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Genre Defining: True life horror films

TheExorcist.jpgI was thinking what to write for the Halloween feature that would be due, and I instantly turned to horror films wondering what we hadn't done before, and it came to be, the best real life horror films, or the best horror films based on true events.

Now this is a grey area because the feature could mean anything from those dread opening lines "inspired by" all the way to actual documentaries and everything in between, but I think it has to be based on actual real events to fall into this category.

So what are the Genre Defining true story horror films?

I've randomly pulled together some of the best known horror films that I can think of that are based on real life stories, and there's a healthy range of degrees of truth through them all, but only a couple that could really be described as true life horror films.

See what you think, and as an added bonus I've dropped in a little voting poll to keep track of what you think are the best true story horror films. Here are my suggestions.

The Amityville Horror
This is a film that claimed to be true but has since has been almost entirely shown to be false...or has it? It's a hot topic of debate, and it might mean that it's totally illegible for this category, but at the time I watched it, it was definitely very true for me and scared me half to death.

The story follows that of a family that move into a new home, a home that was previously the location of a series of terrifying murders as a man murdered his entire family in cold blood telling people that voices told him to do it. The new family are happy at first, but then the husband soon starts to hear voices and is slowly driven mad before turning on his own family. There really is no place like home.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Filmstalker reviews)
I saw this quite recently and it did have a truly spine chilling quality to it. A lot of that feeling came out of the effects which were subtle and for a big part practical, but the real strength came from the presentation of a fact based film through the courtroom recounting of the story. Well shot, scary, and some great performances from Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson.

The Entity
This film has been slated for a remake for a very long time but has never come about. It has been becoming more interesting because it is slated to be directed by Hideo Nakata, the man behind Ringu, The Ring, series.

The Entity sees Barbara Hershey in, what some might consider to be soft porn at first glance, a film based on the true accounts of a woman who claims that she was repeatedly physically abused and raped by a ghost. It managed to tap into my fear and growing sexual awareness both at the same time!

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
A lot of films about real life killers are inspired and based on the characters of the actual killers, not the entire story. One such example is the famous The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which has the lead character based on the killer Ed Gein (as so many serial killers in film are) and the rest of the story made up, partially from old urban myths.

This film is based on the serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and is probably the best known of these types of serial killer films. Of course I could be wrong, there could be others, better, and more true to life. That's where you get your chance in the comments.

The Serpent and the Rainbow
I remember reading this book some time before the film and being astounded at the story that was reportedly true. A man heads off to investigate the real reported cases of zombification through acts known as voodoo in the island of Haiti. When he gets there he finds there's much more truth to it than he at first thought.

Yes, it does take some liberties with the story, dramatising moments and increasing the personal danger aspect, but despite that the real story is indeed rather frightening.

An American Haunting (Filmstalker review)
The story of perhaps the oldest possession recorded in history, that of the Bell Witch. Talking of taking liberties with a story, this really is one that does just that and more, and actually doesn't deliver a very good film. However it is based on reportedly true events, even if they will have been mixed up with religious fervour of the time.

The Exorcist
I think this is perhaps one of the flagship films for this topic. The Exorcist novel is based on the exorcism rituals of a young boy that lasted for weeks and included many of the actual events of the film, although the more sensationalised and effects heavy sequences didn't happen, the story still provides for some chilling moments, made all the more frightening by the fact that they are based on fact.

The Exorcist is a superb film that hits the spot just like Amityville Horror and Entity, by conjuring up malevolent supernatural forces that can't be explained, can't be seen, and can't be stopped.

Those are the titles that come to my mind that represent the truth in horror - horror films that are actually true stories, well, with creative license thrown in.

Of course there are many more, and that's where you come in to help select your favourite, maybe discuss my choices good or bad, maybe you don't agree that this category should be restricted to true stories and character based and inspired by films are worthy too.

Out of the above I have personal favourites for the top of this category, and without a doubt The Exorcist is right up there. I'd also add The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Entity as following close behind. Notice anything in particular about that list? The horror is all in the unseen, the unsubstantiated, and the supernatural. What's your most scary true life horror film? Are there more not on the above list?



Although they arent horror movies, they are very much true stories and very horrifying especially for the victims and their families. The movie Id nominate is Deliver Us From Evil and Twist Of Faith, although I havent seen it Richard has said its very good. These movies may not involve serial killers or murders but we all know that paedophiles (and in these cases paedophile priests) are out there and I always say there are worse things out there that can happen to you than dying. To me these kind of movies or should I say documentries are true horror films.

That's a good point Firebug, they really are terrifying real life stories. Scary, but horrific? I can see why you would think so.

I think Wolf Creek was based on a true story, though it's not genre defining. What about Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Well Wolf Creek was based on an incident, or rather a character involved in a shooting that was expanded wildly for the story, that's about as far as the truth went from there.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Well I had thought about that one but the truth part of that is again a character. Leatherface is based, as so many serial killer characters are, on the infamous Ed Gein. The rest is made up.

its okey


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