It’s just a movie. You’ve undoubtedly spoken those things aloud to yourself while watching a particularly terrifying horror movie. It’s a mantra that frequently enables us to calm ourselves down after panic episodes brought on by dread. But what happens when a film transcends its original purpose? What if it was inspired by a real event? The phrase “based on a true story” is frequently twisted by directors, who frequently wring out so many details that only the most basic plot structure actually resembles what actually occurred. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves. But it isn’t always the case. The facts of these 15 horror movies based on true stories may have been changed for dramatic effect, but the stories are nonetheless sufficiently similar to the events in real life to give you the shivers and tingles down your spine. Keep reminding yourself that it’s just a movie if it helps. Just remember that it was really real for someone else.
Here is a list of the 15 Horror Movies based on true stories that are perfect for a night out with your homies! Don’t forget to switch off the lights!
Anyone who has even a passing interest in true crime has heard of the Zodiac Killer, who terrorised San Francisco in the 1960s with a series of killings that have never been solved. Although he meticulously recreates a few of the murders, David Fincher’s terrifying masterwork is more about the black hole the murderer created with the perplexing puzzles and coded messages he leaked to the media. Political cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, was completely absorbed with the case, which cost him his marriage due to his decades-long fixation with discovering the identity of the Zodiac. He’s obviously not the only one considering how a new notion regarding who did the killings pops up every few years.
This haunted house story experienced huge left-field success during the late 1970s horror craze following The Exorcist thanks to a marketing push emphasising its purportedly authentic credentials. It describes the supernatural harassment endured by the Lutz family when they moved into a dilapidated Long Island home that had previously been the scene of a gruesome mass murder, and is based on the Jay Anson novel. Despite the fact that reviewers have long regarded Anson’s novel as a fraud, the film still went on to become a horror classic, spawning a number of subpar sequels and serving as the basis for Michael Bay’s 2005 remake.
Before James Wan decided to turn Ed and Lorraine Warren’s most famous case into a vintage haunted house movie, they were only moderately well-known paranormal investigators. After that, they became possibly the most well-known ghost hunters in history. Who else in their business can lay claim to have been the creative force behind the greatest horror franchise ever? The first movie is directly based on the Warrens’ account of looking into paranormal activity at a dilapidated farmhouse in Rhode Island back in 1971. The so-called “Conjuring Universe” has since diverged in several directions, including the Annabelle movies. It demonstrated that Wan, previously recognised for the torture porn Saw franchise, could conjure up more than simply jump scares by gleefully combining various classic horror tropes, including many of them. It is one of the must-watch horror movies based on true stories.
With help from Steven Spielberg, who produced and perhaps even ghost-directed some of it, director Tobe Hooper successfully “Spielbergized” the contemporary haunted house film three years after The Amityville Horror, creating a horror classic. It also draws its inspiration from a real haunting, like Amityville. In the 1950s, the family hired a paranormal investigator to identify strange activities, including things moving by themselves and randomly popping bottles, and the bizarre case of the Hermann house in suburban Long Island became a national media story. However, the house did not ultimately disappear into a portal between dimensions.
Although the occurrence that served as the basis for this independent thriller did not result in any deaths or carnage, it is nonetheless extremely unsettling and not without agony. An employee at a fast food restaurant in rural Kentucky was persuaded to strip search a coworker by a man posing as a police officer in 2004. This was the first of a string of humiliating incidents that quickly grew worse. Instead of capitalising on the embarrassment of what turned out to be an exceedingly screwed-up prank call, Craig Zobel’s cramped drama uses it as a springboard to examine the American loyalty to authority.
6. 10 Rillington Place
John Christie, a modest postman who murdered at least eight people, including his wife, and hid their bodies in the walls of his Notting Hill apartment in the 1940s and 1950s, is arguably second to Jack the Ripper as London’s most notorious serial killer. Richard Attenborough gives a really terrifying lead performance as Richard Fleischer, whose narrative of his murdering spree is a little-known true crime gem that the actor claims tormented him for a long time after.
7. Open Water
Tom and Eileen Lonergan, two Americans, were unintentionally left behind on a group scuba diving excursion off the Great Barrier Reef in 1998. Filmmaker Chris Kentis makes an educated guess as to what ultimately happened to them: sharks, and lots of ’em. Their bodies were never found. It may be more of a well-executed nightmare than a full-fledged movie because it was made on a small budget, in real water, and with real live sharks, but as a distillation of a pervasively held irrational fear, it may be even more potent than Jaws.
Hounds of Love, Wolf Creek, The Girl Next Door, and other contemporary movies are based on horrible acts of brutality, but few have the visceral ugliness of Justin Kurzel’s portrayal of the “barrel murders” that shook South Australia in the 1990s. Kurzel’s account of the seven-year period beginning in 1992 during which a group of four men, led by John Bunting, committed a slew of horrific killings, primarily targeting homosexuals and paedophiles, spares little details. Although it’s difficult to picture viewing Snowtown for amusement, it serves as one of the best tour guides ever created for seeing deeply into the darkest corners of humanity.
9. The Birds
Although it hasn’t held up as well as other Alfred Hitchcock classics, perhaps if more people were aware that in 1961, birds in the California coastal town of Capitola actually rebelled against humans, it would appear a little less absurd today. As a result of exposure to harmful algae, flocks of normally calm seagulls started flying into buildings and vehicles and puking up partially digested meals. It took decades for experts to determine the cause, but it took Big Al only two years to utilise the occurrence as an allegory for man’s deteriorating relationship with nature, as well as perhaps female sexual frustration.
10. Dead Ringers
Imagine David Cronenberg’s face when he read a piece about the Marcus brothers, identical gynecologists who passed away simultaneously from drug overdoses in 1975, in a New York magazine. Of course, Cronenberg greatly exaggerates the details of their mutual decline, using the case as a springboard to explore a variety of topics, including male sexual anxieties, in the most horrifying, unsettling, and unmistakably Cronenbergian manner.
11. The Watcher
The Watcher relates the tale of recent true crime incidents involving a young couple who moved into a New Jersey house but quickly realised they had made the wrong choice. The couple, who had now brought their children inside the house, began to receive strange notes in their mailbox.
The stalker knew about their children and intimate details about their lives, including the nicknames they used for the kids, so at first, it was simply strange, but it quickly become terrifying. The Watcher has never been located, despite there being ideas throughout the years about who was sending these messages from neighbours or even investigating into the family. This is one of the best horror movies based on true stories.
John List, a real-life serial killer, served as the inspiration for The Stepfather and its 2009 remake. However, the film takes significant liberties to dramatise the horror of List’s true story. The titular stepfather was portrayed in the film as a serial killer who murdered his family, moved, remarried, and planned to murder his next family.
In reality, John List murdered his entire family before continuing his life as usual. List wasn’t apprehended until 18 years after the murders, and the remains weren’t found until a month after that. There was no solid proof that List was preparing to kill again as the movie implies, but he had moved and remarried without anyone knowing about his nefarious history.
Jeremy Renner makes an appearance before joining the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time, he took on the role of a cannibalistic serial killer rather than a superhero.
The horrific life of Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most unstable citizens, is depicted in this fictional biopic. Despite the fact that Dahmer killed other people during his rampage, this movie focuses on his pursuit of Rodney, who is thought to be one of his final victims. But in reality, Dahmer was responsible for as many as 17 brutal and heinous deaths of adults and young boys.
The notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who intimidated, raped, and killed young women all throughout America in the 1970s, is the subject of this film. This Ted Bundy biopic, starring Zac Efron, recounts the serial killer’s life and murderous rampage through seven states, including Utah, Oregon, and Seattle.
Although the movie is not as gory as the actual events, it is nonetheless very spooky and will give everyone who views it the creeps. More significantly, it demonstrates how shockingly cruel, horrible, and terrible Ted Bundy truly was.
15. The Exorcist
In 1973, The Exorcist was the most popular horror film at the time. Many people are unaware that the movie was based on a Peter Blatty novel that was based on a genuine story, yet it horrified thousands of moviegoers across America. According to The Denver Post, a month-long exorcism was carried out by a Jesuit priest after a 14-year-old boy from Maryland became possessed in 1949.
Roland Doe, who was said to be under the control of 10 demons, is how horror fans knew the youngster because he and his family never revealed his real name. Roland was reported to have experienced convulsions, furious screaming, bloody scratches on his body, and many other unsettling things—despite the fact that his head never rotated 360 degrees and he never puked up a nasty green material.
Here is a compilation of what we think are the 15 Best Horror Movies Based On True Stories that every horror genre lover should definitely watch. So grab your snacks and have a pillow nearby because you’ll surely feel the need to hold something tight while watching these films!