When a horror film sports the tagline "Based on a true story" or "Inspired by actual events," the terror quotient almost always goes up, and the films often does big box office numbers. A great recent example of this phenomenon is The Conjuring, which cleaned up during its theatrical run this summer. The idea that a film is rooted in some level of truth makes the experience more intense; even if the plot is 99% fiction, the feature is still enriched by the knowledge that there is even a shred of truth to what you are about to watch. In March, we ran a list showcasing ten terrifying movies based on actual events, and was succeeded by a follow up installment in September. We’re now proud to bring you ten more horror films that take a cue from reality.
Silence of the Lambs
The life of Ed Gein has lent inspiration to several filmmakers and authors; Gein inspired Tobe Hooper in creating The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Gein’s story served as inspiration for the Psycho novel and film; and of course, both the screen adaptation of Silence of the Lambs and the novel on which it was based drew from Gein as well. Of course, both are largely fictionalized, but combining the fictional elements of the script with the backdrop of Ed Gein’s story makes for an incredibly intense and frightening viewing and reading experience.
James Wan’s summer blockbuster The Conjuring was inspired by the lives of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. While the film naturally took a certain amount of creative liberty, Lorraine Warren actually served as a creative consultant, which ensured a certain level of accuracy not always present in films that purport to be based on actual events. The completed film was plenty terrifying and a large part of the eeriness of the picture can be attributed to the inherent knowledge that a great deal of what we were seeing was grounded in reality. The Perron family (the family in the film that experience the paranormal happenings) has given their seal of approval to the film and maintains that the picture is an accurate account of what they experienced.
One would likely never guess that this 1958 Steve McQueen creature feature and its 1988 remake are based, at least in part, on real events. The film was inspired by the experience of two police officers that claimed to have seen a mass fall from the sky in Patterdale, Cumbria. After the mass touched down, the officers reported that it was gelatinous in texture and purple in color; the witnesses also suggested that the amalgam had a glittery appearance to it. It’s since been speculated that the blob the police officers witnessed may have been nothing more than the result of a meteor shower, but there has been no definitive explanation either way. Of course, there were no reports of this blob eating anyone or making its way around town to tour the neighborhood. But, it’s fascinating to learn that the film’s script was inspired by accounts of a true life event.
The Hills Have Eyes
Most of Wes Craven’s films are loosely rooted in some degree of truth: The People Under the Stairs, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Serpent and the Rainbow are all at least loosely inspired by true events (we have covered all three of those in previous installments). In the case of The Hills Have Eyes, the story of Sawney Bean and his band of inbred cannibals inspired the film’s script. The Bean clan was based in Scotland and is reportedly responsible for murdering and snacking on over 1,000 people in the 15th-16th centuries. There is debate over whether Bean and his clan actually existed, but there is no definitive proof that they didn’t. One school of thought suggests that the Bean clan did in deed exist, but that the story has been largely embellished. Just the possibility that the story is even partially true gives a new air of creepy to the film. Craven’s tendency to spin reality and fantasy together in one package makes his features a pleasure to watch when he gets it right.
David Cronenberg’s tale of twin gynecologists is based on the story of real life twin gynecologists, Cyril and Stewart Marcus. The pair were twin gynecologists as well as heavy barbiturate users. The real-life Marcus twins were found dead in their shared apartment from drug related complications. Their story served as the setup for the book on which Cronenberg based his film. In reality, the pair died from barbiturate withdrawal, whereas the film version tells a slightly livelier version of the events.
That Child’s Play is based on any kind actual events is quite surprising. The true story behind the film does involve a doll possessed by voodoo magic. The film is based on the experiences of Robert Eugene Otto. When Otto was a young child, in the early 20th century, he reportedly received a Bahamian doll as a gift. The gift-giver had serious problems with Otto’s family and the doll turned out to be a bit of Trojan horse. Otto’s family claimed that Robert would talk to the doll and the doll would move about their home on its own. Neighbors reported having seen the Bahamian doll moving around the house when the family was out. After Otto’s death, the doll is said to have found a new owner and continued its old tricks. The doll’s new owner says that the doll tried to harm her several times. While the specifics were changed for the film, it’s fascinating to learn that Child’s Play is based on actual events, even though the the validity of the claims could be considered debatable.
Ravenous is also very loosely inspired by actual events; like a lot of films, it combines aspects from real events and mixes them with a hefty amount of fiction. This tale of cannibalism is set in the mid 1840s and takes inspiration from both Alfred Packer and The Donner Party. Screenwriter, Ted Griffin named Alfred Packer’s story as one of the influences to his script and asserts that Packard was an inspiration for Robert Carlyle’s character. The cannibalism and timeframe in which the film are the primary connections to true events, but knowing that the film is rooted in historical happenings certainly adds an extra sense of unease for anyone watching the film.