then enough inspiration for what became The Exorcist.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The movie about the guy who comes and kills you in your sleep? While this may not be based on a true story in a traditional sense (there’s no Freddy), you may be interested to know that Wes Craven took a lot of his inspiration from a very real event. Wes did an interview where he talked about some news stories he read in the LA Times in the 70s “about men from South East Asia, who were from immigrant families and had died in the middle of nightmares.” Prior to their death, they had reported disturbing nightmares and were refusing to sleep. People always say that dying in your sleep would be a peaceful way to go, but something tells me these men would have disagreed!