While it’s safe to say that most horror films are works of fiction, there have been a small hand full that have actually been based on or “inspired from” true stories that have occurred in the past. In fact, it’s also safe to say that most horror films have been “inspired” from something or other, however this list pays tribute to the top 10 horror films that are more closely based on true stories.
Even with that factor hovering overhead, you have to take the film adaptations with a grain of salt knowing that Hollywood tends to “mold” things for better box office numbers. I have seen some documentaries that while not directly films (per se) are quite scary themselves. The work of the Booth Brothers comes to mind and a few others. So for clarification, these films were created to tell the stories of reported past occurrences that themselves are considered non-fiction.
(not in ranking order)
01 – The Conjuring (2013)
An intensely scary film event, this is one film that you don’t want to believe was based on true events. A family is terrorized at their colonial style farm house. The case was actually one of many that the paranormal team of Ed and Lorraine Warren took under wing over their life time. They were invited to investigate a series of hauntings over the request of the family who resided at the location. possessions and hauntings were just a piece of this traumatic event which is reported to still show signs of haunting left over from its prior residents. If you thought the demonic doll inclusion was just part of the show, then your sadly mistaken, as the doll named Annabelle was also part of the Warren’s extensive haunted items collection. Scary stuff!
One of the most famous “based on” true stories of all time! If you were around the year when this film came out (1979), you know that it was inspired by a 1977 best seller. The film was effective at the time sending many home with a frightened realization that Hell” can actually be a portal in one’s basement. Over the years, with remakes and skewed data, the Lutz family saga has been taken less seriously. This also may be a result of the franchise it sparked which released “way” too many cheesy sequels in its wake. Whether or not what was said in the book is “true”, remains to be seen, but certainly the town of “Amityville” (Long Island) has never been the same with such a famous residence in its vicinity.
One of the theatre bound films that arrived promising a creepy ghost tale, this film was actually based on a true occurrence better known by its name of “The Bell Witch”. Since the debut of this film, I have actually seen a few really good documentaries that detail this legend. The Bell Witch story is one of the more well know ones about a haunting that occurred in the 1800’s. The root here is of a disgruntled neighbor who felt cheated after the Bell family purchased her land. As a payback she is said to have cursed the family which later lead to strange and malicious spectral haunting’s. The hauntings themselves escalated from ghost pranks into more bothersome occurrences.
Ah, one of the earlier 80;s film that really made a point and took itself more seriously than the masses of 80’s era releases. You might even say it was a precursor influence to many of the 21st century found footage style films. This paranormal rooted film took a stance in the way that Amityville horror did, in the simple sense of it re-constructing a reported event. Starring Barbara Hershey Carla Moran it was reported that the film “really was” based on the original event but was not studied for details. More specifically it was based on a book by Frank Defelitta that detailed the case of Doris Bither who experienced her encounter within Culver City, California. In summary the event itself was reported to have been a demon raping case with the inclusion of ghosts and several unseen forces. That statement alone is enough to drive your imagination, however “The Entity” has always been highly regarded as a top scary movie experience.
A gray area film that seems to have both been loved and hated by horror fans. I took the positive stance on this one, a movie that does a pretty damn good job at being scary and rooted in demon possession. Called a “courtroom drama horror film”, it probably would have been more effective if left out of the experience. Based on the legend of Anneliese Michel (loosely based, as reaffirmed), it depicts the events that led to the possession of Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter),which also has the head priest on the case Father Richard Moore being charged wit negligent homicide. As a film, it has got some great creepy scenes that were even performed without special effects (those nasty contortions). It most likely set the bar for gathering girls who could also contort on screen. None the less, the film was based on the report of “Anneliese Michel, a young German Catholic woman who died in 1976 after unsuccessful attempts to perform an exorcism upon her with psychotropic drugs” (as written by Wikipedia). It’s a bit jarring and the “true” aspect makes it even creepier.
One of my favorite “based on” horror films, the “Mothman” creature is a much well-documented weird oddity that was said to be witnessed by a number of people. There have been entire books and documentaries based on this strange entity in greater detail. The Mothman is essentially a thing with “glowing red eyes” that silhouettes in the like-image of a giant moth creature. It’s greatest claim to fame came from a small town named “Point Pleasant”, that dates as far back as 1966. The entity is associated with a 1967 bridge collapse resulting in the death of 46 people. It is also believed to be related to the occurrence of supernatural events. The Mothman Prophecies which starred Richard Gere was one of the better films to embrace this subject.
07- The Possession (2012)
Another film that takes on the reported realism of possession. This 2012 Sam Raimi directed film roots itself in Hebrew tradition. The proper name for it is called the dybbuk box. Instead of a direct case to film scenario, “The Possession” bases its foundation on the Jewish folklore of this haunted box. The box is said to contain a restless evil spirit that can be released under the wrong circumstances. The film was inspired by a report of an Ebay auction that had contained items causing nightmares and strange occurrences. The box basically is a portal for bad stuff that happens to those who open it. It’s best left buried and untampered with.
I’ve never been much of a voodoo film fan, however if I were to vote on any, this would be the one to take the lead. This 1988 film was a creepy look at the phenomena of living zombies directed under Wes Craven. The film itself was created based on the inspiration of the drug tetrodotoxin which is used in Haiti. The chemical is said to render a subject under the appearance of death. An agent called scopolamine is first used by way of blowing it into the subject’s face. “Serpent and the Rainbow: was also inspired by the case of Clairvius Narcisse who was reported to have gone thru this ordeal.
The true story that inspired this one centers around a man named Ed Gein. Ed was found to be insane but is confirmed to have murdered at least 2 women and several other victims. His case was exploited due to his fascination with dead bodies and the wearing of human skin. You can also look to “Silence of the Lambs” as another film which featured this odd behaviors also inspired by Gein’s case. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was actually very loosely based using a complete different story premise and of course adding the excitement of a chainsaw. Ed Gein on the other hand did not use a chainsaw which is why the film feels more inspired from rather than based on.
Who knew that this mega-scary fright fest was based on a real event? Knowing that, I’m guessing your level of being creeped out just got quite a bit creepier. While bad skin and a rotating head are not part of the original inspiration, it is true that film was based on a real Catholic exorcism case. William Peter Blatty has cited the diaries of Fr. Raymond Bishop as being the primary source of inspiration for this legendary cinematic fright masterpiece. Bouncing furniture, speaking in tongues and the documented report of a real life exorcism had enough meat behind it to bring this event to the screen. The event was re-told with the focus on young girl named Regan who made the mistake of dinking about with an ouji board.
Top 10 True Story Based Horror Movies