Based on a true story. It's a tagline sure to attract curious viewers to any movie making the claim, but horror movies supposedly based on true stories are especially compelling. The idea that creepy and unexplainable events are happening all around us, and that real people have to live through such terrifying traumas, are unspeakably compelling. Sadly, however, the truth can sometimes get lost in creative interpretation.
So, while some classic movies may declare otherwise, these horror films claiming to be true are, in reality, stretching the real stories to fit a certain narrative. In many cases, events have been greatly embellished to create a more chilling and powerful story. In other instances, the movies are based on outright fabrications, and are basically entirely fictional. Hollywood is Hollywood after all, and making up exciting stories is what they do best. Let's explore a few horror films that aren't based on true stories... despite what the filmmakers might claim.
The original version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre never claimed to be based on real events, but the 2003 remake did. The truth, however, is much different. There never was a "chainsaw massacre" like the one featured in the movie. Many hypothesize the filmmakers were basing their story on the real-life account of serial killer Ed Gein, who really did kill people and wear their skin. But there were never any chainsaws involved. Also, the Gein murders happened in Wisconsin. But, to be fair, The Wisconsin Non-Chainsaw Skinning doesn't have the same ring to it.
Actors: Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, John Henry Faulk, Jim Siedow, + more
Initial Release: 1974
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
#66 on The Best '70s Movies
#13 on The Goriest Movies Ever Made
Some of the events in The Exorcist really happened, but the larger story is all fiction. William Peter Blatty, who wrote the novel the film was based on, used a single newspaper article about a teenage boy who claimed to be possessed by demons as his inspiration. "Everything is made up," Blatty told The Washington Post. And, yes, that includes the head-twisting and pea-soup vomiting.
Actors: Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb, William Peter Blatty, + more
Initial Release: 1973
Directed by: William Friedkin
#12 on The Best '70s Movies
The Conjuring has a stronger factual basis than most other horror movies "based on a true story." Paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren did indeed meet a family, The Perrons, who were experiencing what, for all intents and purposes, was a haunting.
But the movie took some pretty substantial creative liberties with their story. The biggest stretch was the movie's portrayal of Mrs. Perron trying to kill her own kids. By all recorded accounts, that just never happened.
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Joey King, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, + more
Initial Release: 2013
Directed by: James Wan
Hostel may make the assertion it was "inspired by true events," but what those "true events" are is really anyone's guess. The film's writer/director, Eli Roth, said he based the story on a maybe-fake website he came across that offered tourists a chance to come to Thailand and shoot someone in the head for a mere $10,000. Roth admitted he didn't know if the premise was real, but "my point was like, well, somebody thought of it," he said. "That’s f*cked up. Someone is thinking about this and went so far as to create a website about it." And, obviously, a movie.
Actors: Eli Roth, Ashley Robbins, Jay Hernandez, Takashi Miike, Anita Queen, + more
Initial Release: 2005
Directed by: Eli Roth