Top 10 Horror Films Based on True Stories

10) Deranged (1974)


Plot: This film introduces a man, Ezra Cobb (played by Roberts Blossom), who was raised by his overly religious mother to despise women. As he grew older he starts to dig up dead bodies and decorates his home with him, starting with the remains of his own mother. When he runs out of bodies, he then turns his hand to murder.

The Real Story: Like many horror films during this time period, this one was inspired by the case of Ed Gein, the butcher of Plainfield, Wisconsin.

9) The Haunting In Connecticut (2009)


Plot: When a family moves into a new home to try to give a positive environment for their ill son, they soon discover that it was earlier used as a mortuary. The spirits who have lived, been tortured and died in the house are not happy with the arrival of the new owners of the house, so they do everything they can to attempt to drive them out.

The Real Story: Married couple by the names of Al and Carmen Snedeker moved into an allegedly haunted funeral home in Connecticut. Their story was so disturbing that some things were actually changed in the film. Paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren were brought in to investigate and a documentary about the case was released several years later.

8) From Hell


Plot: This film centers on Police Investigator Frederick Abberline (played by Johnny Depp) and his mission to solve the many murders of young women who were believed to be committed by shadowy figure Jack the Ripper.

The Real Story: As stated in the above synopsis of the film, the story was based off of England’s most notorious slasher Jack the Ripper. In real life, nobody ever found out who he really was. In 1888, Jack the Ripper was responsible for the murder of many young girls. He targeted women in dark alleys, so if you were a woman walking home alone in England during that time period, you’d better pray that Jack the Ripper didn’t find you.

7) A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)


Plot: This film presents a couple of American teenagers who are haunted in their dreams by a knife-fingered ghost of a burnt up child murderer by the name of Fred Krueger (played by horror icon Robert Englund.) When her friends start dying in their sleep in gruesome ways, teenage Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp) must find a way to stop this scarred ghostly figure before it’s too late.

The Real Story: With the story itself being strictly fictional, this film was actually loosely based off of an article that writer/director Wes Craven read about a group of Cambodian immigrants who all died in the throes of their nightmares.

6) I Spit On Your Grave (1978)


Plot: Though this film was condemned on release for it’s tasteless and violent nature, it is a cult classic and one of the best next to The Last House On The Left. The film follows writer Jennifer Hills (played by Camille Keaton), who heads off on a peaceful retreat getaway to a small cabin in Connecticut to work on her novel without any disruptions. Unfortunately for her, there were quite a bit of these disruptions far worse than she could have imagined. The woman later on is brutally raped and assaulted by a gang of lowlife locals. The woman does not stand for this and takes brutal revenge on the men who violated her.

The Real Story: Writer/director of this film (Meir Zarchi) got the inspiration to make this film from one of his own experiences, believe it or not, in Central Park in 1974. The man came across a young woman who had been brutally raped and beaten repeatedly. He took her to the police to file a report, but was treated very unfairly beyond the matter. Meir based Jennifer’s character on her, but making it to where she doesn’t need to the law to deal with her attackers.

5) The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


Plot: This film introduces a family on a road trip to California, breaking down in the desert and forced to spend the night in their camper until help finally comes. Later on they stumble across a brood of flesh-eating crazies who were the victim of a nuclear blast. The family must fight the flesh-eating crazies in order to regain freedom.

The Real Story: This is another one of Wes Craven’s horror films that were inspired by true events. It was inspired by the legend of Alexander ‘Sawney’ Bean, the head of a 16th century clan of flesh-eating cave dwellers, feasting on the flesh of at least 1,000 passer-byers who came their way. They’ve lived like this for 25 years until they were finally caught and killed for their crimes.

4) Psycho (1960)

Plot: One of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous cult-classics. A Phoenix secretary Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh, and also famously known as Halloween actress’s Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother) is on the run for stealing $40,000 from her employer. Deciding to travel on the back-roads to avoid police, Crane stops at a cheap hotel who is run by eccentric Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) and named Bate’s Motel. Little does she know this polite, eccentric young man has a taste for taxidermy, blood and a complicated relationship with his mother.

The Real Story: This film was based on a novel by Robert Bloch, who loosely based it off of the butcher of Plainfield, Ed Gein.

3) Child’s Play (1988)


Plot:  After serial killer Charles Lee Ray (played by Brad Dourif) also known as the Lakeshore Strangler, is gunned down by a detective in a local toy store, he transfers his soul into an inanimate doll with a voodoo incantation. The mother of eight-year old Andy Barclay purchases the doll in an alley from a homeless man for the child’s birthday, not knowing what they would both have in store for them. The doll tries to manipulate the boy, kills everyone around him while later trying to pass his soul into the body of the boy in order to become human once more.

The Real Story: Writer Don Mancini loosely based his script for Child’s Play off of the case of a nurse who supposedly ruthlessly places a curse on a man called Robert Eugene Otto, transforming one of his childhood dolls into a nighttime menace.

2) The Exorcist (1973)

Plot: Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel. Young girl Reagan (played by Linda Blair) accidentally releases demonic forces into the house via Ouija board. After constantly talking to an unknown deity that calls himself “Captain Howdy”, she soon finds herself to be possessed by the demon. Two preachers, one also being a psychiatrist, are called to the scene to try to save the young girl’s soul.

The Real Story: William Peter Blatty’s novel itself was based on demonic events that took place in 1949 following a young boy who supposedly unleashed a demonic presence via Ouija board. The Catholic church was brought in, like in the novel/film, to try to save the young boy’s soul.

1) The Amityville Horror (1979)


Plot: When the Lutz family decides to move into a new home in Amityville (New York), they suddenly find spine-tingling paranormal events occurring in the house. The family later finds out that the entity causing these happenings used to live in the home, and learn that this man killed his entire family.

The Real Story: The book on which it’s based on, was based on the experiences of the real Lutz family who lived in the Amityville home. A man by the name of Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his entire family in the house. After the events of the real Lutz family, they fled the house 28 days later after allegedly being haunted by a violent paranormal entity.

Victoria Faith Dellinger, Film writer at Seroword

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  1. Just reading this list gave me the chills :/ Great list!

  2. These movies don’t need victims because watching them would be the death of ME. Never heard of #6 but the title sure caught my eye.

  3. I didn’t know the story about I Spit on Your Grave. Very interesting!

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