My Favorite Horror Movies Based on True Stories

It seems like now more than ever movies are casually using the terms, “based on a true story,” before the beginning of their film, in hope of gaining buzz and interest over the movie. More often than not, said films are hardly based on actual events, rather they use snippets of certain things to be able to present the story as true. However, there are several horror movies that have been based on real-life stories, making them all the more terrifying. In lieu of my recent viewing of The Reef, which was based on a real-life shark attack, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite horror movies based on true stories. Enjoy!

10.)Open Water

I really, really dislike the ocean and this film is one of the reasons why. You will never catch me snorkeling with friends off of the Great Barrier Reef–or anywhere else–because not only is it stupid (Um swimming with sharks? No thanks), you may just get left behind by your tour group like the couple in Open Water. The film is based on the 1998 case of married couple, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were mistakenly left behind by their charter boat while diving near the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The couple, who were apparently experienced divers, were left in the middle of the ocean when the boat company they were using miscounted how many people they had aboard. It took the company two full days before they realized that the Lonergan’s were missing and by the time a search party was sent out, the couple was nowhere to be found. The movie depicts the couple struggling to survive in shark infested waters–like WICKED infested–and eventually coming to their end at the jaws of the ocean’s predator. The film literally made me hyperventilate because it combined two of my fears, sharks and drowning, and knowing that it was based on something that actually happened. Don’t go snorkeling, people–it could kill you.

9.) The Mothman Prophecies

Technically this could be just considered a myth but I really believe that this Richard Gere thriller provided some good evidence to support the sightings of the Mothman creature. The film follows Gere’s character as he searches out the legendary Mothman in Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania, following his wife’s death. When he arrives at the town he learns much more than he bargained for and becomes a part of one of the most devastating events in the state. The movie follows the real events that occurred in Point Pleasant between November 15, 1966 to December 15, 1967, where people in the town continued to report of seeing the red-eyed monster momentarily before a negative event occurred. People believe that the supernatural creature came to warn them of the Silver bridge collapse which claimed the lives of 46 people. Many people have claimed to see the Mothman and if you do ever get a glimpse of the foreboding creature–run.

8.)The Amityville Horror

There were so many elements behind this story which made people closely consider the history of the houses they were about to purchase. It all began with the Amityville murders which took place at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York on November 13, 1974. Reportedly sick of being abused by his overbearing father, Ronald DeFeo decided to seek revenge by shooting him and his mother, and later killing his four siblings. Thirteen months later, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home with their family and began experiencing serious paranormal activity. The family fled from the home after 28 days and then wrote a book about their ordeal, describing the activity that happened to them. Many people argue that the whole thing was a publicity stunt and that the Lutz’s never experienced anything but one this is for sure, I’m never going into that house either way. 

7.) From Hell

Unsolved mysteries are always so enticing and also frustrating, especially in the case of Jack the Ripper, who briefly terrorized London in 1888. In From Hell, starring Johnny Depp, the audience is taken back to this time in a re-imagining of what happened and given a possible answer to the long-running mystery. The film showcases the murders of the prostitutes that the Ripper brutally butchered during that time and explains that he was a free Mason who was helped by the police to keep him unidentified. Whether or not the identity of the killer was true or not, the film was still terrifying with it’s unrelenting images of the crime scenes, making you truly feel for the poor girls who were killed. Moral of the story? If you are rich, you can get away with anything.

6.) The Exorcism of Emily Rose

As if dealing with the regular problems of going through puberty isn’t hard enough, imagine how much worse your youth would be like if you suddenly became possessed by the Devil. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is based on the true story of Anneliese Michel, a 16 year-old German girl who began having unexplainable convulsions and started hearing demonic voices that told her she was damned and that she would rot in hell. Initially the girl and the family sought medical treatment but once they decided that she was possessed, they immediately contacted a priest for help, taking her off all medicine The young girl had 67 exorcisms performed on her and she refused to eat. After a year of practically starving herself while undergoing exorcisms, Michel finally died in her sleep of starvation and dehydration, weighing just 68lbs. The film took a different approach to the possession story and showed the court case that followed the girl’s death, displaying testimonies and evidence provided in the case against priests, Father Ernst Alt and Father Arnold Renz. The story is heart wrenching story about a young girl’s struggle and the movie really made you question religion and reality.

5.) Borderland

Why must young people go into foreign countries? We’re Americans–we stand out! And that’s not a good thing. More importantly, why the hell would you want to go to Mexico?! Borderland follows three American friends who have just finished college and decided to be reckless in Mexico City. Just like in horror movie fashion (except this actually happened too), the three friends go out partying one night and one of them gets kidnapped and murdered. The film follows the true story of Adolfo de JesΓΊs Constanzo, a cult leader and drug dealer who kidnapped 21 year-old Mark Kilroy while he was on Spring Break. Unfortunately, Kilroy happened to be perfect for one of the cult’s sacrificial ceremonies and he was murdered with a machete after trying to escape. Authorities raided Constanzo’s ranch, expecting only to find drugs, but discovered several burned and dismembered bodies which were used in religious sacrifices. The film is completely terrifying because so many young people carelessly vacation and put themselves in danger without even realizing it. The fact that this actually happened makes vacationing seem a whole lot scarier. Um, I’m happy vacationing on my couch, thanks.

4.) Jaws

I have a love/hate relationship with sharks. I like to watch them on my TV screen but I have an absolute fear of ever running into one during a swim in the ocean. Yes, Jaws terrified beach-goers everywhere and continues to make me hesitate before going past my ankles in water at the sandy wasteland. The film is based on shark attacks that occurred on the Jersey Shore in 1916, killing 4 people and leaving one seriously injured. Too bad those attacked weren’t the cast members of The Jersey Shore–then we would be thanking that shark. There have been many theories as to what kind of shark kept attacking swimmers during that fateful week, many believing it to be a Great White. So, Steven Spielberg decided to scare the crap out of everyone by putting this story to life in New England. Great, that’s where I am from. Go screw yourself Spielberg.

3.) Wolf Creek

Have you ever been held down and tickled? You know that overwhelming fear that comes over you when you realize that you can’t move or do anything to stop your attacker? Well, the situations in Wolf Creek were kind of like that except the villain totally wasn’t tickling his victims–he was paralyzing them. Wolf Creek follows three tourists backpacking through the Outback who “unexpectedly” get into some car trouble. Lucky for them, a friendly stranger comes along at the right moment, all too eager to help. They end up getting drugged and wake up to find that they are going to be killed. The movie is based on the real life SEPARATE crime cases of Bradley John Murdoch and Ivan Milat. Murdoch was a mechanic who murdered two British tourists while Milat committed the “backpack murders.” The backpack murders are an insanely terrifying story; Milat kidnapped 7 people and brought them into the woods where he would paralyze them before torturing them. What’s worse–being paralyzed and tortured for hours or being brutally killed immediately? Umm…option C please.

2.)The Girl Next Door

Isn’t the first rule of parenting to keep your children safe and away from strangers? Well, apparently Sylvia Likens’ parents didn’t give a crap who they handed her over to and that carelessness got their daughter killed. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is based on the 1965 abuse case of Likens in the hands of her neighbor, Gertrude Baniszweski–whom the family hadn’t even known when they asked the woman to watch their two daughters. For some reason Baniszweski had a strong hatred toward Sylivia and tortured her until she inevitably died. Sylvia was tied up and beaten in Gertrude’s basement while the neighborhood children participated and watched. The poor girl was even raped with foreign objects and burned with cigarettes. To make matters worse, Baniszweski barely did any time for it. The film, based on Ketchum’s book of the same name, focused on a neighborhood boy who knew what was going on to Sylvia and did nothing about it until it was too late. The story is a testament to the kind of sick people that we have living in this country and is the perfect reason for why a zombie apocalypse needs to happen. Babysitter wanted? I don’t think so, bitch.

1.)The Exorcist

The Devil is a sonofabitch. The classic horror film, The Exorcist, showcases just how dangerous and powerful the evil man downstairs is as it details the possession of an innocent girl. The film, which is the horror I am most scared of and cannot watch (at least, I haven’t in many years), tells the story of 12 year-old Regan as she transforms from a happy, young girl to a foul-mouthed demon possessed monster. The story is completely terrifying because it plays on a fear that something can take complete control over you while you have absolutely no say. The movie is based on the true story of Roland Doe, which is a pseudonym given by the Catholic Church. Apparently, Roland was very close to his aunt, a spiritualist who introduced him to Ouija boards. Once his aunt died, Roland began experiencing paranormal activity including moving furniture and unexplained noises. Eventually, Roland began to lose control over himself and need an exorcism. In my opinion, the film is one of the scariest of all time because of its effects, subject matter, and true history. Uh note to self: don’t ever play with a Ouija board.

There are other horror movies based on true stories but these are my favorites. The above films resonated with me and stirred me up enough to the point where I couldn’t stop thinking about the true story behind each one of them. What true horror stories effected you the most?


Comments are closed.