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Inspired by Real Events

These are the true stories behind horror films inspired by real events (SPOILER WARNING). Clearly, some adaptations are more faithful than others. A categorical distinction is made between horror movies and 'true crime' films.




Non-Documentary Horror
An American
Haunting
The Amityville
Horror
Annabelle
Audrey Rose
The Bell Witch
Haunting
The Blackwater Valley
Exorcism
The Blob
Borderlands
Broken
Brotherhood
of the Wolf
Cannibal
Cannibal Holocaust
The Conjuring
Dirty Harry
Dead of Night
Dead Ringers
Deliver Us
From Evil
The Devil Inside
Devil's Posessed
Dream Home
Eaten Alive
The Entity
The Exorcist
The Exorcism of
Emily Rose
The Eye
Finale
The Fog
The Fourth Kind
The Girl Next Door
Gothic
Grimm Love
The Haunted
The Haunting
in Connecticut
The Haunting
in Connecticut2:
Ghosts of Georgia
A Haunting
at Silver Falls
The Hills
Have Eyes
Hostel
The Hunchback
of Notre Dame
The House at
the End of
the Drive
Jaws
Lady
in White
The Last House
on the Left
The Legend
of Blood Castle
The Legend
of Boggy Creek
Leptirica
M
Men Behind
the Sun
The Mothman
Prophecies
A Nightmare
on Elm Street
Open Water
The Night of
the Hunter
Prey
Primeval
The Possession
Psycho
The Quiet Ones
Resurrection
Mary
Ricky 6
Ringu
The Rite
Robert the Doll
Romasanta
Saw 2
Scream
Seed
The Serpent
and the Rainbow
The Shining
The Silence
of the Lambs
The Silent House
Silent House
Slaughter
The Stepfather
The Strangers
Suspiria
The Tell-Tale Heart
The Texas
Chainsaw
Massacre
Them
The Town That
Dreaded Sundown
Tusk
The Untold
Witchfinder
General
Wolf Creek
Wraiths of
Roanoke



Biographical or True-Crime Style Horror
Albert Fish
The Alphabet
Killer
An American Crime
Citizen X
Curse of
the Zodiac
Deathmaker
Deranged
Ed Gein
Ed Gein: The
Butcher of Plainfield
The Gray Man
The Green
River Killer
Henry: Portrait of
a Serial Killer
The Hillside
Stranglers
Jefrey Dahmer
Jefrey Dahmer:
The Secret Life
Rampage: The
Hillside Strangler Murders
Zodiac


Albert Fish

2007
~ The Film ~

Bring on the peanut butter and pins! Documentary in form, this film creates a vivid picture of the child murderer and his times through interviews and dramatizations. A fairly rough film, its credibility is diminshed by extensive interviews with a self-acclaimed Fish expert who should probably be playing D&D somewhere. I was able to attend the world premier of the film (despite a direct to DVD release) in 2007.
~ The History ~

Albert Fish was a creepy loner who, in 1928, insinuated himself into the good graces of the Budd family, only to abduct, torture, murder, and eat their daughter, Grace. Seven years after he disappeared, he sent the Budds a letter which graphically described the crimes; this ultimately led to his arrest. Fish privately enjoyed aberrant behavior including coprophagia, self mutilation, rape and cannibalism. An elderly man, his gentle appearance created an impression of harmlessness. Fish was ultimately apprehended and executed in the electric chair at Sing-Sing prison in 1936.
~ Measuring Up ~

This well-researched film seems to savor the most unpleasant aspects of Fish and the Budd case, with adequate re-enactments featuring a creepy plastic looking actor portraying Fish. An annoying self absorbed commentary by a self-professed Fish expert diminishes the otherwise competent film. While lacking compassion or empathy, the film accurately captures the spirit of the times and the horrors of Fish's deeds. ~ quite accurate

See also The Gray Man, below.


The Alphabet Killer

2008
~ The Film ~

A somewhat unstable investigator searches for the person responsible for a string of killings in New York. Through several years of hallucinations and breakdowns, she learns the commonality of the victims, confronts the killer, and then has another breakdown.
~ The History ~

The 'Alphabet Murders' were a string of killings that took place in Rochester, New York from 1971 to 1973, so named because of the alliterative names of the young victims, as well as where their bodies were found; Carmen Colon found in Churchville, Wanda Walkowicz found in Webster, and Michelle Maenza found in Macedon. The killer was never caught, and three young girls were found assaulted and murdered. For a time, Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi was under suspicion, but never charged with the crimes.

In June 2011, Joseph Naso was charged with similar murders in the 1970s and 1990s in California - victims included Carmen Colon (above), as well as Roxene Roggasch, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya. Although not yet convicted, there is physical evidence and photos linking him to these crimes.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although the film takes place in Rochester, it quickly develops its own major plotline based on the protagonist. The victims echo the alliterative names of the acutal victims, as well as their youth. Although a confrontation between the investigator and the killer takes place at the climax of the film, the outcome is inconclusive, echoing the failure to apprehend the perpetrator of the actual crimes. ~ inspired by historic events


An American Crime

2007
~ The Film ~

More in the genre of horrific true crime, this film offers a more fact-based account of the same events that inspired The Girl Next Door that same year. Described through flashbacks at a trial, the film follows sisters Sylvia and Jenny, children of travelling carnival workers, who are placed in the care of a less than qualified "party mom." Taking a dislike to the girls because the payments were not coming, the woman, Gertrude, escalates the sisters' misery. Eventually, others in the home conspire against Sylvia, torturing her and ultimately causing her death.
~ The History ~

As described above, the 1965 case of Sylvia Likens and her sister Jenny, who, were left in the care of a woman (for $20 per week) named Gertrude Baniszewski, was gradually submitted to torture, resulting in her death. Baniszewski her two sons, and two neighborhood boys were later convicted in a highly publicized Indiana trial in 1966.
~ Measuring Up ~

This is a much more faithful retelling of the Likens case than Ketcham's adaptation. Names of individuals and details (children of carnival workers, etc) are preserved. The fidelity of this adaptation derives partially from its treatment as a 'true crime' film, rather than a horror movie. ~ quite accurate


An American Haunting

2005
~ The Film ~

Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek provide good characterization in this retelling of the Bell Witch tale, which took place in rural Tennessee beginning in 1817. A lame contemporary "wrapper" (as an introduction and post-script to the film) detracts from this otherwise competent period piece, and comes off as a clumsy attempt to make the period subject matter more accessible.
~ The History ~

The main details of the Bell Witch concern the Bell family, living on the frontier in Adams, Tennessee between 1817 and 1820. Speculation of the cause of the conflict generally settles on a property dispute between John Bell and Kate Batts, a reputed witch. Following that dispute, in 1817 John Bell shot a strange animal, reportedly posessing of a dog-like body with a rabbit-like head. Subsequently, threatening voices and physical attacks plagued the family for years, centering mostly on John Bell and his daughter Betsy (whose choice of prospective husbands was apparently of concern to the witch).

The Events continued until the voices fortold John Bell's death, which occurred in 1820. He was found dead with a small vial of an unknown poison (successfully tested on the family cat), which was thrown into the fireplace. Early accounts place future President Andrew Jackson as a visitor to the Bell farm during the problems, although no official records confirm this.

The voices had also promised to return, and apparently did so in 1935, often reportedly speaking to some of Bell's descendants.
~ Measuring Up ~

The film skimps on exploring the possible reasons leading up to the problem. It also avoids depiction of certain prophetic voices and later events affecting subsequent generations of the Bell family. However, it provides an adequate adaptation of the story, focusing on how the stressful events affected each member of the family. Faithful treatment is given to major elements of the story, including the strange vial of poison used by John Bell. On the whole, written accounts of the haunting are much more interesting and effective than this film's treatment. ~ fairly accurate

See also The Bell Witch Haunting, below.


The Amityville Horror

1979
~ The Film ~

Young family moves into a bargain home in New England, only to learn of the recent murders that took place there. Strange events begin stacking up. The youngest daughter makes an invisible pig-friend, and the father becomes increasingly agitated, apparently assuming characteristics of the murderous former occupant. An unwholesome secret red room is discovered in the basement. Flies and disembodied voices abound before the events reach a violent climax amid storm and ectoplasm. The family flees for their live, never to return.
~ The History ~

The Lutz family based this story on their bestselling published account of their experiences, but some details were later refuted. The Lutz family did indeed live at the now infamous Amity, NY home beginning in 1975. It is also a fact that the DeFeo murders occurred in that house 13 months before the Lutz family took ownership. Strange events, movement of objects, a room full of flies, and their daughter's invisible playmate Jodi could never be accounted for. In the end, the family fled after only 28 days in the house, published the book, made a bunch of money, and has generally stuck with their story for years as 'mostly true.' Some details were later refuted, but even late interviews with the couple are consistent with the major aspects of the story.

One account asserts that the entire story was created by the Lutzes and DeFeo's attorney, William Weber, to make some money and lay the groundwork for a new defense strategy to overturn his client's conviction.
~ Measuring Up ~

Direct translation of names of the family and the prior occupants signals that this film attempted to maintain fidelity to the best selling book, which doubtless embellished the Lutz's story. The original film version is quite faithful to the story, which was still a best-seller at the time. The Lutz never really provided any additional commentes regarding the supposed "red room" found within their basement, which may or may not actually exist. ~ fairly accurate to the reported details

The uninspired 2005 remake of the film strays further, adding a fictional "Jody" character and otherwise attempting to amp up the effects without much heart. However, it did make an attempt to include the book's discussion of early indian settlements (although the tribe mentioned were actually settled some 70 miles from Amityville) and unsubstantiated occult activities. These were included as background color elements, and did not constitute major plot elements. Finally, the tagline 'katchem killem' is a mystery to me - maybe I need to check the book. ~ occasionally accurate by accident


Annabelle

2014
~ The Film ~

An antique child's doll becomes evil, causing problems for a young expectant couple. These problems begin with a murderous cult (one of whom is named Annabelle), and get worse from there.
~ The History ~

This film comes directly from the case files of the Ed and Lorraine Warren, psychic investigators of some renown. Indeed, the dolls is featured briefly in The Conjuring (2013), setting up this sort-of sequel. In 1967, the Warrens investigated the case of John and Mia Gordon, who had acquired the doll.
~ Measuring Up ~

More information is needed, but the actual Annabelle doll is a fabric Raggedy Anne doll - potential damage to that brand, and an opportunity to create a truly frightening doll led to the reinterpretation of the doll itself for the film. Otherwise, the case itself lends much to the plot, although it is not clear if a strange cult was actually involved in the doll problems. ~ inspired by actual events


Audrey Rose

1977
~ The Film ~

A young girl begins to exhibit increasingly strange behavior, including knowledge of things unknown to the child. Gradually, it becomes apparent that the girl has become the host of the spirit of a dead girl named Audrey Rose.
~ The History ~

Reportedly novelist Frank De Felitta (see The Entity, below) heard his young son, age 6, spontaneously play music at the piano, despite never having had lessons. An area paranormal expert suggested that young Raymond's sudden abilities indicated an 'incarnation leak' from another spirit. This inspired De Felitta to write the novel of the same name.
~ Measuring Up ~

More information is needed, but there seems to be more art than history about this story - while inspired by real events, it was never intended to reflect those specific events. ~ inspired by observed elements


The Bell Witch Haunting

2004
~ The Film ~

Set in 1817, the film follows the events that unfolded on the farm of John Bell in Tennesee. Beginning when John Bell, Sr. shot a strange animal in the field, their isolated home took on strange noises and spiritual assaults, largely targeting his daughter Betsy Bell. These episodes continued until the death of John Bell, Sr. (possibly by poisoning) in late 1820.
~ The History ~

The Bell Witch Hauntings of Tennessee represents one of the more complicated cases of haunting in American history, involving strange animals (reportedly posessing the body of a dog with the head of a rabbit, shot by Bell Sr.), witches, ghostly activity, tormented victims, and death. According to the lore, General Andrew Jackson was one of the many witnesses who clearly heard the strange, disembodied voice at the Bell home.

It was also asserted that the hauntings would resume for the Bell family after 107 years (1935). It is not clear of that promise was fulfilled.
~ Measuring Up ~

This independant movie, based on the book The Authenticated History of the Bell Witch by M. V. Ingram, makes every attempt to stay true to the documented facts surrounding the Bell Witch Haunting. Unlike other film treatments, this film includes the popularity that the hauntings caused, and the episodes by which the spirit spoke clearly to several individuals. ~ quite accurate

See also An American Haunting, above.


Blackwater Valley Exorcism

2006
~ The Film ~

When a young girl in an isolated rural community begins exhibiting strange behavior, a family calls on a troubled priest for support. As his investigation begins, more and more problems appear to be spreading out to the community, exposing unsavory secrets along the way. At least it features Jefferey Combs as a sketchy sheriff.
~ The History ~

To be determined - while the film states 'base on actual events,' the story is generic enough to be considered an adaptation of just about any publicized exorcism.
~ Measuring Up ~

Too early to tell - this one is still in the 'information gathering' phase. ~ too early to tell


The Blob

1958
~ The Film ~

A strange meteor cracks open and reveals a small blob of very active goo that begins digesting the citizens of a small town, while two teens try to convince local law enforcement that it is not a hoax. After the blob eats everyone in a movie theater, it is hard to ingore. Ultimately, they find an way to stop the horrible blob... at least, for now.
~ The History ~

Star jelly, known since the middle ages, is a slime often believed to come from meteors or stars. Variously called 'star-rot' or 'star-slubber,' it was once thought to have curative effects. It is believed to be an earthly slime mould.

The film was inspired by a local Philadelphia report on September 26, 1950, in which four policemen investigated a large (6 feet wide, by some accounts) blob on the ground and a telephone pole. When they attempted to pick it up, it dissolved into an "odorless, sticky scum." The Philadelphia Inquirer reported it as a flying saucer that 'just dissolves' and claiming that it evaporated with a purple glow.
~ Measuring Up ~

Filmed around Pennsylvania, many aspects of the reported story (as well as its association with meteors and outer space) were transferred to the movie's storyline. At least one of the filming locations still hosts an anual Blob fetival. ~ inspired by historic events


Borderland

2007
~ The Film ~

Beginning with a failed police raid on a cult, this film follows three vacationing students in the borderlands of Mexico. Crossing paths with the loathsome cult, one student is taken for sacrifice, while the others attempt to locate him, ultimately aided by the survivor of the original police raid. Similar in tone to Wolf Creek, the violence in this film is fairly unflinching.
~ The History ~

The director was inspired by his spring break experiences in 1989, when he attempted to go to Mexico while a search for a missing student, Mark Kilroy, was taking place. Mark was taken while inebriated in Matamoros by a group of drug smugglers for sacrifice to provide supernatural protection.

Led by a charasimatic madman, the criminals believed that the blonde, pre-med student would offer a powerful addition to their rituals, which made use of brain and spinal remains, some of which were later found. Following an extensive manhunt prompted by Mark's parents, the offenders were soon located, and the cult leader died in a police shoot out in Mexico City. Seven other cult members were arrested and incarcerated.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although this is a fictional account, it is alarmingly accurate, right down to the cult's use of terms for ritual elements. Use of machetes, dismemberment and focus on brain and spinal materials are accurate portrails of the events. The cult leader is clearly based on his historical counterpart, even bearing a physical resemblance. Luring the solitary student in the film is done with some guile, while the real victim was reportedly told that he was being arrested. The film also skirts the involvement of the victim's parents, putting resolution on more directly participatin characters for a more streamlined narrative. ~ inspired by actual events


Broken

2006
~ The Film ~

Sparsely produced, but occasionally visually rich, this film begins with the words "This film is based on real events." It follows the trials of an abducted woman, tortured , tested, and kept in the forest by a rustic lunatic. Good performances and several very unsettling scenes deliver a good film.
~ The History ~

Reportedly, this film was inspired by serial killer Robert Hansen, who kidnapped as many as 21 women and flew them in handcuffs to his remote cabin in Alaska between 1973 and 1983. In this remote location, Hansen reportedly released and then hunted several of his victims. Interviews with the director reveal a "we started out trying to do everything in this movie, but then we trimmed it down, then we added some cool stuff" approach to scripting this film.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although several elements of the story - multiple female victims held prisoner in a remote wooded location - are retained, this film opts to develop victim/captor dynamics to propel the story. No airplane kidnapping or secluded cabin is included, with the antagonist basically living off the land while he tends to his victims. Any aspect of hunting humans occurs as a result of escape attempts. In other words, the film bears little detailed resemblance to the most singular aspects of the Hansen case, and could as easily have been claimed to be inspired by the Backpack Murders in Australia. ~ partially inspired by historic elements


Brotherhood of the Wolf

2001
~ The Film ~

A highly stylized horror-mystery-history mashup, this film introduces a French knight and his Iriquois companion who, during the reign of French King Louis XV, are participating in the hunt for a mysterious creature creditied with killing multiple people across the countryside. While tracking the beast, which is apparently a huge wolf or werewolf, they learn of a secret 'Brotherhood' dedicated to undermining the current king. Eventually the beast is tracked to this brotherhood, and discovered to be a lion in makeshift armor, killing at the command of the secret organization.
~ The History ~

Between 1764 and 1767, south-central France was terrorized by a man-eating creature that came to be known as 'The Beast of Gévaudan.' 113 deaths were recorded in as many as 210 attacks during that period, and the matte even reached the attention of King Louis XV, who hired hunters and soldiers to end the slaughter. Ultimately two wolves were taken, the second shot with a silver bullet by local hunter Jean Chastel. Following this, the killings ceased.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although artistic treatments and anachronistic flourishes abound, many of the core elements of this movie were drawn from the documented elements of the actual events. It is possible that the main characters of Fronsac and Mani were inspired by the professional hunters Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle d'Enneval and his son Jean-Franēois. Common elements include the general pattern of attacks, the hiring of expert hunters, the taxidermy of the first suspected mega-wolf taken (by Antoine), and even the idea that the creature was armored in some fashion (as speculated by naturalist Michel Louis). Despite the fabrication of many characters and relationships, this is generally true to The Innocence of Wolves, written not long after the events by Michel Louis. The notion that the beast was acting at the bidding of a human master also echoes speculation by Louis that the second creature was a wolf crossbred by a mastiff owned by hunter Jean Chastel. ~ inspired by historic events


Cannibal

2005
~ The Film ~

This German film follows the efforts of an isolated man in an isolated town, attempting to meet someone with whom he is 'compatible.' Eventually he turns to the internet, and there finds a willing victim.
~ The History ~

This tale is based on Armin Meiwes and his search for a willing cannibal victim. Turning to a 'cannibal lifestyle' site in the internet, he received a response from Bernd Jürgen Brandes. Videotaping their meeting, they originally attempted to eat just a little of Brandes (cooked in fat from Meiwes), but Meiwes eventually killed Brandes and consumed his remains over the next ten months.

Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter in 2004 and sentenced to 8 years in prison, despite the consentual nature of the meeting. Meiwes made a full admission of the acts.
~ Measuring Up ~

Adhering largely to the known horrific facts, this film had no reason to fabricate ghastly acts. Using the actual names of the principal participants, it is a largely accurate depiction. ~ quite accurate

See also Grimm Love, below


Cannibal Holocaust

1980
~ The Film ~

When a film crew goes missing in the South American jungles, a team travels to locate and rescue them. Instead, they find the remains of the crew and their undeveloped film, which reveals their torture and murder by the local natives.
~ The History ~

Director Ruggero Deodato reportedly stated that this film was based on a film about an actual documentary crew who died while investigating reported cannibal tribes in Africa. The film reportedly included torture, and was said to have been destroyed, although an Italian cable network claimed to have a copy.
~ Measuring Up ~

If the Deodato story is true, this could be a closely inspired work. Reportedly, the film's final subtitle "Projectionist John K. Kirov was given a two month suspended jail sentence and fined $10,000 for illegal appropriation of film material. We know that he received $250,000 for that same footage" is a reference to the claimed copy of the Italian cable network. ~ fairly accurate


Citizen X

2005
~ The Film ~

This made-for-HBO film followed the story of a Soviet-era police detective (Stephen Rea) working to solve a series of child killings, despite a frustrating lack of support from the bureaucratic party members. Donald Sutherland represents the voice of reason, offering support while the cabinet crumbles around him. Meanwhile, the killer, Andrei Chikatilo, continues hunting women and children, maintaining a double life as a card carrying party member in good standing. Ultimately, Chikatilo is apprehended and found guilty of 53 murders.
~ The History ~

Between 1978 and 1990, Andrei Chikatilo molested and murdered at least 53 women and children across Russia before being apprehended and executed in 1994. His deed earned him the epithet 'The Rostov Ripper.' His life seems to have been an exercise in repression and frustrated mental illness in an oppressive culture. A difficult criminal investigation ensued, during which suspects would periodically confess, only to be discredited as the killings continued.
~ Measuring Up ~

Seeking to highlight the paralysis of a failing political body against the horrors of this serial killer, the film is fairly accurate in the events portrayed, including the savagery of the murders. Chikatilo's mode of approaching children or vagrants at remote bus or railway stations is depicted with appropriate menace. Chikatilo's extensive mental illness is studied throughout the investigation and during his questioning. The never-before use of a psychological profile in a Soviet investigation is also depicted. Rea and Sutherland portray the real life Victor Burakov and Mikhail Fetisov, who wade through the frustrating investigation while the killings showed no sign of ending. Overall, this is a chilling but very well made film, featuring fine performances, lavish Hungarian locations (substituting for Russia), and graphic depictions of the crimes. ~ quite accurate


The Conjuring

2013
~ The Film ~

The film follows paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren through an investigation that rapidly escalates to frightening proportions. Coming to the assistance of the Perron family of rural Rhode Island, the Warrents attempt to document and resolve the dark entity at the center of the haunting.
~ The History ~

The Warrens are indeed well-known investigators, coming into national prominence with their involvement in the Amityville Horror haunting. Ed, a former police officer, and Lorraine, a self-professed psychic, reportedly investigated some 10,000 hauntings during their careers. Filmed with a working title of The Warren Files, it is possible that elements of other investigations are pulled into this story. That said, the Warrens did come to the aid of Carolyn and Roger Perron, gathering evidence and attempting to resolve their haunting.
~ Measuring Up ~

Haven't seen it yet, but it does appear to follow one of the Warren's actual cases, and presumably the frights are turned up to take advantage of the popularity of paranormal investigation movies over the preceeding years. Production reportedly goes back to the 1990s, when Ed Warren shared his original audio tapes of interviews with the Perron family with a movie producer. The actors portraying the Warrens also met with Lorraine Warren, who was also on hand during the filming of some scenes. ~ based on actual events



Curse of the Zodiac

2007
~ The Film ~

This direct-to-video film attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the contemporary big-budget Zodiac film, while skimping on research, acting, and overall production values.
~ The History ~

Although never captured, the Zodiac killer stalked victims of the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Often selecting victims in secluded public places, the Zodiac carefully hid his identity (even from attack survivors), and sent encoded taunting letters to the newspapers. These crimes remain on of the most infamous unsolved serial killings in history.
~ Measuring Up ~

Amid negative reviews, this film was criticized for not accurately depicting the circumstances of the actual Zodiac victims and killings. This seems odd when considering the extensive research documented by Robert Graysmith over the years. ~ inspired by historic events

You are better off watching Zodiac, below.


Dahmer

2002
~ The Film ~

A grim, gratuitous film that probably didn't need to be made. It attempts to humanize the Wisconsin serial killer with speculative depiction of his amorous encounters, which often ended in murder. The true extent of the horrific mutilations and 'trophy keeping' that shocked the world are de-emphasized to some extent. The pacing is generally slow, and the acting is adequate.
~ The History ~

Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested near Milwaukee after a police visit revealed an extensive collection of human remains. In the end, Dahmer was found guilty of the killing and cannibalizing (and worse) of several young men living on the fringe of society. Not long after his incarceration, he was brutally beaten to death in prison.
~ Measuring Up ~

This is an adequate account of the murderer, although the topic probably won't be addressed by too many films in the future, lingering over his troubled relationships. Too much effort is made to humanize a criminal who had fairly completely forfeited his humanity. ~ fairly accurate but romanticized


Dead of Night

("Christmas Party" Segment)
1945
~ The Film ~

Specifically, only one segement of this fine anthology film is based on historic events. "Christmas Party" involves the tale of a girl who encounters a small group of children at a party. Apart from the other revelers, she quiets their fears and helps them fall asleep. Afterwards she mentions the children to the hosts, who reply that the children are not theirs - but are most likely ghosts.
~ The History ~

In one of the more notorious and brutal murders prior to Jack the Ripper, four-year old Francis Saville Kent was brutally murdered with a razor and left beneath an outhouse in June 1860. His (occasionally unbalanced) 16-year old half-sister Constance was immediately suspected. Her confession to clergy led to a broad re-examination of the privilege of the church confessional, and it is believed that she confessed to protect the actual killer - who very likely was her father, Samual Kent.

When found, the victim had knife wounds on his chest and hands, and had also suffered a throat-slashing to the point of near-decapitation. It is believed that he was killed in the outhouse beneath which he was found.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although little is said of the actual crime, the character of the little boy is named Francis Kent, and Constance Kent is referred to many times, often as the protective older sister. This is more the case of writer Alberto Cavalcanti linking his tale to specific horrific events that remain tied to the public memory, anchoring the ghost tale in something much darker. Interestingly, Constance died in Australia in April of 1944, only months before the film was released. Perhaps newspaper accounts of her passing inspired Cavalcanti.

Interestingly, this segment was cut from the initial American release of the film. ~ inspired by historic elements


Dead Ringers

1988
~ The Film ~

Cronenberg's horrific study of twin gynecologists who descend into madness remains one of his most popular films. Jeremy Irons plays twins Elliot and Beverly Mantle - one aggressive, the other passive. Through their practice, they victimize their patients, descend into drug addiction and madness. Elliot's growing obsession with abnormal physiology leads him to develop a set of horrifying custom-made medical instruments, which are unsuccessfully used on a normal patient. Ultimately, their decaying psychological state and drug abuse leads to their deaths in squalor.
~ The History ~

Although reportedly based on director Peter Greenaway's A Zed and Two Noughts, the story follows the general facts surrounding twin gynecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus, who practiced in Manhatten and were found dead from barbituate withdrwawal in their squalid appartment, complete with mounds of debris and a feces-filled chair. By appearances, they wasted away amid piles of refuse for quite some time.
~ Measuring Up ~

Certainly the basic facts of twin gynecologist in an upscale urban practice, succumbing to drug abuse and perishing together in squalor line up well. Co-writer Cronenberg also brought to the mix an extrapolation of the oddities of twin psychology, leveraging the drug abuse to develop unnatural obsessions - just the thing for a horror movie. While this aspect of the story is largely the writer's creation, some abnormal psychology in the Marcus twins is evidence in the foetid state of heaped refuse discovered in their apartment, indicating advanced isolation and hoarding behavior. Trust Cronenberg to amplify an already strange story. ~ highly stylized interpretation of historic events


Deathmaker

1995
Der Totmacher
~ The Film ~

This film is based on the interrogation transcripts of German serial killer Fritz Haarmann, also known as 'the Butcher of Hanover.' Although the horrors of Haarmann's exploits are revealed, the focus of the film remains upon his examinations following his arrest in 1924.
~ The History ~

Also known as 'the Vampire of Hanover,' Haarmann murdered as many as 70 young men and boys between 1918 and his capture in 1924. An outcast for much of his life, he was unfit for military service and began molesting children before the turn of the century. A petty criminal, harsh conditions in Germany after World War I motivated him to act out on his abberent impulses. Often, he would kill his victims by biting through their throats after taking them to his apartment, after which they were dismembered and discarded. Accounts of his selling their flesh as contraband meat abound. Apprehended and found guilty of 24 of the murders, he was later executed (by guillotine) for his crimes. His head is preserved at the Göttingen medical school in Germany.
~ Measuring Up ~

Based on the actual records of Haarmann's psychiatric examinations and the trial, this film focuses on the interrogation process following his arrest. All efforts appear to be given towards preserving the actual horrors of this historic criminal. ~ quite accurate


Deliver Us From Evil

2013
~ The Film ~

Follows the investigation of a police detective who uncovers increasingly supernatural events.
~ The History ~

Stated as 'based on actual events' at the beginning. Concludes with a statement about the actual policeman and priest, who continue their investigations.
~ Measuring Up ~

Research is needed - seems plausible. ~ seems accurate


Deranged

1974
~ The Film ~

This is the first direct film adaptation of the Ed Gein story, and as such, was clouded in infamy and difficult to find until the lat 1990s. With special effects by Tom Savini, the film follows the exploits of Ezra Cobb, who, unable to cope with the death of his domineering mother, begins a cycle of graverobbing, amateur taxidermy, and eventually murder at his isolated rural farmhouse.
~ The History ~

Enough has been written about Ed Gein, the Wisconsin farmer with mother issues, who took to graverobbing and prancing in ladyskins by moonlight. His trial was featured in an article in Life magazine, bringing him to a national level of attention, which inspired several filmmakers in different ways.
~ Measuring Up ~

Until the 2000 film Ed Gein, this was the most literal telling of the Gein tale, apparently only changing the name and creating a close fictional account of the documented facts. Here we see the mother issues, the seperation issues, the necrophilia issues, and the farmhouse issues. Before the late 1990s, only bootleg versions of this movie could be found. ~ fairly accurate but romanticized


The Devil Inside

2012
~ The Film ~

In Italy, a woman seeks and attends illegal exorcisms in an attempt to understand her mother, who reportedly killed three people during her own exorcism years earlier. Pre-release marketing of this film prominently features the phrase 'based on actual events.'
~ The History ~

Not yet determined, but possibly based on the case of Analese Michelle.
~ Measuring Up ~

Possible case of over-enthusiastic marketing. ~ accuracy to be determined


Devil's Posessed

1974
~ The Film ~

In one of his less amazing films, Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy plays the vile Baron Gilles de Lancre, who, years after honorably serving his country in war, has become a practitioner of the occult, using his evil to keep his citizens in thrall. Eventually a former comrade learns of his madness and rushes to confront him. Reportedly less effective than most of Naschy's works, this film leans a little too far towards grim historical fare.
~ The History ~

Gilles de Rais (1404-1440) was a Breton knight of the French army who served alongside Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years War. In his declining years, he was accused and convicted of practicing witchcraft and murdering/dismembering between 80 and 200 children (in circumstances most foul) as part of his rituals for preserving his power. Some historians doubt the veracity of these criminal claims. After a confession, he was executed by hanging and burning.
~ Measuring Up ~

Nearly matching the name and nobility, Naschy seems to have developed a toned-down retelling of this historical villian, who is often overlooked in history. ~ fairly accurate but simplified


Dream Home

2010
~ The Film ~

This grim Hong Kong shocker, which often approaches social satire, tells the story of an aspiring young woman unable to break into apartment ownership in sardine-packed Hong Kong. When conventional approaches break down, she finds a new way to drive down prices in the complex by brutally murdering tenants of other units nearby.
~ The History ~

Hong Kong is a notoriously overcrowded urban oasis, coupled with a culture of upward mobility and addiction to the newest technologies. This film reads more like a social satire of this impossible hill filled with eager climbers.
~ Measuring Up ~

Despite the fact that the film opens with a subtitle that claims 'based on actual events,' this film seems to address a broad reality rather than a specific case. Sort of like saying that Heathers (1988) is based on true high school events. In an interview, director Ho-Cheung Pang states "It's the truth that many people would like to buy a flat in Hong Kong. But the plot and the killing scenes are fictitious." ~ loosely based on broad social conditions, not actual events.


Dirty Harry

1971
~ The Film ~

I know, I know. While this is not a horror film, it accurately parallels key elements of the Zodiac case, presented in a fictionalized "Scorpio Murder" case in California. And it has vintage Clint Eastwood. No, really, it's a great movie.
~ The History ~

Zodiac terrorized California in the late 1960s, randomly murdering people with a military precision. He onced threatened to blow up a school bus of children. The most notable aspect of the mystery was his freqeunt hand-lettered encrypted letters to the local newspapers. Amateur cryptologists ultimately cracked the code and allowed his bragging to be published, per his conditions. He was never apprehended.
~ Measuring Up ~

This film's villian, the "Scorpio Killer" actually takes a school bus hostage, inspired by Zodiac's threat. The most interesting adaptation is that this film uses letters to the newspapers that include characters copied from the actual Zodiac letters. In the end, Dirty Harry wins, of course.

Interestingly, the film is featured in a theater scene in Zodiac (2007), underscoring its relation to the true crime case. ~ inspired by historic events

See also Zodiac (below) and Curse of the Zodiac (above).


Eaten Alive

1977
~ The Film ~

A secluded wierdo and a cast of oddballs inhabit a dilapitated hotel deep in the swamps of Louisiana. When people irritate Judd, he gets his pet alligator out from under the porch to take care of them. This often overlooked Tobe Hooper film features a young (pre-Freddy) Robert Englund and Marilyn Burns, who had worked with Hooper on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre three years earlier. This movie is full of atmosphere and odd characters.
~ The History ~

Inspired by the exploits of a Joe Ball, who reportedly murdered over twenty women and fed their remains to his alligators in Texas during the 1930s. After the end of Prohibition, he opened a saloon, behind which he constructed a pond containing five alligators. When deputies came to question him about several missing women in 1938, he pulled out a handgun and shot himself through the heart. Afterwards, a handyman confessed to helping Ball dispose of his victims.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although the alligator idea is central to the plot, most of the film is deals with the events surrounding the wierdo with the gators and his hotel - an original storyline developed for the film. ~ inspired by actual events


The Fog

1980
~ The Film ~

John Carpenter's seaside ghost classic deals with the small community of Spivey Point, celebrating their Centennial. Although the details are largely forgotten, their town was founded by men who positioned signal fires to mis-guide a ship into the rocks, where it was plundered. For a while, they locals are unaware of the vengeful spirits that are returning on that night, shrouded in the uncommonly deep fog.
~ The History ~

John Carpenter has mentioned taking inspiration from a very similar case in the 19th century that reportedly occurred at Goleta, California. Signal fires were deliberately misplaced to doom a ship, which was then plundered. Numerous shipwrecks (including the Cuba (1923), the Winfield Scott (1863) and the Honda) are documented near Goleta and the Santa Barbara Channel, but no historical ship has been definatively tied to this enduring story. The shipwreck was reportedly portrayed in the film The Master Gunfighter (1975).

Carpenter also mentions being impressed by thick fog during a visit to Stonehenge around 1976.
~ Measuring Up ~

A very specific plotline seems derived from a very specific historic shipwreck, with just the right amount of storytelling layered upon it. ~ inspired by actual events


Ed Gein

2000
~ The Film ~

Steven Railsback strikes an uncanny chord as serial wierdo Ed Gein. Much emphasis is placed on his relationship with a fervently religious, overbearing mother, which apparently influenced his madness. A 'haunting-like' quality is given to his descent into madness, still beset upon by his mother's repressive expectations. Railsback does a solid job of depicting this troubled, isolated madman.
~ The History ~

Again and again, the story of reclusive farmer, amateur gravedigger and murderer Ed Gein has inspired a number of filmmakers. His trial laid bare the study of abnormal psychology triggered by isolation and matriarchal issues. While ultimately convicted of murder, his crimes swelled well beyond such common offenses.
~ Measuring Up ~

Certainly this is the most accurate and deliberate attempt to tell the story of Ed Gein, no longer hiding behind renamed characters or stylish reinterpretations. While much of the film crafts a speculative inside view of his life as he descends into madness, the facts of the case are all treated carefully in this direct retelling of a monstrous historical record. ~ quite accurate


Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield

2007
~ The Film ~

In another treatment of Ed Gein, the notorious graverobber/killer/necrophile of 1950s Wisconsin, this film develops the story of Gein kidnapping a woman and the race for her rescue.
~ The History ~

Gein, a 'quiet sort of fellow who kept to himself, mostly," indulged in a variety of unsavory activities before he kidnapped a 58 year old acquaintance. Police investigating her disappearance went to Gein's farmhouse and found a horrific scene in his barn; he was immediately arrested and charged with her murder.
~ Measuring Up ~

The plot of Gein kidnapping the girlfriend of a deputy and the race for her rescue simply did not happen. The story of Gein is grisly enough without fabricating idealistically romantic quests agains his bogeyman reputation. ~ fact-inspired but largely fictional


The Entity

1981
~ The Film ~

A single mother named Carla Moran becomes the victim of supernatural attacks, all violent and sexual. Desperate, she consults paranormal experts, who study her case and try to help her to escape the amorous, violent spirit.
~ The History ~

At various periods, this movie (adapted from the 1978 Frank De Felitta (see Audrey Rose, above) novel The Entity) was reported to be based on an actual case in 1974 of a woman named (in pseudonym) Carla Moran (later revealed to be named Doris Bither of Culver City, CA). Subject matter experts (see below) contributing to the story asserted as much, and throughout the years, several 'Carla Morans' have come forward, the last being confirmed as having passed away on July 25, 2006. The Moran case included incubus-style assault and apparitions of a dark, shadowy figure.
~ Measuring Up ~

The general items of the case line up well, especially as the 'psychic experts' comprise an important element of both stories. Guiding the accuracy of the adaptation were doctors Barry Taff (who confirmed Moran's death in a statement in 2006) and Kerry Gaynor. These doctors were apparently conducting long-term research into the case, protecting Moran's identity and serving as technical advisors on the film. ~ quite accurate


The Exorcist

1973
~ The Film ~

This classic tells the story of a young girl near Georgetown University who becomes the target of a malevolent spirit. The church is brought in, and an elderly, experienced exorcist, aided by a doubtful younger priest, come to the family's aid. Although the reason for the posession is never given, it is suggested that a Ouija board contributed, although the spirit's target is clearly the elderly priest, rather than the young girl.
~ The History ~

Blatty was inspired by a Washington Post article (August 20, 1949) that described the 1949 case of 13-year old Ronald Hunkeler, who reportedly was exorcised over a period of time at two hospitals near Washington, DC. Graduating high school in 1954, he went on to become a scientist with NASA. Accounts of a vibrating bed, strange scratching noises, voicing in Latin, messages appearing in skin rashes, and objects moving were part of the tale, but never confirmed by the participants. A journal was kept by the direct participants, and it is reported that Blatty was able to review a copy only years after the film was made.
~ Measuring Up ~

Blatty intentionally changed many of the facts surrounding this case (out of respect for the actual participants) when he wrote the Exorcist. Gender of the child, names, and locations were all fictionalized. However, many of the film's episodes appear to be directly inspired by the details provided by the media at the time. While enhanced for dramatic effect, this suggests a very accurate scripting of specific events. ~ quite accurate with key deliberate changes


The Exorcism of Emily Rose

2005
~ The Film ~

The story of a farm girl's apparent possession, attempted exorcism, and subsequent death are played against the staid courtroom proceedings that follow. The film skillfully balances a story of stong faith and a gradual horrific descent into possession against the modern rationalism of the investigation, told through flashbacks. The exorcism scenes in the horse barn are intense, and even unsettling, yet the film manages to resolve the matter in redemtption.
~ The History ~

In 1976, 23-year old German student Anneliese Michel died as an apparent result of an exorcism. Devoutly Catholic, the ritual was undertaken to free her of as many as six spirits that had been assaulting her since the age of 16. The two involved priests and her parents were convicted of negligent homicide following a staggering 67 attempted exorcism rituals. Leading up to her death, she was prescribed various drugs, often reported seeing demonic faces, and experienced violent catatonic rigid spams. During the rituals, her changed voice claimed to be a demon that had afflicted many historical villians, including Nero and Hitler. She died on July 1, 1976, the day she predicted that she would be free of the demons.
~ Measuring Up ~

The courtroom aspects of the case (which includes the playing of audio tapes, which occurred in the actual trial) result in a differing outcome from the actual events, as do the names and locations (Germany is translated into rural America). However, the devoutly Catholic girl is plagued by visions and possession, and ultimately fortells her death, which is not inconsistent with the exploration of free will (in the film) that results in her death. This story was also given a dramatic treatment in the German film Requiem (2006), steering clear of the horror genre. ~ somewhat accurate with key deliberate changes


The Eye

2002
~ The Film ~

A blind girl receives a transplant (either the cornea or the entire eye) that restores her sight. Intially delighted, she soon begins to observe unsettling visions that are soon attributed to the malevolence of the donor (similar to Body Parts). Much horror ensues. One interesting aspect of this scenario is that since the girl never had sight, how readily could she process certain visions as aberration (other than by verifying with others)?
~ The History ~

This movie was reportedly inspired by a newspaper article read by the Pang brothers around 1989, which described the death of a 16-year old girl who came out of darkness by corneal transplant after being blind for her entire life, and ended up committing suicide one week later
~ Measuring Up ~

I haven't seen the recent remake, but this is a creative case of expanding an interesting scenario into a fully developed story. While clearly inspired by the reported event, it never intended to limit itself to the known facts. Spectral visions and apparent haunting creates a horrifying way to 'fill in the blanks' of the actual events. This elaboration is done for all the right reasons, and with good effect. I have not seen the 2008 western remake. ~ inspired by historic elements


Finale

2009
~ The Film ~

Filmed in gritty 16mm, this film is a tale of a family descending into paranoia following the death of the oldest son. His mother, unable to accept the pronouncement of suicide, follows her son's path into a dark place, determined to discover the truth.
~ The History ~

Reportedly inspired by events in the director's own family. The director states "My oldest brother hanged himself when I was 12, and my mother retreated into grief-stricken denial and paranoia, blaming his death onthe planned sacrifice of a demonic cult. I wrote Finale to face my demons, telling the story from her perspective."
~ Measuring Up ~

Desolate, abandoned filming locations enhance the feeling of isolation as the director crafts his impression of his mother's view of a family tragedy. Certainly, it is difficult to judge such personal filmmaking. Rather such films should be appreciated when they achieve success in their vision. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Fourth Kind

2009
~ The Film ~

A troubled doctor begings a study of sleep deprivation in Nome, Alaska, and soon observes strangely similar recollections from the participants - a lurking white owl, among other things. Utilizing hypnosis to recover additional memories proves disasterous, as it is more than the patients can handle. Nocturnal alien visits for all are soon revealed, and additional hypnosis sessions become more revealing and intense, resulting in abduction and paralysis for just about everyone. The end credits reaffirm that this was based on actual cases, but the participants did not want to participate directly.
~ The History ~

According to Universal Studios, the film is based on the case of a psychologist named Abigail Tyler, working with patints in Nome. Alaska and the Alaska Psychological Association, however, have no records of such a doctor being licensed in Alaska. Apparent sources on the web appear to have been fabricated by Universal as part of the promotion of this film.
~ Measuring Up ~

This seems to be a poor case of 'fabricating a bogus true story for publicity purposes' rather than any genuine provenance. Missing persons support groups in Alaska have made their disapproval known for such callous marketing. It is hard to measure up to something that never happened. ~ full-on fabrication


Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door

2007
~ The Film ~

While not strictly a horror film, the events depicted in this film are indeed horrific. A new girl and her younger sister move into her aunt's home, where the permissive woman lets teens aggregate. After taking a dislike to this girl, the woman begins victimizing her despite the attempts of the neighbor boy to help. The woman descends into torture and mutilation of the girl, which ultimately causes her death.
~ The History ~

In 1965 Indiana, Sylvia Likens and her sister, children of carnival workers, were left in the care of a woman (for $20 per week) who welcomed the neighborhood teens. For no reason, Sylvia was tortured over a period of time and ultimately died from the abuse. The woman, her two sons, and two neighborhood boys were later convicted in a highly publicized trial in 1966. The Sylvia Likens case became the basis for Jack Ketchum's novel, upon which the film is based.
~ Measuring Up ~

ketchum's novel (as well as this film) is based on the events of the Sylvia Likens case. However, as a work of fiction, the names and many particulars have been changed. Although the film treatment took necessary simplifications and editing liberties, it reportedly stays true to Ketcham's work. Many of the characters developed and the horrific abuses depicted are based on the well documented case. A more fact-faithful adaptation of the Likens case, An American Crime, was released the same year. ~ fairly accurate with key elements deliberately changed


Gothic

1986
~ The Film ~

While I have nothing against Ken Russell films, this one really bugs me, but here it goes. This is a very 1980's retro psycho-sexual account of the stormy night that produced Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Polidori's The Vampire, among other things. But given this treatment, that's really all I want to say about it. Ugh.
~ The History ~

In the summer of 1816, young Mary Godwin (to be Shelley), her future husband Percy Shelley, poet Lord Byron and John Polidori were staying at Villa Diodati in Switzerland. During a storm on June 16th of that year, they began telling ghost stories. Legend has it that Mary dreamed of a creature that night, which became the inspiration of her novel Frankentstien. John Polidori was inspired to write The Vampire.
~ Measuring Up ~

The cast of characters at Villa Diodati has been preserved, but the experiences they have ther have been given the full psycho-erotic Ken Russell treatment. Do not confuse this with documentary. It is also memorable for adapting (on the DVD cover as well as in the film) a scene based on Fuseli's painting The Nightmare. Otherwise, this is not a film that I enjoy. ~ inspired by historic events, but heavily stylized


The Gray Man

2007
~ The Film ~

'The Gray Man' is one of the sensationalized epithets for American serial killer Albert Fish, whose story still lurks just outside of common knowledge.
~ The History ~

Albert Fish, known popularly during his infamy as 'the Gray Man,' 'the Boogeyman,' 'the Brooklyn Vampire' and 'the Werewolf of Wysteria' was a serial killer/cannibal (and worse) of children until his capture, trial, and execution by electric chair in 1936. His appearance of a seemingly kindly older man allowed him to gain trust of families and access to their children.
~ Measuring Up ~

To be revealed... based on the title, this film likely includes an account of the Billy Gafney murder, to which Fish later confessed. ~ likely to be quite accurate

See also Albert Fish, above.


The Green River Killer

2005
~ The Film ~

An account of the crimes of Gary Ridgway, who abducted and murdered a number of women in Washington state in the 1980s and 1990s. This direct to video film reportedly mixes documentary footage of the real Ridgway with dramatized flashbacks, some based on Ridgway's false testimony of a fictional 'mentor.'
~ The History ~

Captured in 2001 for a series of murder stretching back two decades, Gary Ridgway ultimately confessed to the 'Green River' killings, so named because of the river along which he typically disposed his victim's remains. The extended search for the killer resulted in major advancements in law enforcement cooperation and the use of large suspect databases.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although I have not seen it, this film is likely to be quite accurate, falling more into 'true crime documentary' than a horror genre. Inclusion of actual documentary footage of Ridgway adds to the realism, although some artistic liberties are expected. ~ based on historic events


Grimm Love

2007

aka Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story and Rohtenburg
~ The Film ~

An American student of criminal psychology is studying in Germany, researching a notorious cannibal/murderer named Oliver Hartwin. Hartwin had killed and eaten a man he met over the internet. The student is pulled further and further into the killer's tale, ultimately discovering a videotape of the horrific events. This film was briefly banned in Germany.
~ The History ~

Based on German intenet cannibal/murderer Armin Meiwes, who initially entered into a consentual cannibal relationship with someone he met on the internet in March, 2001. Ultimately, it went poorly for the other participant, who was killed and partially consumed by Meiwes. The events were found to be recorded on a two-hour videotape, although it took Meiwes 10 months to consume the body. He was arrested and convicted of manslaughter in 2004 and again in 2006.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although it uses different names to maintain a seperation from the real case, this film includes the major events in the Meiwes case, including the videotaping of events. In fact, the film was originally released as Rohtenburg, likely a direct reference to Meiwes, who was popularly known as the 'Rotenburg Cannibal.' ~ based on actual events

See also Cannibal, above.


The Haunted

1991
~ The Film ~

This made-for-Television film follows the case of the Smurl Haunting, based on their book. The Smurls experienced a number of disturbances which even followed them to different locations between 1974 and 1989. Loud noises, offensive odors, physical contact and abuse characterized the haunting, some of which was attributed to a demon.
~ The History ~

The extended haunting of the Smurl family begin in 1974 with odd noises, wierd leaks and exploding televisions. By the mid-1980s, it had escalated to beatings and intimate assaults by man-pig incubii and succubii. Attempts to expel the spirits in 1986 with blessings and exorcism just made the entities angry. The case was also sensational enough to merit the involvement of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, also in 1986.
~ Measuring Up ~

Ain't seen it. Since the film is based on husband Jack Smurl's own account in his novel The Haunted (1988), it is likely to be accurate in its depiction of the reported events. During the investigations of several skeptics and priests, no unusual activity was documented, and the subsequent owner of the Smurl's home also reported no hauntings. ~ likely to be quite accurate


The Haunting in Connecticut

2009
~ The Film ~

The Snedeker family moves into an older home in Connecticut, unaware that the residence had been a funeral home. Shortly after moving in, disturbances begin. While most acutely targeting the teenage son, these spiritual attacks eventually encompass the entire family. Visions of 1920's era seances and rituals add to the panic as the teen, aided by a priest, desperately searches for a way to end the hauntings,.
~ The History ~

This incident, which began in 1986, has received some noteriety and several treatments. The Snedeker haunting, as it came to be known, was also investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren. It is the basis of the book In A Dark Place, by Ray Garton. A documentary style treatment A Haunting in Connecticut for the television series A Haunting appeared in 2002.

By one account, in 1986, Ed and Karen Parker's son Paul (apparently renamed in an adaptation of the Snedeker haunting) was undergoing a lengthly series of cancer treatments, so the family moved to an older Connecticut home located near the hospital. Shortly after the move, it became apparent that the residence had been a funeral home for many years. In fact, some of the equipment, including an embalming table, remained.

Paul began to see manifestations of entities, which included four figures described as 'dark men,' primarily in the basement where embalming had taken place. Another more troubling spirit came to be called 'the man in the suit.' Coinciding with these manifestations, Paul's health began to deteriorate, and his behavior became more erratic. Finally, his parents had him committed to a mental hospital. Once Paul was removed from the home, the forces inhabiting the house reportedly turned on the rest of the family. The situation was eventually resolved by an exorcism performed by popular psychics Ed and Lorraine Warren.

By some accounts, Paul's spooky visions ended when he resumed medication that had been prescribed, somewhat lessening the supernatural aspect. The Snedeker family remained in the home another 2 years, which hardly makes the haunting seem all that serious. The landlady reported that no other occupants had experienced any wierdness, either.
~ Measuring Up ~

The basic facts of the case, including the reason for moving to the home and the history of the building, have been preserved well. Based mainly on Garton's book, the names and other particulars have been changed, including widely divergent conclusions. The movie includes considerable treatment of the reported appearances of dark figures. That alone would be enough for a slower ghost story, but this movie pushed for a 'blockbuster' feeling by including a backstory of seances, necromancy and dessicated piles of bodies stacked in the walls to kick up the tempo. It helps the movie, but represents a considerable departure from the facts. While this film begins well as 'inspired by true events,' it takes considerable liberties in developing a full story line. ~ somewhat accurate but heavily reworked


The Haunting in
Connecticut 2:
Ghosts of Georgia Falls

2013
~ The Film ~

A family moves to rural Georgia, only to begin having supernatural encounters. Their property had been part of the Underground Railroad, but spirits seem to be leading the family to a darker history
~ The History ~

tbd
~ Measuring Up ~

Any film that ends with 'here are the real people it happened to' is a cut above in faithful retellings. Some aspects of the story seem amplified for dramatic effect, but overall, this seems rooted in the experiences of this family. ~ Based on actual events.


A Haunting
at Silver Falls

2013
~ The Film ~

After a teen finds an old ring in the forest, she is unable to remove it and begins to see ghosts. The ghosts appear to be attempting to communicate with her, and as a result she eventually uncovers a string of murders that the small town had hoped to forget. Family and the local psychiatrist attempt to dissuade her, but she takes matters into her own hands after speaking to the convicted father of the ghosts she has been seeing.
~ The History ~

tbd
~ Measuring Up ~

tbd ~ Likely inspired by a local murder


Henry: Portrait of
a Serial Killer

1986
~ The Film ~

Held up several years before its release, this chillingly intimate view into the life of homicidal Henry and his pal Otis still shocks. Killing at the slightest cause (or for no cause at all), Henry occasionally shows signs of normal behavior, as he becomes close to Otis' sister Becky. Ultimately, Henry remains the unapologetic killer he is.
~ The History ~

Serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole siezed national attention when the extent of their murders became public knowledge. Although many of the 600 confessed killings were later proven to be exaggerations, Lucas was found guilty of several, and remained incarcerated while he attempted to benefit from his newfound fame.
~ Measuring Up ~

Taken as a 'slice of time' in the career of Henry, the movie is quite faithful in general terms. Lucas and Toole did work together, killing needlessly throughout the American southwest. Lucas was briefly involved with Toole's niece, Frieda Powell, and eventually murdered her. Other than the film being set in Chicago, it matches up well. ~ quite accurate with some deliberate changes


The Hills Have Eyes

1977
~ The Film ~

A family on a cross country RV trip take one of those ill-advised 'short cuts' and become lost in the desert. In the hills nearby, a family of inbred maniacs make their home, killing anything that comes their way (and apparently reading Roman mythology). They descend upon the RV family in a series of a attacks that were shockingly brutal when the film was originally released. It still holds much of that impact.
~ The History ~

I saw an interview with Wes Craven around 2002, in which he stated that the idea for this film came to him after he heard an account of Sawney Bean and his family of inbred cannibals living in Scotland in the early 1400s, terrorizing the countryside.

According to the often disputed lore, Alexander 'Sawney' Bean was born in East Lothian, Scotland during the reign of (by some accounts) James I of Scotland. He took up with an awful woman and moved to a coastal cave in Bannane Head, near Galloway. Together and through incest, they sired some 46 children (including 32 grandchildren) over 25 years.

Together, this misanthropic clan robbed, murdered, quartered and ate hundreds ("at least a thousand men, women and children"), pickling the leftovers and remaining hidden in their bone-filled cave. By one account, "they never robbed any one, whom they did not murder." It is said that they made frequent night visits to nearby towns, throwing the arms and legs of their victims into the sea, to be washed ashore causing terror the next day.

Investigators seldom returned from the area, and learned little or nothing about the secret cave. Innocent villagers were lynched with any suspicion. However, they were discovered:
A man and his wife behind him on the same horse, coming one evening home from a fair, and falling into the ambuscade of these merciless wretches, they fell upon them in a furious manner. The man to save himself as well as he could, fought very bravely against them with sword and pistol, riding some of them down by main force of his horse.
In the conflict the poor woman fell from behind him, and was instantly butchered before her husband's face, for the female cannibals cut her throat, and fell to sucking her blood with as great a gust, as if it had been wine; this done, they ript up her belly and pulled out all her entrails. Such a dreadful made the man make the more obstinate resistance, as he expected the same fate, if he fell into their hands.
It please Providence while he was enraged that twenty or thirty who had been at the same fair, came together in a body; upon which Sawney Bean and his blood thirsty clan withdrew and, made the best of their way through a thick wood to their den.
This man who was the first who had ever fell in their way, and came off alive, told the whole company what had happened, and shewed them the horrid spectacle of his wife, whom the murderers had dragged to some distance, but had not time to carry her entirely off. They were all struck with stupification and amazement at what he related; they took him with them to Glasgow, and told the affair to the magistrates of that city, who immediately sent to the king concerning it.

Historical and Traditional Tales in Prose and Verse, John Nicholson, 1843

A few days later, the Bean cave was found by the bloodhounds of a posse of 400 men, led by King James himself. Publicly paraded, the family was executed without process in Leith. The men were dismembered and bled to death. The women and children were burnt to death.
~ Measuring Up ~

This is another case of Craven coming across a nugget of inspiration, and then creatively running with the theme. Certainly, this film makes no attempt to accurately document the story of Sawney Bean, but instead grasps the nucleus of the story and develops a plot that is more accessible to contemporary audiences. That said, the film does preserve the basic elements of criminal/cannibal wierdos living in caves, probably inbreeding, and preying on anyone who gets close enough. The original is still a very effective film, and widely regarded as a precedent-setting classic. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Hillside Stranglers

1989
~ The Film ~

A made for TV movie featuring a young Billy Zane, the story follows the exploits of the two cousins who became known as 'The Hillside Strangler' as well as the efforts of law enforcement to solve the case. The emphasis is on the characters involved, rather than all the grisly particulars of the case, making for an effective crime drama, rather than an actual 'horror film.' This case has since been remade into other films.
~ The History ~

Cousins Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi became known by the single epithet 'Hillside Strangler' during their four month rampage of torture, rape and murder near Los Angeles in 1977-78. With increasingly abusive ferocity, their crimes escalated as they became bored with their own activities. The torture sessions that took place in their own home are well documented. Eventually the team split up, but left enough evidence to allow their eventual apprehention. Angelo Buono died in prison in 2002. In August 2010, Kenneth Bianchi was again denied parole from Walla Walla State Pennitentiary.
~ Measuring Up ~

A made for TV movie, this film necessarily skimps on revealing the actual brutality of the killers. Ongoing torture was a major obsession for the real killers, both to their victims and to a few key acquaintances (one of which provided valuable testimony for their conviction). Otherwise, though the film is an adequate protrayal of the cleaned-up events surrounding these serial killers and their subsequent apprehension. ~ quite accurate but sanitized See also Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders, below.


Hostel

2005
~ The Film ~

American tourists of loose morals are lured by sex and drugs to a back-country abduction, where they become victims of a 'murder factory' in eastern Europe. The film shifts gears without warning, turning into a lurid close-up study of depravity and violence. Although the films climax is weakened by a contrived plot, the film creates horror on several levels - the explicit violence, and the notion that there are people willing to pay for it.
~ The History ~

Reportedly, Eli Roth came across a Thai website, which he later showed to Quentin Tarantino, that supposedly charged customers to shoot someone at their secluded facilities. Although both directors doubted that it was genuine (or perhaps a performance for wierdo subscribers), it inspired the premise of Hostel. Roth was quoted as saying that "in Thailand the practice was perfectly legal, as the victims were participating of their own free will... desolate, poverty-stricken people whose families were starving to death. By way of their self-sacrifice, they would make enough money for their loved ones to survive." Whether genuine or not, it appears that such depraved websites do exist. Certainly, such a website offering a real horrific opportunity to kill would be intentionally difficult to locate.
~ Measuring Up ~

Certainly, Roth was inspired by urban legends floating about eastern Europe. It is not clear if this film is a response to any specific events, but I am still checking. Filming in Europe with beautiful location shooting in Cesky Krumlov and other 12th century villages adds richness and depth to this film, and captures some of the flavor inherent in eastern Europe. In at least one distinction, the website reportedly encountered by Roth and Tarantino merely involved shooting - not the extended grindhouse-style of torture in which the film eventually immerses itself. ~ inspired by reported events


House at the End of the Drive

2006
~ The Film ~

Waiting to see this new independent film.
~ The History ~

The director of this indie film cites the Tate-LaBianca murders as his inspiration. The climax of Charles Manson's madness, these murders shocked the nation in the late 1960s, showing a rare cultish dark side to the whole peaceful hippie movement. The trial of the cult members was also widely publicized, and Manson remains incarcerated to this day. Film critic Rex Reed had planned to go to the fateful party, but felt ill. Roman Polansky's wife Sharon Tate (Fearless Vampire Killers) and her unborn child were not as lucky.
~ Measuring Up ~

Taint seen it yet. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

1923
~ The Film ~

In this first adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, Lon Chaney shocked the world with his total transformation into Quasimodo. Evoking sympathy through extensive makeup effects, this film follows the hunchback's frustrated love for the gypsy girl Esmerelda, subject of the church's court. Outside, the mobs spark revolution against the rigid hierarchies. Chaney's self-made makeup was rumored to include a 40-pound hump attached with another 40 pounds of harnesses.
~ The History ~

In August 2010, it was widely announced that an archivist of the Tate Collection (UK) had located documentation that referenced a hunchback involved in the rennovation of Notre Dame following the damaging French Revolution. British stone carver Henry Sibson worked in the 1820s along side an sculptor who was employed by 'le bossu,' or 'hunchback.' This hunchback was a sculptor employed by the government, who disliked associating with the carvers. These activities took place in the same part of Paris where Victor Hugo lived and studied the restoration of Notre Dame, making a direct influence possible. The case is made stronger by the fact that the name of the hunchback's carver, Trajan, shares a similar name to Jean Trajean in Hugo's "Les Miserables."
~ Measuring Up ~

This is more the case where a character, Quasimodo, is likely based on a real person, rather than a story based on events. While no proof exists, it remians likely that Hugo was inspired to create one of literature's most unique characters for a story that has been remade as film many times. ~ likely inspired by historic elements


Jaws

1975
~ The Film ~

The official 'first blockbuster,' this is the story about a boy, his boat, and his fish.
~ The History ~

In 1916, summer heat and a polio epidemic drove record crowds to the seashore - just as local presence of sharks increased off the coast of New Jersey. Four victims died over a 12 day period, and a local panic ensued, and some communities surrounded their beach areas with steel netting. A bounty was offered, spurring one of the largest animal hunts in history, which resulted in the taking of hundreds of sharks in the area. The specific varieties of shark involved in the deaths was never established.
~ Measuring Up ~

Peter Benchley was inspired by several episodes of shark attacks - primarily the string of attacks near the Jersey shores in 1916, and a string of great white sharks caught off Long Island and Block Island in the 1960s (by Montauk charterboat captain Frank Mundus). Many of the techniques depicted in the film (the charter-boat, chumming for sharks, and use of harpoons) were used by Mundus, upon who the character of Quint is partially based. While the film briefly refers back to some historical episodes of shark attacks during Chief Brody's research, much of the similarity ends there. However, the 1916 attacks share some common element with scenes in the film - swimming with a dog, a shark spotted in a shoreside creek, a bounty, and the reluctance of local autorities to declare a shark problem. Quint's narrative of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is also accurate, for all of its horror. Otherwise, Peter Benchley crafted a fine tale of tension and terror, well realized by Spielberg in this classic film. ~ inspired by several historic events


Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life

1993
~ The Film ~

This film reportedly focuses on the changing motives of notorious serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer as it follows him from murder to murder.
~ The History ~

Jeffrey Dahmer was responsible for the murder and dismemberment (and worse) of 17 young men between 1978 and 1991 near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was convicted and sentenced to 957 years in 1992, only to be beaten to death in prison two years later.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although the speculation into understanding Dahmer's particular psychological state is admirable, it represents likely embellishment of the grim facts. Still, this is largely a fact-driven film. ~ likely quite accurate


Lady in White

1988
~ The Film ~

This nostalgic tale follows the story of a child who, while locked in the schoolhouse at night, encounters a melancholy ghostly Lady in White. As the Bradbury-esque tale unfolds, a forgotten crime is uncovered, eventually resolving the ghost's torment.
~ The History ~

The ghost known commonly as 'the White Lady' was first reported in the castle Berliner Schloss in 1625, with subsequent sightings as recently as 1888. This castle was home of many of the kings of Prussia, and the popular theories identifying the White Lady include the guilt-ridden child-murdering countess Kunigunda of Orlamļæ½nde, a melancholy Bohemian widow named Bertha of Rosenberg, and the mournful Hungarian princess Kunigunda of Slavonia.
There is an apparent universal appeal to this melancholy spirit, as other countries reporting sightings include the England, Ireland, America, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Portugal the Phillipines and Malta. Apparently she gets around.
~ Measuring Up ~

Visually, this is as pure an icon of haunting is likely to be. Ghostly and heartbroken, she pines for a long lost child. Although the rest of the film follows the unravelling of the long forgotten murder, they have the major bases covered for this adaptation. Beyond that, a nostalgic tale of the end of childhood provides the necessary plot. ~ inspired by historic motif


The Last House on the Left

1972
~ The Film ~

Considered something of a remake of Ingmar Bergman's (non-horror) film The Virgin Spring (1960), this Wes Craven film is based on the same Swedish legend. A young girl is abducted (along with her friend), abused and finally murdered by three escaped convicts while her parents prepare a birthday party. Eventually, the villians' car breaks down near the home of her parents, where they are given refuge. The girl's mother recognizes her daughter's necklace, and that night find their daughter's remains, confirming their worst fears. The parents then plot their revenge on the perpetrators.
~ The History ~

Inspired by the 13th Century Swedish ballad "Töres dotter i Wänge" (Töres daughter in Vänge"), which tells the story of a young girl of Vänge (now Malmskogen, Sweden) who was assaulted and murdered by three highwayment. They take her clothes and attempt to sell them nearby, coincidentally to her parents. The father killed the first two, but let the third live after admitting the crime. The father then built a church upon the murder site, which had miraculously produced a spring. The surrounding area still tells the tale, and the church at Kärna exists today.

From a translation of the poem,

But when they came to the pastures of Vänge
They met three highwaymen
- Either you will be the wives of highwaymen
Or would you lose your young lives?
- We do not want to be the wives of highwaymen.
We would rather lose our young lives.
They cut off their heads on a log of birch.
And so three wells appeared.
The bodies were buried in the mud.
The clothes were carried to the village.
When they came to the estate of Vänge,
Lady Karin met them outdoors
-And would you buy silken robes
That nine maidens have knitted and stitched?
Untie your sacks and let me see,
Maybe I will know all three of them
Lady Karin beat herself on the chest,
She went up to Pehr Tyreson
- There are three highwaymen on our courtyard,
They have slain our daughters.
Pehr Tyrsson grasped his sword,
He slew the two eldest ones.
The third one he let live
Until he could ask him:
- What is your father's name?
What is your mother's name?
- Our father is Pehr Tyrsson in Vänge;
Our mother is Lady Karin in Skränge
Per Tyrson goes to the smithy
He had iron crafted around his waist
- What shall we do for our sins?
- We shall build a church of lime and stone.
- The church will be named Kerna
We are fain to build it.
~ Measuring Up ~

Certainly Bergman's treatment is more accurate to the tale than that of Craven. However, it captures the main points of the story - the forced abduction, abuse and remorseless murder of the girl, an article of clothing recognized by the mother, and revenge taken by the parents. The emergence of the spring and the vow to build a church are only in Bergman's film, as Craven's is more consistent with the grindhouse films being produced at the time. ~ inspired by historic events.


The Legend of Blood Castle

1973
aka Ceremonia Sangrienta
~ The Film ~

A mysterious Countess, now growing old, discovers that the blood of maidens can temporarily restore her youth. She finds love, but is unable to break her nasty beauty secret.
~ The History ~

Based loosely on the legends of Elizabeth Bathory, known popularly as the 'Blood Countess,' who reportedly bathed in the blood of maidens to preserve her beauty. The historic Elizabeth Bathory lived between 1560 and 1614 in Slovakia (formerly Hungary). While evidence is sparse, she and four helpers were accused in 1610 of taking as many as 600 victims. Detailed charges included accusation of beatings, mutilation, torture, biting, elective surgery, starvation and 'personal abuse.' While she was not convicted of murder herself, Bathory was bricked into a suite of imprisonment for her four final years. Legends of her activities have inspired many stories over the centuries.
~ Measuring Up ~

While the basic element of the Bathory legend is maintained, this Spanish film constructs a more conventional plot around it. Certainly, a Countess bathing in blood on its own is interesting, but it is hardly a fully developed narrative. The Bathory legend has also inspired other films, including Necropolis and Countess Dracula (both from 1970), Terry Gilliam's The Brother's Grimm (2005) and even a major scene in Hostel II (2007), which features the blood bath in unflinching terms. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Legend of Boggy Creek

1972
~ The Film ~

Somewhat running like documentary-style horror, this film explores the existence of a mysterious creature that lives deep in the swamps of Arkansas.
~ The History ~

Inspired by the Fouke Monster, a bigfoot-like cryptid reported near the town of Fouke, Arkansas between 1971 and 1974, specifically in the Boggy Creek area. According to reports, it killed local livestock, but only claw-marks and large (17-inch) footprints were found. Local legends state that sightings went back as far as 1946 near Jonesville.

The beast made headlines in 1971 after an alleged attack on the home of Bobby and Elizabeth Ford. Other sightings followed. The last tracks were found in 1978.
~ Measuring Up ~

As a semi-documentary, the film focuses largely on the established sightings, starring some of the actual persons involved, filming at the actual locations where possible. Other episodes were enhanced for dramatic effect. It enjoyed success at the box office, and spawned a fully fictional spin-off Return to Boggy Creek in 1977, as well as a formal sequel Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues in 1985. ~ based on reported events.


Leptirica

1973
~ The Film ~

This Serbian film, based on the novel After Ninety Years by Milovan Glisic (1880) tells the tale of young lovelorn Strahinja, an orphan who travels to the village of Zaro˛je where he hears of their cursed mill. He spends the night in the mill and survives an attack by the vampire therein. Using what he learned about the vampire during the attack, he is able to locate the vampire's grave and destroy it. However, things won't end so smoothly for Strahinja.
~ The History ~

Glisic's story is based on the Serbian vampire Sava Savanović, who has been causing troubles at a remote mill (now in disrepair) in the Serbian village of Zaro˛je.
~ Measuring Up ~

While Sava was never bested, the story includes all of the specific points to the folklore. It also employs the regional folkloric motif of butterflies and vampires - once a vampire is destroyed, it is believed that its spirit flies forth in the form of a butterfly. In fact, the name of the film loosely translates to the She-Butterfly. The film is quite unemcumbered by flimsy vampire cliches that arose in the last decades. ~ quite accurate


M

1931
~ The Film ~

An early 'talkie,' this classic film by Fritz Lang follows the search for a child murderer in a Berlin neighborhood. The shadowy killer is gradually revealed, often whistling a tune by Grieg. As the crimes continue, police and criminals alike search for the perpetrator. A blind salesman recognizes the whistling, and marks the killer (played by Peter Lorre) with a chalk 'M.' He is apprehended in dramatic fashion, and the film concludes with his trial.
~ The History ~

Inspired primarily by the case of Peter Kurten, known as 'the Vampire of Düsseldorf,' whose sensational case made German headlines in the 1920s. However, there were several serial killers targeting children and young adults in Germany during this time period (see Lang's list, below), and the subject was at the forefront of topics of the day.
~ Measuring Up ~

In a 1963 interview with film historian Gero Gandert, Lang stated "At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany - (Fritz) Haarmann, (Karl) Grossmann, (Peter) Kürten, (Karl) Denke." While not attempting to tell the specific story of any of these killers, the film certainly captures their common essence as it explores how a community responds to such horrors. ~ inspired by historic events

See also Deathmaker, above.


Men Behind The Sun

1988
~ The Film ~

Set during the height of conflict between Japan and China during World War II, this shocker depicts the horrors inflicted upon Chinese and Russian prisoners of war at the hands of their Japanese captors at Squadron 731. Although the stated goal is to develop a strain of bubonic plague for biological warfare purposes, the quasi-medical and just-plain-wrong 'experiments' abound, each more shocking than the last. Made in Hong Kong, it pulls no punches in its treatment of the Japanese.
~ The History ~

Apparently, there were installations of this sort run by the Japanese during their occupation of Manchuria. Certainly, as illustrated by The Rape of Nanking in the late 1930s, Japanese forces of occupation were out of control, committing numerous atrocities against the Chinese.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although this film is over the top, history has taught us that mankind has the capability to utterly abandon humanity. Director Mou Tun Fei asserted that this was a historical film, and even begins the movie stating that "Friendship is friendship; history is history," to underscore an assertion that the film is not a condemnation of modern Japan, but a depiction of one part Imperial Japan's history while in China. While specific scenes of the film may be fabricated, one may assume that they accurately capture the spirit of an occupational force running amok. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Mothman Prophecies

2002
~ The Film ~

Creepy Richard Gere as a reporter passing through a West Virginia town who encounters a strange creature that portends disaster. This winged, insectoid, but human-sized 'Mothman' ultimately fortells the collapse of the bridge into town. Did I really need a picture of Richard Gere on this site?
~ The History ~

Point Pleasant, West Virginia, was held in mystery for 13 months between 1966 and 1967, when several people witnessed appearances of this strange 'Mothman' creature, heralding impending disaster. Ultimately, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River collapsed, killing 46 people. The Mothman was never seen again.
~ Measuring Up ~

This film, while dramatic, attempts to keep as close to the facts as possible, right down to the actual town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the Ohio River. While it is not clear where the Mothman was trained in structural engineering, his legend has proven to be a tourist draw for this small town. However, the film chose to change several details, reducing the number of victims to 36. Also, the film depicted precognative events as far away as Ecuador, while the actual reports of precognition were centered in Point Pleasant. Still, these minor deviations do not detract from the fidelity demonstrated by this film. ~ inspired by historic elements


A Nightmare on Elm Street

1984
~ The Film ~

Wes Craven's classic story about children being murdered in their dreams introduced the villain Freddy Krueger, who was frightening before he was campy. Mixing nightmarish confusion with a hint of humor, this edgy film set the standard for imaginative options to slasher films, and spawned a nearly endless series of sequels and a tepid remake. It also marks the film debut of Johnny Depp.
~ The History ~

In interviews included in some DVD releases of the film, Wes Craven cites two inspirations for the themes in this film. Firstly, in the 1970s, the LA Times ran reports of Cambodian refugees suffering from recurring nightmares, after which they refused to sleep, apparently fearing death. Some of the people died soon after, and the condition became known as 'Asian Death Syndrome.' The inspiration for Freddy Kruger came from Craven's own experiences. As a child, Craven saw a drifter walking just outside his window. The person stopped, and locked his gaze on Craven, who fearded that a break-in attempt was about to occur. The man walked off, but the episode (combined with another in which Craven had been frightened by a drunk) planted the seed for the character of Kruger. The name of Fred Kruger reportedly came from a bully in Craven's own childhood (Indeeed, Craven used the shortened 'Krug' to name his villain in Last House on the Left 12 years earlier).
~ Measuring Up ~

Wes Craven regularly refines his own experiences and observations into plot elements (as evidenced by this list) - while he is not attempting to provide a historic treatment, he utilizes these inspriations to produce original art. In that regard, this film is only as faithful to the inspirations as Craven dreamt it to be. ~ inspired by several events, spun into a new story


The Night of the Hunter

1955
~ The Film ~

This classic noir film often creeps unseen into many top horror film lists. The only film directed by Charles Laughton, it features Robert Mitchum as a self-appointed preacher drifter who insinuates himself into a family to locate a stash of money. Things get nightmarish from there, especially for the children. Mitchum can be menacing enough, but he becomes an archetype here, hounding two children through a dreamy landscape.
~ The History ~

In the film, Mitchum plays Harry Powell, who is based on real-life drifter/killer Harry Powers, a grocer and former vaccuum salesman known ever afterwards as the "American Bluebeard." In 1931, Powers was convicted and later hanged for his murders of two widows and three children in Quiet Dell, West Virginia.
~ Measuring Up ~

The expressionistic film runs with the inspiration of the drifting 'family killer,' but finds its own story. Both Powell and Powers seemed rather mild-mannered and unimposing at the onset, but the brutality of the real murders and ditch disposal of the bodies resonates in Mitchum's performance. The theme of children as victims also invokes the Powers case, in which three children were murdered. Visually rich, and with great performances throughout, this film remains a classic, just left of center. ~ inspired by historic elements


Open Water

2004
~ The Film ~

A young couple on vacation is left behind on a scuba diving trip, miles from shore. At the end of the dive, they are overlooked after an incorrect headcount is taken. Alone together, they face despair, exhaustion, isolation and sharks. This is a grueling indie film that leaves most people affected by its immediacy and close-up treatment of the horrors of being lost at sea.
~ The History ~

Reportedly based on the 1988 case of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, an American couple participating in a goup scuba dive off of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Accidentally abandoned due to an incorrect head count, they were never found. It was two days before the boat crew determined that a mistake had been made, when their belongings were found on board. Some of their gear, including a diving slate with an SOS message, were eventually found.
~ Measuring Up ~

This sounds like one of the most faithful adaptations around. Aside from name changes, the movie deals with the gradual acceptance of an inevitable situation in very human terms. The intimacy of the film can only echo the true horrors this couple faced. ~ quite accurate


The Possession

2012
~ The Film ~

A young girl purchases a strange old box at a yard sale, along with the evil spirit contained inside. Hopefully her parents can resolve their differences to address this matter.
~ The History ~

This tale is reportedly based on a 'Dybbuk Box' - in this case, a haunted wine cabinet that was purchsed in Spain by a Holocaust survivor named Havela. Later moved to America, the box was kept sealed, as lore suggested that a 'dybbuk' (Polish malevolent spirit) lived within. Purchased by Kevin Mannis at an estate sale in 2003, Mannis attempted to return the object to the original family, who clearly did not want it to be returned to them. Later opened by Mannis, the box was found to contain a pair of 1920 pennies, a lock of blonde hair, a lock fo dark hair, a small statue engraved with 'Shalom,' a small golden wine cup, a dried rose bud, and a candle holder with four tentacle-like legs - personal objects, in this case used in the exorcism of Jewish demons. People in contact with the box have reported strange hag-related dreams, unfortunate events and health issues.

The Dybbuk Box came to wider attention when it was auctioned on eBay. It is currently in the possession of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri. The box has been ritually re-sealed and secreted away to an undisclosed location.
~ Measuring Up ~

This film is an amplified adaptation of events surrounding this object, opening with an old woman who attempts to quiet the box. The yard sale and the box's unusual contents are adapted. For dramatic purposes, the sprit's wrath is focused on a single character, and events are heightened for effect and story. ~ Selectively accurate film based on an actual object


Prey

2007
~ The Film ~

While in Africa, a family becomes stranded in their vehicle, surrounded by man-eating lions that kill their guide and keep them pinned down. Think Cujo with more people, but less Dee Wallace Stone.
~ The History ~

Inspired by the Tsavo lions, who killed railway workers in Kenya in 1898. The two maneless male lions took an estimated 135 workers, often from their tents at night, until they were killed by hunters. Today, their remains can be seen at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Popularized in the film The Ghost and the Darkness (1996).
~ Measuring Up ~

Inspired by the fairly uncommon episode of man eating lions, this film captures the relentless predatory behavior of the original Tsavo lions, but little else. ~ loosely inspired by historic events.


Primeval

2007
~ The Film ~

Not to be confused with Dynocroc or Supergator. Following an attack on an anthropologist, a news crew to remote Burundi, where they discover a very large man-eating crocodile, responsible for over 300 deaths. Attempts to capture or kill the great crocodile are fruitless.
~ The History ~

This story, very similar to so many man-eating movies on the Science Fiction channel, is actually based on an infamous 20 foot long Nile crocodile named 'Gustave.' Believed to be the largest African crocodile in history, over 300 deaths on the Ruzizi River in Burundi have been attributed to Gustave, although far less were verifiable. Although several efforts to catch Gustave were mounted, none have succeeded. The most recent Gustave sightings were in February 2008 and January 2009.
~ Measuring Up ~

Maneater movies don't allow much space for artistic license, but this movie generally stays true to the major facts, including the location and estimates of fatalities. In fact, the orignal title of the film was 'Gustave,' and he the outcome of the film is generally accurate. The movie does, however, exagerate Gustave's length to 30 feet. ~ inspired by historic elements


Psycho

1960
~ The Film ~

This classic tells the tale of Norman Bates, a quiet loner who runs an isolated hotel and is quite obsessed with his mother. Hitchcock skillfully touches on elements of violence and sexual conflict that were hard to discuss in that era. Norman kills because of that conflict, but retaining human remains is only suggested by the end of the film and his own skills in taxidermy.
~ The History ~

Ed Gein does it again. This was the first film inspired by the Wisconsin murderer, who himself had quite a few issues with his mother and sexual repression. Gein, on the other hand, took a more direct approach.
~ Measuring Up ~

Themes of repression and cross-gender roll playing are key. Norman wears a dress, assuming the guise of his mother, while Gein wore female remains, assuming something a horrific gender-change in the moonlight. Isolation plays a key role as well. Robert Bloch wrote the story just two years after Gein was arrested, while he lived in Weyauwega, WI (only 35 miles from Gein in Plainfield). Although familar with the case, he developed his own details of his story, unaware of how similar the two characters would become "in overt act and apparent motivation." ~ inspired by historic elements


The Quiet Ones

2014
~ The Film ~

Hammer Studios continue their rebirth with this occult thriller about the study of what causes a poltergeist to manifest. From then on, things get rough for troubled experimental subject Jane Harper and an apparition named Evey. The initial marketing of the film prominently featured claims that it is based on actual events.
~ The History ~

The premise of the film, being an experimental attempt to invalidate the spirit world was reportedly conducted in the early 1970s. According to some accounts, a group of Canadian parapsychologists called the Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) actually made such an attempt. Reportedly led by Dr. Alan Owen, a multidisciplinary team began 'the Phillip Experiment' in 1972 to either prove or disprove the paranormal. Using a fictional Phillip Aylesford as their control case, they created his trouble history, and then had the primed test subjects attempt to make psychic contact with him. Eventually, some 'results' were documented, whether or not it was their Phillip or something else entirely. However, if no other documentation about 'the Phillip Experiment' come to light, this may simply be part of the film marketing.
~ Measuring Up ~

Not yet seen, but the premise seems based on the reported history, although it develops its own plot points and back story to amp up the frights. ~ inspired by possible historic events


Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders

2006
~ The Film ~

This direct-to-video knockoff re-tells the story of Angelo Buono, Jr. and Kenneth Bianchi, who together were responsible for the notorious 'Hillside Strangler' murders in California between 1977 and 1978. Reportedly includes their psychological assessment as an element of the film.
~ The History ~

Cousins Bianchi and Buono began a self-destructive descent into abduction, torture and murder over a four-month period near Los Angeles in 1977-78. Originally though to be the work of a single killer, the case was named for the unknown assailant who abandoned his victims on hillsides overlooking the city. One of their potential victims was the daughter of Peter Lorre, who they released after learning her identity. They were eventually captured, tried, and given life sentences in 1983. Buono died in prison in 2002.
~ Measuring Up ~

More of a 'true crime' film, this treatment is likely to be largely accurate in its portrayals of the criminals and their crimes. ~ based on historic events

See also The Hillside Stranglers, above.


Ressurection Mary

2005
~ The Film ~

This fairly weak film follows a craven protagonist who nearly knocks boots with a mysterious woman at a wedding reception. While driving home, she is hitch-hiking, and they pick her up before she causes a horrible car accident. Clearly she is a ghost. She then becomes a 'vigilante-ghost' by killing everyone between her and the stupid protagonist, only to reappear at the end, ready to go again.
~ The History ~

Ressurecton Mary is one of the best known Ghosts in America. Seen since the 1940s near Ressurection Cemetary in Justice, Illinois, she would often meet people at a Willow Springs (Willowbrook?) dance hall. After dancing, she would request a ride home, only to stop the car near the cemetary, often disappearing without a trace. Even credible witnesses such as police officers attest to this tale. Sightings continued into the 1970s, and her identity has been traced to three likely Polish girls buried in the cemetary.
~ Measuring Up ~

After an establishing shot shows the 'Willow Brook' banquet hall, much of the connection to the original tale break down. The hitchhiking ghost has no earthly purpose, and instead of disappearing by the cemetery, she just kind of, well, goes away. A benign spirit has been hijacked as Casper the Terminator. Fooey. ~ poorly inspired by historic motif


Ricky 6

2000
~ The Film ~

This film follows the exploits of Ricky Cowen, a disturbed teen fueled by drugs, who dabbles in Satanism and ritual murder in a suburb of Long Island in 1984. Despite its theatrical premier in 2000, this film has not been widely released since, although bootleg copies are in circulation.
~ The History ~

Ricky Kasso was a teenager convicted of a ritual murder in 1984 following the drug-influenced sacrifice of an acquaintance in the woods. Kasso and his friends reportedly celebrated Walpurgisnacht in the Amityville Horror house in 1984, the year he was apprehended. Kasso committed suicide before he could be tried for the murder. The sensational case was later documented in the true-crime book 'Say You Love Satan' by David St. Clair in 1987.
~ Measuring Up ~

In a clear reference to the actual case and the popular book, the film's Ricky tells his friends 'Come on, you guys. Blow out the candle and say you love Satan.' Other than slightly altering character names, the film attempts to remain faithful to the basic facts of the case; events roughly follow the actual case. ~ based on historic events


Ringu

1998
~ The Film ~

Leading the groundswell of interest in Asian horror around 2000, Ringu tells the story of a lingering psychic energies that cause people to die afte watching a strange video. Throughout the film, the threads all lead back to a woman endowed with strange powers. Mistreated along with her equally powerful daughter, their haunted legacy lives in the taped footage itself.
~ The History ~

The character of Yamamura Shizuko is said to be based on the case of Mifune Chizuko. Born in 1886 (Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan), it was rumored that she was endowed with the gift of foresight (nensha). Encouraged by a professor named Fukurai Tomokichi (1869-1952), who was also mentoring another possible psychic named Takahashi Sadako. However, these claims led to a failed demonstration in 1910, and she committed suicide in 1911 by poison.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although not mother and daughter, the characters of Shizuko and Sadako have close analogies in the historic Chizuko and Sadako. While minimized in the remake The Ring (2001), the formal demonstration of Shizuko's powers (and her failure to produce results) parallel the actual events well. The tragedy of Chizuko's suicide serves the dramatic aspects of the backstory well. The movie takes things a lot farther (the whole 'killer videotape' thing), but the actual adaptations of historic elements seem faithful. ~ inspired by historic elements


The Rite

2011
~ The Film ~

A major release starring Anthony Hopkins, this film (marketed as 'inspired by actual events') follows an American priest as he travels to Italy to study at the Vatican's school for exorcists. Despite his lack of faith, he is exposed to a series of exorcisms that lead him back to the path. At the conclusion of the film, the main character, Michael Kovak, is credited with having performed some 14 exorcisism, while Father Lucas Trevant (Hopkins) had preformed over 2000.
~ The History ~

Since the release of The Exorcist, interest in (and cases of) reported demonic posession have been on the rise. The Vatican openly conducts training for exorcists, as belief in posession and the power of exorcism ultimately support the beliefs of the church. One priest called to fill this gap was Father Gary Thomas, who attended the training in Rome, and worked with a veteran exorcist.
~ Measuring Up ~

Based on the book describing the experiences of Father Gary Thomas, the character names have been changed, and much dramatic license appears to have been taken. Still, as a story of finding faith through exposure to numerous exorcisms, this is generally factual to the events described. The church was generally in favor of this film, despite the horror tone. ~ loosely based on historic elements


Robert the Doll

2015
~ The Film ~

After a couple receive a strange old doll of a boy, strange things begin to happen in their home. By now, everyone should know it is the doll. And his name is Robert.
~ The History ~

Robert the doll does exist, although he is a very vintage looking figure in a sailor suit, formerly owned by author Robert Eugene Otto. He resides the East Martello Museum in Key West, and enjoys local popularity with ghost tours. His appearance is anything but spooky.
~ Measuring Up ~

As with other 'possessed doll' films, the appearance of the doll has been turned creepy. While the story of the film doesn't match up with many of the published facts regarding Robert, the film is clearly inspired by him. ~ loosely based on actual object


Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt

2004
~ The Film ~

In 1850s Spain, a string of mutilated corpses leads to rumors of a werewolf. Deep in the forest, a salesman named Manuel Romasanta visits a family, seemingly unafraid of the supernatural danger. Soon, they mystery of Romasanta and his wagon begins to be revealed. Romasanta is eventually indicated, and he claims lycanthropy as his defense.
~ The History ~

Manual Blanco Romasanta (1809 - 1854) was a Spanish tailor whose life unravelled with the death of his wife. Becoming a street trader in the area of Gallicai, selling lard-based ointment as a healing salve. Increasingly unbalanced, Romasanta killed a sherriff, and then began a brutal series of murders in which the victims remains were savagely bitten, making them resemble the signs of a wolf attack. Once captured, he admitted to killing nine people using only his hands and teeth, often partially devouring his victims amid visions of wolves. A French hypnotist offered the explanation that Romasanta suffered from lycanthropy, which could presumably be cured through hypnosis. The trial lasted nearly a year, and he was sentenced to death by garrote on April 6, 1853. He died in prison before the sentence could be carried out.
~ Measuring Up ~

This case, while improvising characters and relationships, remains true to the general facts of the Romasanta case, preserving the names, places and basic trial elements. The film features a scientist name Phillips (instead of a hypnotist) who pushes the evaluation towards 'mental illness' rather than 'lycanthropy.' The Romasanta story is also the basis of the film The Wolf's Forest (1968), in which the names and many particulars have been changed. Sure, it's post-Warlock Julian Sands as the 'werewolf,' but he is a versitile guy. ~ somewhat accurate


Saw II


2005
~ The Film ~

After the breakout success of indie film Saw (2004), the budding film franchise developed into a cycle of tales following the elaborate judgements of the mysterious Jigsaw. With a methodical genius, he established a pattern of 'choose or die' dilemas for those in his judgement that drove five more sequels until 2010.
~ The History ~

No, not really.

While this is purely a contrived, reverse-engineered backstory, please consider the career of Los Angeles detective John St. John, known as "Jigsaw John." Investigating grisly crimes with a methodical genius, he was contributed to the investigations of many infamous crimes, including the Black Dahlia murder, the Hillside Stranglers, and Night Stalker Richard Ramirez. After a distinguished lifelong comittment to the law, he lost a battle with cancer in 1995. His 51 years with the LAPD earned him the badge number 1.
~ Measuring Up ~

Again, it is very unlikely that any relationship really exists here between the film and the suggested historical link. I only mention it here because several individuals have asserted that this shaky connection exists. Hogwash.

The weak correlation, if it exists at all, may have inspired some elements of the Saw franchise, but not directly. Firstly, the two Jigsaws are clearly on opposite sides of the law, and while both are involved with grisly crimes and meticulous methods, there is little similarity otherwise. However, both Jigsaws succumb to cancer, although the fictional counterpart manages to continue his activities well after his own demise.

Tenuously weak - don't hate me for posting it. ~ no actual resemblance to any specific events


Scream

1996
~ The Film ~

Wickedly self-aware, this film follows the plight of a group of teens pursued by a masked, knife-wielding killer. The art is in the telling, and the opening sequence with Drew Barrymore has beome a classic.
~ The History ~

Wes Craven was reportedly inspired by the March 9, 1994 episode of the television newsmagazine Turning Point, which ran a segment regarding a serial killer who murdered 5 college students in Gainesville, Florida in 1990. A drifter named Danny Rolling was convicted of the brutal knife murders/mutilations, and put to death in October, 2006 for these crimes.
~ Measuring Up ~

The fear that gripped Gainesvile is echoed in the cast of this film, and emphasis of a knife as the weapon makes a close tie with the actual crimes. The degree of brutality and the friendships of the victims also rings true, although the theatrical nature of the movie killer's costume invites a welcome degree of detatchment from the actual horrors of the crimes. ~ inspired by historic elements


Seed

2007
~ The Film ~

Oh lord, it's Uwe Boll again. This film presents Max Seed, who has killed 666 people over the last 6 years. He taunts police with videos of his victims, which eventually results in his capture. Sentenced to death by electrocution, he survives the first two attempts, the warden has him buried alive - but he returns from the grave (Get is? Seed? Get it?), ready to take his spooky revenge.
~ The History ~

This film was inspired by the urban legend that a convict who survives 3 rounds in the electric chair would be granted freedom. Today, only a handful of states still offer the option of electrocution for the death penalty, as it is seen as cruel.

In 1903, Sing Sing prisoner Fred Van Wormer was the last person unsuccessfully electrocuted to death under normal circumstances - He barely survived the first attempt, and was re-set in the chair for another charge. The second charge was successful, although they gave his corpse a third round (reportedly 1700 volts for 30 seconds) just to be sure. No attempt was made to set him free based on these events.

In 1946, a drunken trustee improperly set up the electric chair for Willie Francis, who shreiked and suffered for quite a while. His lawyers attempted to intevene, citing that he 'had been executed' (despite remaining alive), but this argument was rejected and he was successfully electrocuted in 1947.
~ Measuring Up ~

When released, a press announcement stated that this film was based on 'true events,' but that seems limited to the notion that surviving 3 electrocution attempts grants freedom. In this case, Seed survived to rounds, only to be thrown into a grave. So in that respect, this film was inspired by an idea, rather than specific historical events. ~ inspired by folklore


The Serpent and the Rainbow

1988
~ The Film ~

Wes Craven was inspired by actual events again when he created this exploration of Voodoo in the fate that can befall outsiders. Bill Pullman is put through the ringer of experiences and abuses at the hand of a closely guarded cult, as he plays a man under the employ of a pharmaceutical company attempting to obtain the paralyzing drug used to simulate near-death in voodoo rituals.
~ The History ~

Based loosely on the account of Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who researched the powdered toxins administered by voodoo priest to induce a near-death state. Also absorbed were aspects of the case of Clairvius Narcisse, who was reportedly held in a zombiefied state for 18 years beginning in 1962 (until the death of his 'master'). After being rescued, he eventually regained his sanity. Davis published his account in 1985 in a book by the same name, which included the Narcisse case in detail.
~ Measuring Up ~

The circumstances follow Davis' experiences, combined for dramatic purposes with the Clairvius Narcisse case. The elusve trance-inducing drug, tetrodotoxin, does in fact exist. Additional characters in the film are based loosely on major political figures of Haiti during that period.

Wade Davis apparently expressed sharp disdain for this film. ~ surprisingly accurate


The Shining

1980
~ The Film ~

Stanley Kubric's bold re-interpretation of the Stephen King classic (1977) follows the troubled Jack Torrance, who moves his family into the isolated and storied Overlook Hotel over the winter. Jack's own 'inner demons' are expoited by the unquiet spirits and dark histories that taint this sprawling hotel as the winter snow locks them all in. A fine story, haunting and vivid imagery, and Kubric's skills make this film a modern classic.
~ The History ~

In 1974, Stephen King moved his family (somewhat at random) to Boulder, Colorado to experience a change of setting following his first two successful novels. On October 30, they took a short vacation trip to the historic Stanley Hotel, which lies in the isolated foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They checked in on the day the hotel was closing for the winter, and were the only guests. Dining alone amid echoing taped music and wandering long endless empty corridors, they were told that their room, 217, was reportedly 'haunted.' After dinner, King stopped by the bar, tended to by a bartender named Grady. After a night of fitful dreams, King had his next book laid out in his mind.
~ Measuring Up ~

Seldom has a writer had a more direct inspiration. The vast, isolated mountain hotel closing for the season, the bartender Grady, the haunted room 217 and King's own 'inner demons' came together to form a bestselling novel that inspired two film treatments. ~ based on author experiences


The Silence of the Lambs

1991
~ The Film ~

Based on the 1988 novel by Thomas Harris, this film follows the new FBI agent Starling, who interviews one incarcerated serial killer (Hannibal Lechter) to solve the ongoing case of another (Buffalo Bill). Lechter's relationship with Starling, as well as the horrors committed by Lechter, make this film.
~ The History ~

Harris based his two serial killers on composites of real-life serial killers. Hannibal Lechter, while in prison, offers insight into an ongoing case, similar to the offers of assistance in the Green River Killer case given by Ted Bundy from death row in October of 1984. In fact, it has been suggested that the overall inspiration for the story came from the odd relationship between University of Washington criminology professor Robert Keppel and Bundy during this period. Elements of Buffalo Bill (Jame Gumb) are the making of garments from human flesh (based on Ed Gein), using a fake arm cast to feign helplessness while obtaining victims (a ruse used by Ted Bundy on several occasions), the use of a deep hole in his basement to hold his victims (used by Gary Heidnik), and (in the novel) his own grandparents as his first victims (Edmund Kemper).
~ Measuring Up ~

The story itself echoes the relationship between profiler Robert Keppel and Ted Bundy, although, unlike this story, Bundy was executed some 12 years before the Green River Killer was apprehended. Adapting elements of real killers adds resonance to the most disturbing characters, cashing in on the cultural awareness of their awful crimes. Rather than create random spooky personality quirks, Harris crafted his killers from bits of reality, lending credibility to their menace. Fine actors crafted their own performances, further burying this source material, and helping to make these killers their own creations. ~ inspired by several historic elements


The Silent House

2010
~ The Film ~

A girl and her father arrive at a remote cottage to make repairs. After spending the night, a strange sound begins and gradually intensifies. The sound appears to be coming from outside, although it is loudest in the second floor of the building. The girl's father goes up to investigate, leaving his daughter waiting alone as the tension mounts.
~ The History ~

Reportely based on events occurring in Uruguay in the 1940s. Director Gustavo Hernįndéz recalls hearing accounts of shocking murders and mutilations as a teen in Uruguay. Reportedly, Polaroid photographs of the victims were in circulation, but never actually seen. Subsequent efforts to substantiate these tales against police records were inconclusive. Hernįndéz’s chose to combine this backstory with his own childhood experience of hearing a strange sound coming from the mezzanine of his home. Although faint, it paralyzed him with fear as he focused all of his attention on the sound, hoping to discover a mundane explanation (such as the wind pushing a half-opened window). While it is not clear that he ever discovered the source of the noise, he effectively translated his childhood terror into an aspect of his film.
~ Measuring Up ~

This film is inspired by the director's own childhood experiences combined with a likely urban legend from his adolescence. It artfully explores a combination of both, succeeding as 'inspired' but not 'depicting' these events. ~ inspired by combined events


Silent House

2012
~ The Film ~

Remake of The Silent House from Uruguay. A girl and her father arrive at a remote, lakeside cottage to make improvements. After strange sounds are observed, the father investigates, leaving his daughter waiting alone.
~ The History ~

Reportely based on events occurring in Uruguay in the 1940s. However, no information to substantiate this claim has been identified. Since this is a remake, it is likely that they are just using the 'inspired by real events' tag to gain attention.
~ Measuring Up ~

As a remake, it is difficult to say that this film was inspired by anything beyond the desire to reach American audiences and their money. ~ inspired by someone else's movie


Slaughter

2009
~ The Film ~

An abused young woman moves to a friend's farm near Atlanta. A farm with her creepy family. From there, things suddenly get much worse, as her friend keeps bringing home men who disappear. Also, her friend's father and brothers keep hanging around the old slaughterhouse on the farm. Reportedly, this movie stinks on its own.
~ The History ~

Reportedly based on the 'Bloody Benders,' a family of homesteading serial killers from Kansas around 1873. The family of John Bender and his wife Kate also included son John Jr. and daughter Kate, who reportedly were more than close. The front of their home was used as a general store. Beginning in 1871 with the discovery of multiple human remains at a nearby creek, combinded with the odd behavior of the Benders, local suspicion centered on the family. A number of mutilated remains were found on the property, after which the Benders escaped. They reportedly used a trap door below the dinner table to dispatch wealthy visitors after a hammer strike to the head. Their ultimate fate is unknown.
~ Measuring Up ~

Director Stewart Hopewell reportedly confirmed that the film is a modern retelling of the Bender story. I am not racing out to see this reported stinker. ~ inspired by historic events


The Stepfather

1987
~ The Film ~

After murdering his current family and changing identities, Jerry Blake marries a widow, but her daughter remains suspicious of his character. He gradually improves his relationship with her, just as the shadows of his murderous past begin snooping around, looking for his last 'persona.' As the net tightens, it looks like killing the current famil (again) may be his best option.
~ The History ~

In 1971, John List murdered his wife, mother and three children in their quiet New Jersey neighborhood. Cold-bloodedly, he watched his oldest son play in a soccer game before taking him home and shooting him at least ten times. He then cleaned up the crime scene, turned on the lights and a radio, locked up and left. When the crime was discovered a month later, it was learned that List had meticulously planned out the entire crime (even sending notes to work and school, cancelling deliveries), including his own absolute disappearance. Hidden for 18 years, he was finally arrested (as Bob Clark, remarried in Colorado)after his story was aired on America's Most Wanted in June of 1989. He was given a life sentence, and died in prison in 2008.
~ Measuring Up ~

The hunt for John List was well publicized at the time, and provided the basic theme of the film. However, no attempt was made to document List, instead creating a similar work of fiction based on his atrocities. ~ inspired by historic events


The Strangers

2008
~ The Film ~

After a wedding, a couple returns to their secluded cabin. A woman knocks on the door, looking for a person who does not live there. Later, a group of masked strangers descend on the couple, terrorizing, abducting and finally stabbing them repeatedly. When asked 'why?' they respond 'because you were home.'
~ The History ~

According to director Bertino, this film was inspired by an event from his own childhood in which a stranger came to his home asking for someone who was not there. Later, it was learned that vacant homes in the neighborhood had been broken into that night, and an assumed connection was formed. However, it should be noted that there were no murders, knives or scary masks. In other interviews, he also cited inspiration from the Manson family murders in 1969, which also fit this general pattern. The common thread is seemingly random brutality invading the safety of a home.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although the film opens with the narration "What you are about to see is inspired by true events. According to the F.B.I. there are an estimated 1.4 million violent crimes in America each year. On the night of February 11, 2005 Kristen McKay and James Hoyt went to a friend's wedding reception and then returned to the Hoyt family's summer home. The brutal events that took place there are still not entirely known," the construction of this film bear little resemblance to the events it purportedly depicts. In this case, 'inspired by' is more accurate than representing the film as anything approaching a factual depiction of a specific set of crimes. In the director's experience as well as the film, a woman knocked on the door inquiring about some other person. Beyond that, there is little basis in fact. ~ somewhat inspired by a few events


Suspiria

1977
~ The Film ~

A young American girl arrives at an exclusinve European ballet school deep in the forest. Bizzarre things begin to occur, and she gradually learns that the school is a front for an ancient coven of witches.
~ The History ~

Reportedly, director Dario Argento's girlfriend during the late 1970s, Daria Nicolidi (who contributed much to the film) provided the story. By one account, Nicolidi's grandmother claimed to have attended and then fled a German music academy after learning that witchcraft was secretly being practiced.

During a Gorezone interview by Christian Sellers, Nicolidi herself stated:
I wrote Suspuria for Argento... title, subject and script. The inspiration came from a tale my grandmother, Yvonne, used to tell me when I was a child, after an experience she had in a northern acting academy where she discovered the teachers were teaching arts, but also black magic. I was fond of this story of hers more than Pinnocchio by Collodi, and when I told it to Dario it was natural for him to fall in love with it too. It was his first step from thrillers to fantasy-alchemy movies and we did it together.

The climax of the film was reportedly inspired by a dream that Nicolidi once had, in which she encountered an invisible witch in a room, followed by the sudden arrival of a panther, which proceed to explode. As filmed, it is a porcelain panther that explodes.
~ Measuring Up ~

The film provides a richly expansive treatment of the story provided, and, in the absence of additional details from Nicolidi's grandmother, does a fine job with the elements at hand. ~ Inspired by reportedly true events


The Tell-Tale Heart

1843
Adapted in film 1889 et al.
~ The Story ~

Poe tells the story of the carefully planned murder of an old man in the darkness of his own bedchamber. Once the deed was done, however, the killer became overwhelmed with the guilty secret, sure that the investigators could hear the very beating of the victim's dead heart below the floorboards - ultimately blurting out a confession to the surprised authorities.
~ The History ~

Following the bludgeoning/stabbing murder of Captain Joseph White in the bed of his Salem home on April 6, 1830, the town demanded justice. Following an extensive and often misguided investigation (including one mistrial of the prime suspect), the cards were stacked for conviction as legendary orator Daniel Webster joined the procecution team against Frank Knapp that August. Webster's summation for the jury described in poetic detail the atmosphere of the carefully planned killing, splashed in moonlight. He wound up describing the uncontrollable urge to confess that must surely be held by the killer. The jury agreed to convict Knapp in just five hours. Considered to be one of the finest orations of all time, Websters words were well publicized and later published.
~ Measuring Up ~

Both Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne appear to have been influenced by Webster's passionate oration. Poe's tale includes all the dramatic elements, from the careful, silent murder of the old man in his bed, to the growing surge of guilt that transcends control. Adapted in film many times, this tale remains one of Poe's best. ~ some aspects inspired by historic elements


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

1974
~ The Film ~

Travelling teens in Texas stop at the wrong house, and become the victims of a family of maniacs. The home is trimmed with furniture and decorations made from human remains, and Leatherface wears masks and other items fashioned from the skin of his victims. In the prologue, it is mentioned that the area is plagued with acts of gravesite desecration and graverobbing. Who will survive, and what will be left of them?
~ The History ~

Described as 'inspired by true events,' this film loosely borrows from the late 1950's activities of Ed Gein of Wisconsin (not Texas). Ed dug up quite a few women from the local cemetery, fashioning articles of clothing from their skin (and unmentionables) before actually committing murder. However, he worked quite alone at his secluded farmhouse, being the quiet sort who kept to himself.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although this is a very loose adaptation, the themes of farmhouse isolation and donning of human remains provide the necessary link. Both Gein's history and this film feature furniture made from bones, and a freezer full of human remains, and hints of necrophelia. However, the Chainsaw characters are apparently driven by resentment of changing times and violence for the sake of violence, rather than repression and necrophelia. Still, both have serious mental problems. The image of Leatherface remains the tightest link to the source material.

Tobe Hooper has gone on to disclose that the characters were inspired by Gein's behavior, but the chainsaw inspiration came from a hardware display at a Montgomery Ward store in Capital Plaza while he was developing the story. ~ very loosely inspired by historic elements


Them

(aka Ils)
2006
~ The Film ~

Not the more famous gigantic bug movie. Similar to The Strangers, this French film deals with a couple at their secluded home who awaken to find that their car is being stolen and their power/phone lines have been cut. Wierdos with lights invade and terrorize them, and it is ultimately revealed that the antagonists are homicidal children keeping themselves entertained.
~ The History ~

Reportedly, this film was inspired by an Australian incident in which a couple was murdered in their home by three invading teens.
~ Measuring Up ~

Marketed in France as Ils with the tagline "Inspire de Faits Reels". Certainly, the teens have been replaced by children to amp up the shudder factor, but consider the limitless brutality of which adolescents appear to be capable. This anchors such a film firmly in the realm of the plausible, and adds to the horror. It is intersting that one of the victims is a teacher, which almost foreshadows the revelation of the attacking children. ~ somewhat inspired by historic elements


The Town that Dreaded Sundown

1977
~ The Film ~

In 1946 rural Arkansas, a Texas Ranger searches for a masked serial killer that has terrorized the community. Watch for Dawn Wells, who had played Mary Anne on Gilligan's Island.
~ The History ~

Between February 23 and May 4, 1946, a hooded killer terrorized the Texarkana, Texas region. Known as the 'Phantom Killer,' the 'Texarkana Phantom' and the 'Moonlight Murderer,' he was known to strike most often when the moon was full. Committing numerous murders and sexual assaults along remote rural roads and farms, he was never apprehended, although the primary suspect was convicted of other crimes.
~ Measuring Up ~

Um... I haven't seen this movie yet. However, the general facts seem to line up. ~ likely to be fairly accurate


Tusk

2014
~ The Film ~

Follows a podcast shock-jock who travels to a remote Canadian estate, meets an unusual older gentleman, and proceeds to have a transformative experience. Into a walrus. Not strictly horror, but the film contains many decidedly horror aspects.
~ The History ~

TBD - but at this point, it seems to have been inspired by a lodger who requested that his tenants act like certain animals.
~ Measuring Up ~

This is a fine and amusing film, but it is a work of fiction only loosely inspired by an odd advertisement. ~ loosely inspired by actual events


The Untold

2002
~ The Film ~

While searching for a corporate plane that was lost over the remote Pacific Northwest United States, the eventual discovery of the plane, torn to bits, creates more questions than answers. Could it be... Bigfoot? Because you would never expect that from a film seen frequently as Sasquatch on the SciFi channel.
~ The History ~

Remote areas are indeed known to exist in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes planes crash there. And that's about all there is to say about this history until Bigfoot shows up.
~ Measuring Up ~

Apparently marketed with the legend 'based on actual accounts,' this appears to be another example of marketing teams gone wrong. Unless the producers were reading about prominent businessmen who occasionally suffer plane crashes in the wilderness; the most widely-known case, involving Steve Fossett in 2007 had not yet occurred when this film was made. I suspect that they loosely based this on reported encounters with Bigfoot - that might explain it. ~ not based on historical events


Witchfinder General

(aka The Conqueror Worm)
1968
~ The Film ~

Vincent Price offers a somewhat subdued menace as sadistic opportunist Matthew Hopkins, who begins a rampage of accusation, torture, and murder as a witchfinder in a time of military unrest. He and his sadistic assistant (thug) travel from village to village creating havoc wherever they go. Ultimately, a vengeful soldier manages to exact his revenge. For its time (1968), the film was brutal, shocking, and successful.
~ The History ~

The film is based loosely on the book Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett (1966), which is based on the historical Matthew Hopkins (ca. 1620-1647), who notoriously hunted witches during the English Civil War. Hopkins appointed himself the title of "Witch Finder General," although no offical office existed. He generally used bloodless forms of torture (sleep deprivation, constant walking, dunking), but also employed pricking by needles to reveal spectral evidence. He was well paid for his efforts, and generally reviled by the communities he put to the test. Although there are folkloric accounts that he was himself dunked until drowning, the general evidence suggests that he died in his own home as a result of tuberculosis.
~ Measuring Up ~

The general facts line up surprisingly well - Hopkins, a highly motivated witchfinder, did indeed have an assistant named John Stearne. The timeframe and depictions of locations are generally in keeping with the actual history. While Hopkins and Stearne probably did not participate in extensive torture and rape, they did a fair amount of needle-based interrogation, which is featured in the film. Earlier treatments of the script were reportedly more brutal and explicit, so the final film is probably closest to the historic degree of Hopkins' torture methods. Hopkin's death, at least, opted for a hollywood treatment to resolve the protagonist's vengance, rather than anything based on actual or popular history. ~ inspired by historic elements


Wolf Creek

2005
~ The Film ~

A group of young tourists in Australia have vehicle problems out in the middle of nowhere (which is specifically a large crater at Wolf Creek), but a friendly 'Bruce' (named Mick) on walkabout comes to their aid. Then things go sour very quickly, and the fim becomes an unflinching torture festival, as they are preyed upon, abused, tortured, mutilated and murdered by a sadistic outback serial killer.
~ The History ~

Two Austrailian murder cases provided inspiration for this film, most notably the "Backpacker Murderer" Ivan Milat between 1991 and 1993. Abducting backpacking tourists in the wilderness, Milat leisurely tortured and mutilated as many as seven victims, burying their remains in the remote Belanglo State Forest. A wide variety of methods were used on the individual victims, sometimes employing multiple non-lethal gunshot wounds, and other times involving a knife or strangulation. Milat was apprehended after a failed abduction, and is currently incarcerated.

Also cited as contributing inspiration to the film is the 2001 outback abduction of two British backpackers (Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees) by Bradley John Murdoch. Lees escaped during the abduction, but Falconio was murdered, and his remains have never been located. Murdoch was convicted despite some confusion by Lees, and remains incarcerated.
~ Measuring Up ~

Although the film is a loose adaptation of these events, it is accurate in a general sense, with a lone outbacker abducting and torturing tourists in the remote Australian wilderness. The first shooting torture scene of the film is especially consistent with some of the facts of the Milat case, as is the variety of the assaults. The escape of a survivor is more consistent with the Murdoch case. However, the dangling conclusion of the film departs from actual events, as a loose monster is more frightening than a kept prisoner. ~ inspired by several historic elements


Wraiths of Roanoke

2007
~ The Film ~

Another original SciFi production, this film speculates that the Lost Colony of Roanoke was besieged by spooky wraiths, which ultimately forced their disappearance in the 1580s. Apparently, the unquiet spirits are the previous victims of a Viking raiding party on the island.
~ The History ~

An early English settlement in North America, Roanoke Island was settled in 1586, but political pressures prevented a restocking visit until 1590. By that time, the fortification was deserted and dismantled, without sign of struggle. The only clue was the word 'croatoan' carved into a wooden post. Beyond this, no solid evidence has been found.
~ Measuring Up ~

The actual names of people and places firm up this speculative exercise, but little beyond that is tied to the sparse facts. I don't recall if they pulled the 'croatoan' reference into this, but I suspect they did. ~ fantastic extrapolation of an actual event


Zodiac

2007
~ The Film ~

This major release film, depicting journalist Robert Graysmith's long term investigation into the Zodiac murders, is based largely on Graysmith's book, and follows him through his years of inquiry. It is the story of this investigation, rather than the murders themselves, that drives this film.
~ The History ~

News cartoonist Robert Graysmith's definitive book on the subject uses a journalist's acumen to document the facts surrounding the Zodiac killings in late 1960's California. Graysmith has dedicated much of his life to the identification of the Zodiac killer, who prowled California in the late 1960s, baiting the police with encrypted letters and wearing improvised gear on his excursions. He was never apprehended, although the murders seemed to stop by the early 1970s.
~ Measuring Up ~

While given the full Hollywood treatment, this tale of Graysmith's obesssion and its costs is generally accurate while being trimmed for brevity. This approach allowed the film to find resolution in Graysmith's character, rather than in the Zodiac case, which remains unsolved. Director David Fincher flavored the film with additional research which he conducted with this staff. The two survivors of Zodiac attacks also served as consultants on the film, adding to the credibility of its treatment. ~ quite accurate