Horror Movies Based on True Horrifying Events

Horror Based on True Events

by Dusan on September 26th, 2018 | |

There are plenty of movies that claim to be real. The genre of found footage, starting with Cannibal Holocaust all the way up to the recent Phoenix Forgotten, always does its best to convince the audience that what is it watching is real. That these terrifying events actually happened and these people have met their demise or were never seen again. And then there’s traditional style films that say they’re inspired by “true events” when the directors know for a fact that the film is a complete fabrication. Despite this, reading at the beginning of a film that the story is based on real life instantly makes the film scarier. You might imagine, what if this happened to me? Now, my next assertion might be disputed if you wholeheartedly believe in the supernatural, but most horror films can’t possibly be true because of horror’s oft fantastical elements. Despite this, there’s plenty of realist horror that depicts the brutality of humanity. These following three films might not be 100% true, certain changes have to be made for the cinematic experience, but the souls of the movies are based on real people and true events.

  1. The Girl Next Door (2007) from Gregory Wilson. Meg and Susan’s parents have died in a car accident and are sent to live with their Aunt Ruth. Once there Ruth’s punishments quickly become out of hand as Meg is tied up in the basement, starved, and beat upon by not only Ruth’s sons but other kids from the neighborhood. Eventually the POV character, a benign neighbor boy helps the two to escape, but not before Meg succumbs to her many wounds. The real-life version of events? Sylvia Likens and her sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski by their parents. As in the film Sylvia (Meg) was older than her sister and Jenny (Susan) was disabled. Differently, Gertrude was of no relation to the family and the Liken’s sisters family was alive, just unable to properly house them. The beatings that ensued, though probably not exact, did occur as Gertrude encouraged her many children, one of whom was actually supposed to be a friend to the Likens girls, to beat on the sisters. The abuse began to focus solely on Sylvia, just as in the film, and it lead to misogynistic lessons from Gertrude about Sylvia’s place as a woman and her sexuality. And as absurd as it sounds classmate of Gertrude’s children and other local children did eventually come to the home and help torture her, including, but not limited to tying her up, starving her, making her drink urine, and stripping her naked and forcing an empty Coke bottle into her vagina. The most fictional aspect of the film comes from the chosen framing device of the boy who witnessed it all. In reality, there was no boy trying to help, only a sister who survived.
  1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) by Scott Derrickson. The central argument at the heart of this film is that the Priest who performed Emily Rose’s exorcism really was performing an exorcism on a woefully possessed young woman. They just have to convince a jury of this in the American secular court system. The film flashes back and forth between the court proceedings and the events that lead to the young girl’s death. So what really happened? Anna Elisabeth “Anneliese” Michel was 23 years old when she died of malnourishment and dehydration after 10 months of exorcisms. She weighed 63 pounds at the time of her death, couldn’t move around on her own, and her knees were both broken. Anneliese was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family in West Germany and the film’s characterization was similar, she was quiet, a little withdrawn, and deeply religious. At 16 Anneliese experienced a seizure which lead her to be diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy and psychosis as a side effect. For the rest of her life, she tried using secular medicine to get better and stop her seizures and hallucinations. Her religious beliefs probably began to affect her hallucinations as well as she heard voices damning her or telling her she would rot in hell and she eventually became intolerant of religious iconography. Her family and Anneliese herself became convinced that she was demonically possessed. The church at first rejected their requests but the Priest Ernst Alt came to believe as well and convinced Bishop Josef Stangl to approve an exorcism. He allowed Priest Arnold Renz to perform it in total secrecy. A trial did follow, as in the movie, and both parents and both priests were charged with manslaughter, but no time was spent in prison despite guilty verdicts. While the film sometimes plays at both angles, that Emily was and was not actually possessed, it largely falls on the belief that she was and that the Priest in her case was justified. In real life? A mentally ill young woman was died because of her family’s deep belief in the church. What’s the real horror?
  1. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) from Charles B. Pierce. The film opens with a couple attacked on lovers lane and follows a string of murders as the police, bumbling, struggle to uncover the killer’s identity and stop his mad series of attacks. They never do catch him and the film implies that he still lives in Texarkana, unknown and undiscovered and he’s going to see the same movie you’re watching. So what really happened? The Texarkana Moonlight Murders committed by the Phantom Killer was a series of murders and attacks in Texarkana in the spring of 1946. Never caught, the Phantom is attributed with 3 attacks and 5 murders within a span of 10 weeks. The first two murders, though details were made more dramatic are essentially the same. Two couples are attacked while parked out far from help (though in real life the first couple survived). The third pair of murders is where a certain cinematic liberty was really taken as the girl, Peggy in the film and Betty in actuality, did play an instrument, but it wasn’t involved in her death. In real life Betty played the saxophone while her movie counterpart played the trombone, making for a terribly brutal death scene you can’t believe they actually filmed. In the final attack in a couple’s home, the wife did survive, but she was not chased from her home and police never got close to catching the Moonlight killer. The film, though it originally faced its criticism, was partially filmed in Texarkana itself and is now showed every October in a public park. It seems Texarkana simply can’t, or is unwilling, to escape its grisly past. A sequel to the film was released in 2014 and features the original murders and film, taking place in a meta-version of real life when the murders start up once more at a showing of The Town that Dreaded Sundown.

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