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Friday, March 31, 2023

10 Horror Movies Based On True Stories

A look at 10 horror movies that are said to be inspired by real events

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Murtaza Ali Khan
Murtaza Ali Khan
Executive Director of Transcontinental Times, Murtaza Ali Khan is an award-winning Film & TV critic and journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

Horror movies are supposed to be scary. If they get you hooked they can haunt you for days, sometimes even months. You should better stay away from them if you are faint at heart. But there is some respite for those who adore horror stories. For, you can always console yourself that at the end of the day they all are a figment of someone’s imagination. Aren’t they? Well, think again! What if I told you that your favorite ghost story wasn’t a story after all?  Although, it is true that the horror stories are either spawned by novelists like Stephen King or screenwriters such as Wes Craven, little do we know that some of the best horror stories are actually retelling of actual events.

Well, it changes everything! Doesn’t it? Wait a minute! What if the makers are just trying to trick you? Maybe they feel that it would boost the movie’s overall appeal. But, sometimes it is not black and white. There are instances when a horror story is neither a work of fiction nor a retelling of an actual event. Yes, I am referring to those cases where a horror movie is merely inspired by a true event—a horror story that is a blend of fiction and reality. Fact can indeed be stranger than fiction but when the two combine seamlessly the end product can be fiendishly delectable.

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Regardless of their origins, horror stories can be really fascinating. When adapted into movies, these stories take a completely new form that’s scarier than ever, all thanks to the clever use of sound and special effects. To watch the contemporary horror movies in a theatre is more like a first-hand experience of the story on offer. It is really the closest one can get to witnessing the supernatural. So, allow me to serve you a horror feast as we take a look at 10 horror movies that are said to be inspired by real events.

1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
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This Scott Derrickson-directed horror movie about a 19-year-old girl named Emily Rose who dies following an exorcism performed on her by a Catholic priest is loosely based on the story of a German woman named Anneliese Michel who had suffered a similar fate in the 1970s. The film has given rise to an urban legend among students at the University of Minnesota that Pioneer Hall, an allegedly haunted dormitory, was where Emily Rose was first possessed by the demons, as depicted in the film. Rest assured, this horror movie will give you all kinds of creeps!  

2. The Rite (2011)

Anthony Hopkins in The Rite
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This Mikael Håfström-directed supernatural horror thriller starring Anthony Hopkins is a loose adaptation of Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, which itself is based on the real-life experiences of Father Gary Thomas while being trained as an exorcist in Italy. Here is a horror movie for the thinking man. But, make no mistake! For, the film is scary as hell!

3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

This Tobe Hooper-directed horror film about a group of friends who get victimized by a family of cannibals while on their way to visit their grandfather’s grave is inspired by the crimes of real-life murderer Ed Gein. However, at the time of its release the movie was marketed as a true story to attract a wider audience. This endlessly disturbing movie takes horror to a whole new level.

4. The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring (2013)

This James Wan-directed supernatural horror film is based on the real-life experiences of the Perron family who encountered paranormal activity in their Rhode Island-based farmhouse in 1971. The family was assisted by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, both of whom are associated with several prominent cases of haunting. Believe me, horror movies rarely get any creepier than this one!

5. Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)

This Alfred Hitchcock-directed psychological horror thriller is widely regarded as a masterwork of cinema. The film is an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name, which itself is inspired by a Wisconsin-based murderer and body snatcher. This film is certainly not meant for the faint-hearted. Watch out for the terrifying shower scene!  

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This Wes Craven-directed classic slasher horror film about a serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams is inspired by newspaper articles published in the LA Times in the 1970s about a group of Khmer refugees who died in their sleep while experiencing disturbing nightmares—a phenomenon described as Asian Death Syndrome. Here is a film that will haunt you endlessly.

7. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (1973)

This William Friedkin-directed horror masterpiece about the demonic possession of a pre-teen girl is an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name, which itself is inspired by the exorcism of Roland Doe, conducted in the late 1940s by the priests of the Roman Catholic Church. This film is a touchstone as far as horror films are concerned.

8. The Girl Next Door (2007)

The Amityville Horror (1979)

This Gregory M. Wilson-directed psychological horror film about the torture and abuse of a teenage girl by her own aunt is based on Jack Ketchum’s 1989 novel of the same name, which itself is loosely based on real events surrounding the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski in the year 1965. Horror films seldom get as disturbing as this one.

9. The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Amityville Horror (1979)

This Stuart Rosenberg-directed supernatural horror film is about the real-life experiences of the Lutz family who experienced paranormal events in their newly purchased house on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York—the very place where a mass murder was committed by Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo Jr. the year before. Terrorized by the paranormal phenomena they encountered, the family left the house just 28 days later. Inspired by the strange turn of events inspired, Jay Anson published a novel called The Amityville Horror, in the year 1977, which became the basis of this classic horror movie. I dare you to watch this one alone!

10. Audrey Rose (1977)

Audrey Rose (1977)

This Robert Wise-directed psychological horror film about a young girl who is believed by a man to be a reincarnation of his dead daughter is based on a 1975 novel of the same title by Frank De Felitta, which itself is inspired by an incident in the author’s own life wherein his young son began displaying unusual talents and interests which convinced an occultist to believe that the child was actually remembering a previous life. Creepy, isn’t it?


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