One thing horror movie fanatics love more than anything else is a good ‘inspired by a true story’ tagline. From The Exorcist to The Conjuring and many in between, some of the best ‘chill you to the bone’ films have come from twisted true stories. The thing about true to life scary movies is that the inspiration for them can come from anywhere; the creepy voices heard as a child, the neighbor to the left that just has a scary vibe, or the most terrifying serial killers of all time. Not only do these stories scare viewers in the moment, they leave a seed of fear in the minds of those who watch them that they too could be the victim of a haunting, a possession, or a tragic death just because someone felt inspired by evil.
One perfect example of the latter is The Strangers; a story that’s horrifying from beginning to end but one phrase, muttered quietly, is what makes it something that isn’t easily forgotten. The film follows a couple after leaving a friends wedding reception who return to a summer home and suffer through a night of brutal and violent events at the hands of intruders with no reason for their evil other than the fact that the couple had been home.
This film was inspired by both an event that happened to the director himself and the novel Helter Skelter that described the Charles Manson murders. Bryan Bertino had this to say about the night that he used as his personal inspiration.
As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. 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
A sequel to the film is in the works but no specified release date has been confirmed, however The Strangers is such a staple to horror genre that it’s still responsible for scaring viewers to this day. It put the fear of simply being in your house and getting tortured because of it in the minds of viewers, and that’s horrific.
Another film that strikes fear in it’s viewers is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is based loosely on serial killer Ed Gein; both the original film and the remake will chill you to the bone for not only the acting and scenes depicted on screen, but the fact that this film could seemingly happen to anyone.
Ed Gein was a horrifying murderer who isn’t just responsible for the death of two women, but for exhuming multiple bodies to make trophies and keepsakes of their skin and bones; at the time of his arrest he had nine masks crafted from human skin. Yikes! If that wasn’t disturbing enough, after the death of Ed’s mother he began to craft a “woman suit” so that he could crawl into the crafted body and become his mother. The films do not follow his story exactly; instead however, they make it even more relatable to young adult viewers by turning the murderer into someone who takes young travelers and kills them horrifically with one of his skin masks already on his face.
It was reported that Ed kept shrunken heads that he said were relics from the Philippines, however when his home was searched by police, it was discovered that they were the pieces of human skin Ed used to create his masks with.
In mentioning relics, another horror movie comes to mind; one that is classically terrifying: Annabelle. Annabelle is a doll linked to equally horrifying films The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 which tell the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators with a long history of popular explorations. Annabelle was one of their most notable and her story began in 1970 when the pair were called in after some strange circumstances seemed to happen alongside her. Ed and Lorraine deemed the doll to “manipulated by an inhuman presence” and Annabelle was put inside their occult museum.
The film creates it’s own scary story as it follows a young couple who are expecting a child. Mia, the wife, has been searching for a doll and her husband brings it home for her one evening. After Mia hears a murder happening next door she phones the police and is then attacked by her neighbors, named Annabelle and her boyfriend. Annabelle kills herself and a drop of her blood falls onto the doll, being scarred by the events, Mia asks her husband to throw the doll away. Strange events plague the couple and after a house fire, they move into an apartment with their new baby and it turns out, Annabelle hasn’t been thrown away at all; she’s been with them instead. The family, after learning of it’s possession, finally finds a way to rid themselves of the doll but another unfortunate family become recipients of it at the end of the film.
This story of possession is terrifying because a doll is something so many children ask for, it’s a staple of being a kid. There are so many different types of dolls and Annabelle brings the fear of purchasing one of these seemingly inanimate objects and finding yourself in the middle of a dark and scary possession.
Another type of possession comes from an evil spirit not inhabiting a single object, but the home that is supposed to be seen as shelter. In The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 – two of the most relentlessly scary films that tell tales of possessed houses – Ed and Lorraine Warren investigate hauntings that really occurred in Rhode Island and in England.
The haunting in Rhode Island follows a family who moved into a farm house in 1971 where they start experiencing paranormal activity, at first, the events aren’t life altering, but they soon escalate and they ask Lorraine and Ed for their help. It’s decided that the house will need an exorcism but the church must first be contacted. They come to find that the house once belonged to a witch named Bathsheba who sacrificed her newborn to the devil and then killed herself, vowing to haunt anyone who tried to live on her land. The evil spirit begins to take on the bodies of those in the home but the exorcism is successfully performed once the spirit inhabits the mother.
The Conjuring 2 follows a haunt in England in 1977 where the Hodgson family senses paranormal activity happening in their home in the form of moving furniture and eventually the possession of the one of the members of the family. Lorraine and Ed call in other people for help since this possession is so severe, but also because of visions Lorraine has of Ed dying. The case is a hard one for Lorraine to take on but the spirit is successfully removed from the house and it’s inhabitants and Lorraine and Ed both get out safely as well.
Perhaps one of the most recurring fears in horror movies again comes from possession, but this time it isn’t of an object or a home; it’s of a person. The most infamous instance of this in film is the still terrifying movie, The Exorcist. The Exorcist premiered in 1973 and told the story of a young woman who became possessed with a demonic spirit.
The Exorcist was based off of the 1949 exorcism of a boy named Ronald Doe and from the very beginning some directors quickly turned down the opportunity to work on this film. There were also some strange occurrences on set that led people to claim it was haunted; these truths only make the film more horrifying. The film focuses on a young girl named Regan who begins to act strangely after playing with an ouija board. The girl starts off making noises and taking part in awkward behavior but the real trouble starts after she interrupts a party and tells a man he’ll die, urinates on the floor, and begins losing control over who she is Doctors said there was nothing wrong with the girl and that an exorcism would be the only way to heal her so the family called in two priests for help.
At the presence of the priests, Regan begins taunting them and acting with even more disturbing behavior. Father Marrin passes away during the exorcism of a heart attack and Father Karras takes no more of the evil spirits haunting as he calls the spirit out of the young girls body and in to his own; he makes a sacrifice and throws himself out of the window before the evil spirit can once again harm Regan and is read his last rites by another priest who had been a friend. Regan, days later, remembers none of the events that happened but the people around her won’t ever forget.
The thought of a spirit inhabiting the body of anyone is absolutely horrible, but the body of a child is even harder to comprehend. Children are supposed to be pure and innocent, which unfortunately makes them the perfect prey for evil spirits, and there have been similar films based off of other real stories of possession and exorcisms in the years after.
From evil spirited individuals to haunted homes and people; these films embrace the perfect mix of all things necessary for any horror enthusiast. If you’re looking for the kind of scare that lasts even after the film ends; any and all of the above mentioned will be the perfect addition to your movie night. Especially as the time of year approaches that is devoted to all things terrifying; what better way to spend your evening than being absolutely spooked?