Sometimes the best horror movies are based on, inspired by, or just loosely borrow elements from real-life stories. Earlier this year, The Conjuring, based on the (supposedly) true story of a family living in a haunted farmhouse was a breakout hit and got us looking back at some of our favorite horror movies based--or so they say--on true stories.
By Stacie Hougland
The Conjuring (2013)
The Movie: In The Conjuring, paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, must confront a dark entity haunting a couple in their farmhouse.
Based On: The Warrens were American paranormal investigators and authors associated with prominent cases of hauntings, including this occurrence that terrorized a couple on their East Coast farmhouse. They also investigated the Amityville Horror. Yup, they got around.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
The Movie: By now we all know the origin story was likely a hoax, but back then, the story about a Long Island house haunted by evil spirits was pretty terrifying, whether real or fake.
Based On: A controversial book about the Lutz family, who claimed to have experienced strange sounds, unholy visions and violent acts in their house that had been the site of a family's murder. The Lutzes maintained the story's veracity until their deaths.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
The Movie: Michael Rooker stars as the titular murderer, who kills people on a whim with power cables, soldering irons, metal combs and whatever else he can get his hands on, with an accomplice he meets in prison while serving time for killing his own mother.
Based On: Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to over 600 murders and was convicted of 11.
The Exorcist (1973)
The Movie: A young girl (Linda Blair) becomes possessed by a Satanic demon that causes vomiting, head-rotation and rampant swearing.
Based On: William Peter Blatty's novel that was itself based on the case of a supposedly possessed 13-year-old boy who was exorcised by two Jesuit priests in 1949. His behavior, though, was not as...extreme as portrayed by Linda Blair.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Movie: A group of friends encounter a house in the middle of nowhere whose inhabitants include a murderous cannibal who earns the name Leatherface due to a fondnessfor human-skin masks.
Based On: The film itself is pure fiction, but Leatherface and some of the plot was inspired by serial killer Ed Gein, who dismembered folks and turned their skin and bones into household tchotchkes. (See also: Psycho)
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)
The Movie: A man hired by a pharmaceuticals company to find a "human zombie drug" in Haiti falls in with some scary voodoo practicioners who torture him, frame him for murder, then bury him alive.
Based On: Very loosely, the story of a Haitian who supposedly returned from the dead a zombie but who very likely was given a drug that mimicked death.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
The Movie: The Campbells move to a house close to the hospital where their teen son is receiving cancer treatment--of course, it turns out to be a haunted mortuary with a sordid past.
Based On: A Connecticut family in a similar situation whose house was supposedly haunted by morticians who engaged in necromancy. It was exorcised in 1988. The truth of this, like Amityville, has been disputed.
The Strangers (2008)
The Movie: An Americanized version of Them (Ils), about a young couple terrorized in their cabin by a group of masked crazies.
Based On: The French film was said to be based on the murder of an Austrian couple killed in the Czech Republic, while The Strangers borrowed elements from the Manson murders and the unsolved murder of a family living in a Northern California cabin.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Movie: Freddy Krueger is a child murderer who comes from beyond the dead to kill teenagers in their sleep as revenge for being burned alive by the parents of the kids he killed.
Based On: A series of 1970s L.A. Times articles about Cambodian refugees so terrified by nightmares they would refuse to sleep and even, inexplicably, die in their sleep.
The Entity (1982)
The Movie: Carla Moran is raped and abused by an unseen force that also beats up her family.
Based On: A troubled woman named Doris Bither, who made claims of "spectral rape" and abuse in her Culver City home. The entity supposedly followed her to Texas, leaving no further reports of ghosts in the house.
Open Water (2003)
The Movie: A couple vacationing in the Bahamas is stranded on the open seas when their scuba boat crew miscounts people aboard and leaves without them.
Based On: An American couple scuba-diving in the Great Barrier Reef and left behind when the crew miscounted. The mistake was discovered several days later, and the couple was never found.