How “true” are these 12 “based on true events” horror movies?

Based on true events?

Making a horror movie scary helps it to sell. And few things keep the audience immersed in the film like throwing “based on true events” up on the screen during the opening credits. But how true are these “true” stories, really? Let’s take a look at a few.

1. Hard Candy (2006)



The Plot: A pedophile brings home his newest target to have his way with, but it turns out the predator is actually the prey.

How true is it? The producer saw a news story from Japan about young girls who would lure in businessmen and then rob them. In other words, not true at all, simply inspired.

2. Monster (2003)


The Plot: The movie is about Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute during the 80’s and 90’s who was convicted of murdering six men.

How true is it? Despite adding in a fictional lesbian lover for her, the movie is actually pretty accurate to the real event!

3. Stuck (2007)


The Plot: A woman hits a man with her car one night on her way home. He survives, but is badly injured and stuck in her windshield. Not wanting to get arrested for the hit but also not wanting to kill him outright, she leaves the man stuck in the windshield while her car is parked in her garage.

How true is it? In 2001, a woman named Chante Jawan Mallard hit a 37 year old and did the exact same thing. She was later sentenced to 50 years in prison.

4. Open Water (2003)

Open Water (2003)

The Plot: A couple on a scuba expedition are accidentally left behind in shark infested waters where they are, naturally, eaten.

How true is it? Tom and Eileen Lonergan were indeed left behind on a scuba expedition in 1998. However, what actually happened to them is unknown. Their bodies were never recovered. If the movie claims it’s based on a true story, but all the characters die, it makes one wonder how anybody can claim they know what happened.

5. The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)


The Plot: A family moves into a homes that used to be a funeral parlor. Then things start to happen. Eventually paranormal investigators are called in to help.

How true is it? Except for the name change (in the movie they are the Campbells, in reality the name was Snedeker) almost all of the events in the film are at least claimed to be true. This type of thing holds true for most paranormal/exorcism films claimed to be true, so I am counting this one as a cover-all.

6. Eaten Alive (1977)


The Plot: This is the horror debut of Robert Englund and is scene by some as a spiritual sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s about a hotel owner who killed anyone who get on his bad side and disposes of the bodies by feeding them to his pet crocodile.

How true is it? Back in the 30’s, a man named Joe Ball killed up to 20 women and fed them to his pet alligators. He was confronted by police but shot himself rather than be taken in.

7. The Strangers (2008)


The Plot: A couple staying at a summer home fall victim to three mask-wearing intruders. When asked why the invaders are doing this, they simply reply “Because you were home”.

How true is it? The film’s director thought up the plot after a series of events in his own neighborhood. A person went door-to-door asking for someone who didn’t live there. He would be told he had the wrong address and move along. It was later revealed that her broke into and burgled the houses where no one answered the door.

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


The Plot: Teenagers are terrorized by a burned man with a clawed gloves. He visits them in their dreams and if he kills them there, they die for real.

How true is it? Wes Craven drew inspiration a series of unexplained deaths where Cambodian immigrants were dying in their sleep while showing signs of having intense nightmares.

9. I Spit on Your Grave (1978)


The Plot: A woman is savagely raped and beaten. She then seeks revenge on her attackers.

How true is it? The director was inspired by an incident in 1974 when he came across a woman who had been raped and beaten in Central Park. He took her to the police but they did not treat her well. So he came up with a story about a woman in a similar situation who went outside the law to get her revenge.

10. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)


The Plot: A group of people traveling through the desert are assaulted by a clan of mutant cannibals.

How true is it? Wes Craven drew inspiration from the story of Alexander “Sawney” Bean, the head of a 16th century clan of cave dwellers responsible for cannibalizing around 1000 people over a 25 year period.

11. The Girl Next Door (2007)


The Plot: A girl is kidnapped by her next door neighbors and tortured in their basement.

How true is it? The movie is inspired by the murder of 16 year-old Sylvia Likens. She was tortured and killed by Gertrude Baniszewski in 1965.

12. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


The Plot: If you don’t know this already… Anyway, a group of teens come across the Sawyer family. The Sawyers are a group of cannibals living in Texas, the most noteworthy of whom is the deranged, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.

How true is it? Almost not at all. Leatherface himself is loosely (so loosely that that word itself is in turn used loosely) based on serial killer Ed Gein. Ed killed people and he was found in possession of some human skins. The similarities end there.

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3 Comments on this post.

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  • Corey
    28 November 2014 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    “How true is it? Despite adding in a fictional lesbian lover for her, the movie is actually pretty accurate to the real event!”

    Except that the “fictional” lesbian lover of Aileen Wuornos, Tyria Moore, is a very real person and contributed to Aileen’s arrest. Granted, the actual Tyria doesn’t look anything like Christina Ricci, they pretty much nailed their relationship in the film.

  • Corey
    28 November 2014 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    “How true is it? Except for the name change (in the movie they are the Campbells, in reality the name was Snedeker) almost all of the events in the film are at least claimed to be true.”

    Lorraine Warren might disagree with you on that. She and her late husband, Edward, the real life investigators from the case that The Conjuring was based on, also investigated the real life Haunting in Connecticut case:

    “It’s a case that was much, much scarier than any movie could ever be,” Lorraine said. She also said that in typical Hollywood fashion, the movie is about as far fetched from the actual case as it could be. “The movie is very, very loosely based on the actual investigation,” she said.

  • Sebastian
    7 September 2016 at 4:43 am - Reply

    thanks Corey was just gonna write the same about monster and Aileen wournoses lover!