The scary truth

Sakal Times
Friday, 19 October 2018

Thrillers and horror films inspired by appalling true events make for classic examples of how fact is stranger than fiction

You know what makes a thriller or a horror film all the more frightening? The announcement that appears in the beginning — ‘Based on true events.’ While you might get frightened by idea of paranormal activities, and other scary fiction, it’s true that there are far more spine-chilling, blood-curdling real life stories. Here is a list of thrillers and horror movies that you probably didn’t know were based on true events.

Considered one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best thrillers, Psycho, which was released in 1960 is a psychological horror film that has been wildly lauded for decades now. As if the movie wasn’t haunting enough, you'd be surprised to know that the novel on which it is based was loosely inspired by the case of the convicted Wisconsin murderer, Ed Gein. A body snatcher whose notoriety won him the nickname Butcher of Plainsfield, it was discovered that Gein used to steal corpses from the graveyards and fashioned keepsakes from their bones and skins. You can watch it on Hotstar Premium. 

The film is actually based on Stephen King’s true experiences. Yes, the terrifying Stanley Hotel does exist where guests have often claimed of experiencing paranormal activity — from hearing voices of children giggling to finding their clothes being mysteriously unpacked, and the lights switching off and on by itself. It is said that Stephen King had visited the hotel with his wife and legend has it that he saw ghostly children wandering around the halls. He claims to have even seen a party in the McGregor Hall which was attended by some unearthly guests. Watch The Shining on Netflix. 

Ed Gein’s horrendous acts inspired multiple stories and movies, another very famous one being, Silence of the Lambs, a movie that never fails to send chills down your spine. It turned the cannibal antagonist Hannibal Lecter into a pop culture phenomenon. The movie derived inspiration from the Thomas Harris’s novel on Ed Gein. It is said that after the death of Gein’s beloved mother, he decided he wanted to become a woman. So just like Buffalo Bill did in the movie, Gein began constructing a ‘woman suit’ by collecting body parts from newly deceased females.

Agatha Christie, one of the most well-known fiction writers of all times, considered Murder on the Orient Express as one of her most acclaimed works. It was even adapted for the big screen last year and featured big names like Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh among others. However, did you know that it is partly inspired by true events? The basis of the story came from her own solo experience on the Orient Express in the 1930s. It is also loosely inspired from a high-profile kidnapping of Charles L Lindbergh’s (the first man to fly across the Atlantic) 20 month old son. The parents paid a huge ransom to the kidnappers only to find the decomposing body of their son a few days later. The case was not solved till five years later after interrogating a whole bunch of suspects including a maid. Murder on the Orient Express will air on Sunday, October 21 at 1 pm on Star Movies Select HD. 

Almost every kid’s ultimate fear while growing up is being haunted by monsters under his bed but imagine having gone through a past so terrifying that it is no less than monsters. It is said that Nightmare on Elm Street is based loosely on an LA Times article which gave the director, Wes Cavern the idea that ‘nightmares could kill you.’ 

The article was about the mysterious deaths occurring amongst South East Asian refugees, including a Cambodian boy whose family had come to the US after fleeing the barbaric Khmer Rouge regime. He would stay awake for days at a time because he felt that ‘the thing’ would chase him if he slept. When he finally fell asleep, his parents thought this crisis was over. But they heard screams in the middle of the night and by the time they got to him, he was dead. The film is available on Hotstar Premium.

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