Based on a True Story,’ or “Inspired by Actual Events”; are just two phrases that, when added to a cinematic production are guaranteed to raise eyebrows as well as ticket sales. Why; well it seems that when we see phrases such as these, our proverbial antennas rise and immediately we won’t know about the horrible tale that happened to somebody just like ourselves. Already attracted to the film by either enjoying a previously written novel about the movie’s subject matter or as a result of the film’s top-notched marketing team creating a movie trailer so alluring it becomes a “must see” production in your weekend’s “to do” list. We rush to the theater, but no longer are we simply going to the movies; because of the simple phrase, we are now preparing to see a cautionary tale. In other words, a 90-minute public service announcement letting us know that if you find ourselves in similar situations, and if you aren’t careful; the events that occur in this motion picture could happen to you, enjoy your movie.
1) BORDERLAND is a 2007 horror film based on the life of Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo. A major player in the drug trade of the 80’s, Nicknamed, “El Padrino de Matamoros”, (The Godfather of Matamoros ) Constanzo believed that his spells, potions, and beliefs kept he and his cartel free from police intervention and allowed them to operate in complete anonymity. After rumors of him being the leader of a religious cult that practiced human sacrifice, the media dubbed Constanzo and his followers, “Narco-Satanists.” It would be the kidnapping and murder of University of Texas junior, Mark J. Kilroy, in the spring of 1989 that would lead to the cult’s exposure and downfall.
2) THE ENTITY is a 1982 horror film starring Barbara Hershey as a woman who is raped and tormented by an invisible assailant. Originally a novel, the film is based on the alleged poltergeist assault on Doris Bither. In 1974, Doris Bither, a single mother of four, alleged that the ghosts of three Asian men were raping her. She claimed two would hold her down while the third raped her. During the investigation into her claim, supernatural professionals were contacted as well as mental health experts. During the investigation, it was uncovered that Bither had a history of physical and substance abuse. Throughout her life, she had been in multiple abusive relationships and had a traumatic childhood.
3) THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a horror film from Wes Craven. The film is centered around a family of severely deformed inbred, mutant, cannibals as they trap, attack and kill unsuspecting travelers. The movie is based on the life of Sawney Bean and his clan. Sawney Bean was said to be the head of a 48-member clan in Scotland somewhere between the 13th and 16th centuries. The clan was reported to blame for the robbery, murder, and cannibalization of over 1,000 people. King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) was made aware of the clan and their crimes and lead a manhunt of 400 men and several bloodhounds. The Beans were found in a cave in Bennane Head. The cave was scattered with human remains and was the crime scene for countless murders and cannibalistic acts. The clan was executed without trial; the men had their genitalia cut off, and were hanged, drawn and quartered and soon bled to death. After watching the men die the women and children, were burned alive.
4) CHILD’S PLAY is a 1988 horror movie about a widowed mother who gives her son a doll for his birthday. Unbeknownst to all, the doll is possessed by the soul of an infamous serial killer portrayed by Academy Award nominee and one of my favorite actors, Brad Douriff. The movie is inspired by the story of Robert Gene Otto and his doll, Robert.
According to the story, Robert Gene Otto was given the doll by his grandfather as a birthday gift in 1904. Otto named the doll Robert, “family and friends referred to Otto as Gene”, and soon became Gene’s, “best friend.” As the legend goes, Otto and Robert were inseparable. Various mishaps would happen around the Otto home and young Gene would adamantly blame the doll, Robert. It was said that on occasions Gene could be heard in his room, sitting in his room with the door closed; speaking to someone that answered back in a totally different voice. While at school, Gene would sit Robert in a chair facing the window. Neighbors swore that they would see the doll moving from room to room as well as wave from the window.
Robert Gene Otto married, raised his family and died in 1974 all with Robert the doll at his side. After his death, his home, as well as the doll within, was sold to Myrtle Reuter who owned them for an additional 20 years. During that time the mysteries and mystique surrounding the doll continued. In 1994 the doll was donated to the East Martello Museum and became a popular tourist attraction.
5) THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a slasher/horror movie based on the actual crimes that were known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders. The unsolved attacks were attributed to an unidentified serial killer known as the Phantom Killer. The Phantom attacked eight people between February 22 and May 3, 1946, in or near the town of Texarkana, Texas. Five of those attacked were killed hence the name Texarkana Moonlight Murders.
Most of the murders occurred in rural areas just outside Texarkana, in Bowie County, Texas. The residents of the area went into a state of panic throughout the summer of 1946. From sundown each evening the inhabitants heavily armed themselves and locked themselves indoors while police patrolled streets and neighborhoods. Despite various theories and opinions from crime experts, the murders are still unsolved.
6) HENRY; PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER is a 1986 horror/thriller starring Michael Rooker depicting the real-life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The movie covers the life and crimes of Lucas before and after his team up with fellow serial murderer Ottis Toole. The movie depicts Lucas and Toole as some sort of depraved buddy flick, however, does illustrate the gruesome heinousness of both of these killers. Already considered controversial by critics the movie was initially rated X by the MPAA due to the sheer brutality. Eventually editted to an unrated version the film was shot on 16mm in less than a month with a budget of $110,000 but brought in approximately 1,000,000 worldwide, despite being banned in many areas.
Arrested in 1983, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to over 1000 murders. Investigators had the task of deciphering the true confessions to those that were fictitious. When he started confessing to numerous unsolved cases, he was initially considered credible. Based on evidence collected police knew that he had truthfully admitted committing two killings. However, after further information was acquired in many cases, investigators found that many of Lucas’s confessions were made up to get out of his cell and improve his living conditions. Authorities did, however, treat several confessions as potentially genuine.
Henry Lee Lucas was convicted of 11 murders and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1998 by Governor George W. Bush. On March 12, 2001, at 11pm Lucas was found dead in prison from heart failure at age 64.
7) THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT is a 2009 psychological horror film based on Carmen Snedeker and her family. In the film, we are also introduced to Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens were American paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of hauntings. The movie is based on an actual entry in their case files.
Sara Campbell, (portrayed by Virginia Madsen), her husband Peter and her cancer-riddled son Matthew are looking for a rental home near the hospital providing Matt’s cancer treatment. The couple finds the perfect house and moves in. Initially, all seems well until Matthew begins to see hallucinations and experience night terrors. The bottom line is that the home was formerly a funeral home where the owner practiced necromancy as well as necrophilia. This was true in the movie as well as in real life,
The actual validity of the based on true events tag has recently come under fire but since I’ve got it in here already and don’t feel like replacing it with another movie we will consider it real events.
8) JACK KETCHUM’S, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a 2007 horror film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s 1989 novel of the same name. The title is written in such a way so not to be confused with the comedy movie of the same name. The film is based on true events surrounding the torture and murder of Sylvia Likens by Gertrude Baniszewski during the summer of 1965.
The film is told from the point of view of David Moran, a child that grew up with the film’s main character and actually had a crush on her. The film opens in the current day, after attempting to assist a tragic car accident victim earlier that day David sits home alone later that evening and thinks back to the summer of 1958. His first teenage crush came that year in the form of Meg Loughlin. Meg and her sister Susan had come to stay with his next-door neighbor; their aunt, Ruth Chandler. Meg and Susan’s parents had been killed in a tragic auto accident.
Upon their arrival, Ruth immediately alienates her nieces. She starves Meg, accusing her of being a whore. The abuse dealt to the two girls by their aunt and her sons are sickening; especially to Meg. Ruth chains Meg in the basement while continuing to starve the girl; Ruth’s sons, her cousins are allowed to violate Meg in any way imaginable. The deplorable treatment illustrated in the movie depicts the real-life abuse that Sylvia Likens went through at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski during the summer of 1965.
The Likens’ parents, were carnival workers. Initially, they left Sylvia and her sister, Jenny, in the care of the Baniszewski family, paying Gertrude $20 a week to care for the sisters. When his payment arrived late one week, Baniszewski beat the Likens girls on their bare buttocks with paddles. That was the beginning of the abuse that would not see an end until the death of young Sylvia Likens on October 26, 1965. Sylvia was only 16 years old.
9) THE STRANGERS is a 2008 horror film starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. Kristen and James have come to the family vacation home for a relaxing retreat. There is a noticeable tension between the couple and we soon find out that James actually proposed to Kristen earlier; she refused. As they make themselves comfortable there is a loud knock at the door. James answers and a mysterious woman asks for Tamara. He informs the lady that she is mistaken and she casually says see you later as she walks away.
Due to the tension, James takes a drive to the nearby convenience store. While he is gone Tamara receives another knock at the door however when she answers no one is there. James returns and from that point, they are engaged in a fight for their lives from three assailants that just happen to have picked their home to terrorize for no reason other than the fact that they were home.
The movie is based on The Keddie Cabin Murders. The Keddie cabin murders is an unsolved 1981 American quadruple homicide that occurred in Keddie, California. The murders took place in Cabin 28 of the Keddie Resort located in the small Sierra Nevada mountain communities of Keddie and Quincy in northern California late on the evening of April 11, 1981.
10) SAW is a 2004 horror film by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. The film never claims to be inspired by real events, I just thought the use of traps were ironic and eerily similar to those used by the man widely accredited as being the world’s first serial killer.
John Kramer, (portrayed brilliantly by Tobin Bell) is a man disappointed by what he feels mankind has become. Adding insult to injury Kramer finds out that he is dying from inoperable cancer. contemplates suicide as he drives down the highway. Deciding to go for it he drives through the guardrail and into a trail. Severely injured but alive John Kramer has an epiphany and a new lease on life. He pulls himself out of the accident debris, not only deciding to live but determined to help others see just how much a blessing life is. From this point forward and for the duration of 8 films, John Kramer puts individuals to the test. He, with the help of his handpicked assistants, develops traps for those that he feels do not value their lives. The traps, for the most part; are designed that if the individual truly wants to live they will satisfy the requirements of the game and make their way out of the trap; at any cost.
Dr. H.H. Holmes aka Herman Webster Mudgett is quite possibly America’s first documented serial killer. Holmes arrived in Chicago in August 1886 and set up shop at the southwest corner of 63rd Street and Wallace Avenue in the Englewood area of my great city. He worked for the Holton’s pharmacy there until he was able to purchase property directly across the street. During this [period many of Holmes’ acquaintances came up missing, suspiciously, however for relevance sake I want to concentrate emphasis on his murder hotel.
In 1893, Jackson Park; an area 3 miles east of Holmes’ property, became the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Also known as the Columbian Exposition, the event attracted more than 27 million visitors to Chicago. During this time Holmes built the hotel that would become known as his “Murder Castle”; a labyrinthine structure with shops on the first floor and small apartments and hotel rooms on the floors above.
The structure he built consisted of stairways to nowhere, Doors that opened to brick walls. Holmes hired and fired various contractors during the castle’s construction, this insured that no one other than himself knew the full layout of the building. Holmes’ booby-trapped Murder Castle made use of various manners of traps and torture methods that guests would find themselves in. Some rooms were soundproofed so the cries of tortured victims could not be heard. Other rooms had been made airtight, he would pump toxic gas in through the vents. The hotel consisted secret passages and a disorienting maze of hallways and staircases. The rooms were also outfitted with trapdoors over chutes that dropped Holmes’ unsuspecting victims to the building’s basement. The basement consisted of acid vats, pits of quicklime (often used on decaying corpses) and a crematorium, which the killer used to turn his victims into ash.
Holmes lured many visitors to the Columbian Exposition to his sinister lair. It is said that Holmes’ over 200 victims fell prey to the traps of his “Murder Castle; though the exact number of his victims is still debated by historians. After family members of victims came forward concerning the whereabouts of their missing relatives Holmes fled Chicago. Holmes was apprehended in Boston in October 1893, following the conclusion of the World’s Fair. After a brief incarceration, Holmes was hanged for his crimes in Philadelphia in 1896. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
Well, that’s it, 10 movies and the real-life acts of depravity that inspired them. Were there others that you were thinking about. If so let me know. Don’t forget to share, like and subscribe and until next time take care.