This Friday holds the release of James Wan’s The Conjuring. This will be Wan’s first film to hold the “based on a true story” tagline. Knowing that the events we are seeing on screen actually happened makes a horror film more scary and disturbing than it would usually be. With that said, here are the top five horror films based on true events:
5. The Conjuring
Yes, it is that good. The Conjuring follows Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren (played perfectly by Partick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they try to help the Perron family, who’s new home appears to be haunted. Director James Wan met with the real Lorraine Warren and members of the Perron family prior to shooting the film. Upon seeing the film Andrea Perron stated that with the exception of a few discrepancies, this film is an accurate portrayal of the paranormal events that occurred in her family’s farm house.
4. The Strangers
Though it received mixed reviews from both critics and audiences on it’s release, Bryan Bertino’s 2008 film, The Strangers, comes in at number four. Personally, I wouldn’t even classify The Strangers as a horror movie, for me it is ultimately a terror movie. Seeing this alone in a theatre on one of the hottest days of the year, while all my other friends were out in the sun, was my most terrifying horror experience I can remember. The film follows Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as they are first harassed, and then hunted, by three masked strangers. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this is a film which claims to be a true story, but is only lightly based on true events. Bertino (who also directed the film) says the film is inspired by the Manson family murders, as well as an occurance in his childhood, where someone knocked on his door asking to see someone who did not live there, later finding out that were going to all the houses in the neighborhood and robbing the houses that were empty.
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Coming in at number three is Tobe Hooper’s grindhouse classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film depicts every horror fan’s favourite family of cannibals as they hunt a group of the classic stupid teenagers. A title card at the beginning of the film states that the film is a true “account of tragedy”, anyone who researches the film online for less then two minutes will find out this is false. So no, a man wearing a mask made of human skin did not chase teens around a farmhouse yielding a chainsaw. The idea for Leatherface was lightly based off of real life killer Ed Gein (see Psycho), who created masks out of human skin.
2. The Excorcist
Second on our list is William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist. Ellen Burstyn leads this film as a mother trying to save her young daughter’s soul by hiring two priests to perform an exorcism. The film and its novel are based on the personal diary of Father Raymond Bishop who performed over 30 exorcisms on 13 year old Roland Doe. Supernatural occurrences noted in Father Bishops diary on the exorcisms included furniture moving on it’s own, distortion to Doe’s voice and body, as well as sensitivity to holy water. In this rare occurrence, the true story is just as shocking as the film which had theatergoers fainting forty years ago.
1. Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho easily takes the number one spot on our list as it is arguably the greatest horror film ever made. Psycho tells the story Marion Crane, who is brutally murdered by everyone’s favourite cross-dressing killer, Norman Bates. Norman found that the easiest way to grieve his mother’s death was to wear her clothing and take in her personality. So, what really happened? On November 17, 1957, police arrived at Ed Gein’s Wisconsin farm house to find the bodies of two missing women and dozens of body parts stolen from graves. Later, in a confession, Gein told police that his life abruptly changed when his mother died. Like Norman Bates, Gein’s mother was his best friend. He also told police that he wanted to become his mother, and used stolen body parts to create a “female skin”.