Moreso than any other genre, horror films take a lot of their supernatural and sinister tales from real life, however likely they may have been to have actually occurred is another matter however.
Through some clever story telling and embellishing, they make the implausible and improbable scary, and it keeps us, the audience, coming back for more and more. Here’s five of the scariest horrors based on a true story.
The Amityville Horror
November 13th, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed six members of his family. Citing all sorts of reasons for his despicable crime ranging from the supernatural, to voices and more, he was sentenced to 25 years to life, dying in 2021 still in prison.
December 1975 the house was bought by a young couple, George and Kathy Lutz. Within a few months of moving in they left the house, telling stories of a paranormal phenomena that was terrorizing their every moment.
Of course the film(s) adapt and embellish a considerable amount of the story, but it’s clear this is one of the most terrifying horrors based on a true story and it is a horrifying prospect to think about.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Based on the tragic real life story of Anneliese Michel, The Exorcism of Emily Rose tells the story of how a young woman died after being involved in an exorcism, as happened to Anneliese.
The film flits between the court case, with the wrongful death of Emily Rose being tried whilst the priest and those involved attempt to prove no wrongdoing by proving the possession: and flashbacks as we see the possession playing out, in all its gruesome, bone snapping body horror.
Showing a different side to these films, the film does show the side of things most don’t consider, in that we’re shown what happens after the film has ended and the people have died from the ghostly possessions.
The Conjuring shared universe has various different stories based on a modicum of truth, it the one that started it all off follows Ed and Lorraine Warren, a married couple who are paranormal investigators in the 70s.
Whilst a lot has been argued about the validity of the couples claims surrounding their cases and of course the film embellished a considerable amount that went on, but what can’t be denied is the real life horror the family of the first film felt throughout the supposed haunting, and how the Warren’s did try to help in their own way, hence why this is on the list of horrors based on a true story.
“One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door, and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn’t live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors on the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses.”
Director and writer Bryan Bertino said the above when asked about his inspiration for the terrifying home invasion film, meaning unlike others in this list, there was some personal real life inspiration going on here as well. He also said the true crime killings by the famous Manson family played a large part in the creation of the story, and after watching it, it’s hard to argue with that fact.
Following a family as they attempt to survive and understand why they’ve been targeted by three masked assailants who force their way into their home, The Strangers goes from one heart-stopping terror to the next, keeping us on the edge of our seats throughout. Unlike other entries here, this film is especially terrifying as it isn’t out of the realms of possibility that this could happen to just about anyone.
Considered by many to be one of the most terrifying and scary horror films ever, it’s not surprising it’s also one of the many horrors based on a true story.
Based on the true story of a young boy called Roland Doe who in 1949 was reported nationwide as a victim of a possession, and his story became common knowledge. Asking his aunt for a ouija board for his birthday, he began to experience strange goings on. From scratches on his body, to the walls rattling and more, the film captured all of this and recreated it in a particularly terrifying manner.
After his family had contacted everyone they could think of to help, they eventually enlisted the help of two religious men of the clergy, who performed an exorcism on the young boy. After this exorcism, all of the goings on stopped, and the boy lived a long and happy life until his death in 2020.
There’s our picks for five of the scariest horrors based on a true story, but what would you have chosen?