HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! It is my absolute favourite time of the year, I love all things horror related and especially those that are based on true stories. Some of these films are more like psychological thrillers then slasher’isque type movies like Halloween (which an absolute classic!)
This is one of my favourite posts to write, simply because I found it deadly interesting and my research led me to some movies I’d completely forgotten about, but that were absolutely amazing.
Please note some of the links provided below are affiliate links which means I may receive a very small sum if you decide to purchase the DVD or Blue Rays of these movies.
Also, there will be several trigger warnings provided as these films are based on real events and there could be storylines or certain aspects of the films that people may find distressing or traumatising. Please do further research, or contact me if you think you may be affected by the films and want to know more before purchasing.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
You’re probably thinking, “What? No way is this based on a real story…” Well, it kind of is, at least the original concept for the films which starred the iconic King of Horror, Robert Englund as a child serial killer that was burned to death by a mob of angry parents after he was let off due to a technicality. He was burned alive in the boiler room where he’d take his victims. I’ve actually done a bit of a backstory on Freddy, more so for myself, because I found the actual backstory for the character incredible so I will link that, here.
I definitely think you should give it a read as it goes in-depth into Robert Englund’s thoughts on what Freddy’scharacterrepresented, and there is a tonne of other information that if you’re into psychology in any way or love horror, then you’ll really enjoy reading this.
So, how is this based on a real story? The idea of Freddy himself came from the Director, Wes Kraven (LEGEN…DARY) after he read an article in the LA Times on a little boy from a family of Cambodian refugees who was so terrified that the thing in his dreams was going to get him, that he’d stay awake for days on end to avoid his nightmares.
He finally succumbed to sleep, his family thought that was the end of it, but heartbreakingly they heard his screams in the middle of the night, but by the time they reached him the poor little guy had passed away. He was a child that was experiencing monumental horror and the grown-ups of his little world were denying which became the centre of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. An autopsy revealed he was in perfect health, he was literally scared to death. There is more to this story which you can read as part of the background to Freddy.
If your a sceptic (like my partner) then you’ll not believe this next one. Poltergeist is inspired by the story of the Herman’s family home. They lived in the home in 1958 and reported a lot of strange and unexplained sounds, items being moved and other unexplained phenomena. I read an article a few years ago that claimed some of the cast believed the film set was cursed because of what they were filming. They also blamed the death of actress Heather O’Rourke (the little girl in the picture who played Carol Anne Freeing).
I believe in the supernatural, but I didn’t believe that article and as a Student Psychologist, I do my research. Heather had Crohn’s disease, she was prescribed with a steroid that was used to treat the disease. At the time of her death in 1988, she had reprised her role for the third time in Poltergeist III when she began vomiting. The next morning she collapsed; she was rushed to the hospital, suffering a cardiac arrest en route. She died the day after surgery to repair a bowel obstruction (an obstruction that prevents the intestines from working properly) caused by congenital stenosis (a birth defect which in Heather’s case was an abnormal narrowing in one of her tubular organ or structures) of the intestine which was made worse by septic shock, so in layman’s terms, she was poisoned to death by her own waste, which is the exact same thing that happened to my beloved Nanny Mac.
If you’re are a horror buff or haven’t been living in a cave for the past century then you’ll know a rough story of the Amityville Horror. The original film was based on the Lutz family. In 1975 they moved into the home where just a year before, Ronald DeFeo Jr had gunned down his entire family with a shotgun (and their poor wee dog who was murdered with an axe 💔).
The Lutz family escaped from the home after only 28 days, they claimed the house was full of evil spirits. They reported strange odours, ghostly apparitions (such as the infamous photo of a little boy peeking out of one of the bedrooms) and strange sounds/voices.
I swear to God anything to do with creepy dolls sends shivers down my spine. Annabelle is probably the only film on this list that genuinely terrifies me. I was talking to one of my fellow Psychology degree friends about this story the other day which is what prompted this post.
The photo on the right is actually the original Annabelle doll that is said to be haunted by a malevolent (having, showing, or arising from intense often vicious ill will, spite, or hatred) spirit. What creeps me out more than the actual doll is the fact I’m 99% sure I played with a doll that looked the exact same as the one in the photograph, but with different clothes when I was younger.
Anyways, the story of Annabelle is based on a doll once owned by a family. The doll began moving by itself and writing creepy notes saying things like “Help us”. The woman who owned the doll contacted Lorrain Warren (of ghosting-hunting fame made popular by The Conjuring films). Lorrain claimed the doll was possessed by a seven-year-old girl named Annabelle that had passed away. Annabelle is now held under lock and key (see picture) in the Warrens’ Museum, you have to ask permission to take her picture, or suffer the wrath of Annabelle. NOPPPPPPPPPEEEEE.
This is one of the two films on this list that upsets me, you’ll understand why when you read the story. The Disappointments Room follows the story of an architect (played by Kate Beckinsale) that moves into a new home with a mysterious room in the attic.
It transpires that the room was used as a room where rich people would cast off their disabled children. The story is based on the true story of a Rhode Island woman that discovered a similar room in her house that she says was built by a 19th-century judge, he used the room to lock away his disabled daughter.
It’s horrifically sad, but also terrifying. It’s one of three films that are in this genre that has moved me to tears. The other two are The Girl Next Door (which is below) and The Orphanage, which isn’t based on a true story but is truly the most heartbreaking film I have ever seen. There are jumpy parts as it is supposed to be a horror film, but I ended up in floods of tears at the end and it’s a film, that to this day I could tell you every single thing that happened, but I’d be in floods of tears telling you.
This film… this film!! I’m getting so emotional just trying to write this. I remember the first time I saw this film, it haunts me to this day and every time a Youtuber that tells true crime stories comes across this story, I sob recalling the details.
The movie shows the abuse of a teenage girl (pictured right), by her aunt, that ended in her murder. This story was inspired by the brutal abuse and murder of Sylvia Likens in 1965. I’ll be covering the story of Sylvia, but the shortened version is that Sylvia and her little sister were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski after their father failed to pay Gertrude money to care for his kids. Their father was a travelling carnie.
Baniszewski abused Sylvia with cigarettes, starved her, beat her, slashed her stomach and branded her a “prostitute”. She enlisted the help of her children and the other neighbourhood children and encouraged them to beat, rape and abuse Sylvia. Sylvia heartbreakingly succumbed to her injuries (brain swelling, internal haemorrhaging of the brain and shock induced by Sylvia’s skin damage) after three months of horrific abuse. I sobbed for hours after this, I was 20 when this film was released and to this day I think of Sylvia.
I suffered child abuse as a child, I’ve seen some of the most off the chain, goriest films you could think of. I spent hours on Rotten.com (do not go there if you are squeamish) as a teenager, I like to think none of that gets me, but this film was so graphically violent and so awful that there were parts I couldn’t witness, I was sobbing so hard. What makes the whole thing worse, Gertrude is free with a new identity, she hopefully dead now, but she if she is, she died a free woman. She stole this beautiful girl’s life before it had even begun. This film probably shouldn’t be in this post as I don’t want you all to watch it, but at the same time, I felt compelled to tell you about it because Sylvia’s story deserves to be heard. RIP Sylvia, I’m so so sorry for what was done to you.
The Strangers was inspired by the Writer and Director of the film, Bryan Bertino’s experience of something that happened to him when he was a small child.
As a kid, he lived in a house, in the middle of nowhere. One night when his parents were out, someone knocked on the door and his little sister answered. The stranger asked for someone who didn’t live there, he later found out that there was more than one of them and they were knocking on doors if no one was home they’d break in.
This film has me paranoid as fuck, I never, ever answer my door if I am on my own. In the film, three killers in weird ass masks (pictured) terrorize a young couple, the infamous line in the film is one that’s stuck in my head. When asked why they are doing this to the couple, one of them responds with, “Because you were home.” Keep yourselves safe, kids. There are real-life crazies out there.
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1978 & remake of 2003)
My absolute favourite film of all time is the OG, original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1978). You should all know the story by now, I don’t consider this a real horror film because I remember snort laughing when I first laid eyes on the wee granda in the chair
Although, it was dubbed the most horrific horror film of all-time at one point. Fast forward to 2018 where we now have films like The Purge and all the sequels (which are all AMAZING), Human Centipede (I just vomited in my mouth), the fifty thousand Saw films and so on.
The second one was funnier than the first, who remembers the uncle (or was it the cousin) of Leatherface, the one that would pick off the skin from his scalp and eat it, brilliant!
I loved all of them, I didn’t like the remake, though. The only good thing about it was Jessica Biel and the fact it was 2003 so Leatherface looked more like a Leatherface (picture above left) than a clown (pictured right).
For those of you who don’t know, this film was based loosely (I feel like I shouldn’t say loose because of what I’m about to say next) on killer Ed Gein who killed and skinned women and made macabre items from them such as furniture and clothing. Yeah, don’t google it unless you’re a bit disturbed like me. He was also the inspiration for Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs (iconic) and Norman Bates in Psycho (another iconic classic).
Gein was said to have kept his mother’s dead body, which he spoke to. You’ll see that link in Psycho if you haven’t seen Psycho and Silence of the Lambs then that’s your own fault. These aren’t spoilers as literally everyone and their granny (even my granny had seen both films) have seen at least one of them. Ed Gein was a cannibal so that’s the link to Buffalo Bill. Although, there’s a stark contrast between the two as Gein wasn’t exactly intelligent.
9. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976 & make of 2014)
I actually didn’t know about the connection between this film and the Texas Moonlight Murders in 1946. In 1946 the “Phantom Killer” took the lives of five people over a period of ten weeks. The worst part of this is that the murders were never solved. If the person who committed these crimes is now dead, we may never know who did it, or why they did it
The film itself follows a Texas Ranger as he tries to track down a serial killer hunting for victims in a small town. The 2014 remake is pretty much the same thing, but again have a more realistic type of horror given the advances in media.
Yep! Scream was inspired by the Gainesville Ripper, aka Danny Rolling who terrorised a student campus and killed five students by stabbing them to death, over a three day period back in 1990.
A lot of people don’t consider scream a horror film, it’s just a cheesy flick, but it’s your typical modern day slasher film and the fact it’s been inspired by a true story gives it the extra creepy factor.
So, there you have it ten films based on or inspired by true events to make your Halloween spookier!
Let me know what your “favourite scary movie’ (hahaha, get it… cos, Scream?) is in the comments below!
Until next time peeps,
Be safe and be kind.