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Top 11 Horror Films Based on True Life Events

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The Town That Dreaded Sundown

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (review) has returned with a slick-looking new remake that hit digital and DVD on July 7th. In honor of this reimagining, we’ve recalled some of our favorite movies ripped from the headlines with the Top 11 Horror Films Based on True Life Events.

It can be argued that just about every movie has drawn some inspiration from real life events. Even the most outlandish story ever written had to be inspired by something that drew the writer’s eye. Something that got the wheels turning to help make that story come to life. But with horror, that’s sometimes a little different as the news stories that flash before our eyes on a daily basis provide plenty of inspiration for the next celluloid nightmare. And the funny thing about movies and life is just when you think you’ve seen the most outlandishly vile and horrible thing on the screen, real life always manages to top it, setting the groundwork for the next film “based on true life events.”

We tried to grab a nice cross-section of sub-genres of horror, hitting slashers, hauntings, alien encounters and whatever else we could lay our grubby little mitts on to help spice up the list. And with such a large number of true life stories inspiring films, we decided to lump some of the entries in together that were natural combinations. We categorized the honorable mentions, too. You’ve got your all-star serial killers who are highlighted in Gacy, Dahmer and Deranged. Exorcisms take top billing in The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose; and if it’s true life hauntings you want, try The Haunting in Connecticut and The Entity. Even the legendary classic Dracula is inspired by an historical figure.

And now your Top 11 (or so) Horror Films Based on True Life Events

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

The Girl Next Door (2007)
This is one case where the actual film adaptation might have actually toned down what happened in the true crime case, and those who’ve seen The Girl Next Door know that it was pretty intense in its own right. Author Jack Ketchum adapted the case of Sylvia Likens, who was repeatedly tortured and eventually killed by her guardian, Gertrude Nadine Baniszewski, with the help of her children and a number of neighborhood kids. Helluva neighborhood to grow up in. Not only was Likens dumped off to this psycho guardian because her parents were traveling carnival workers, but then she became subjected to what one report called the “single worst crime perpetrated against an individual in Indiana’s history.” Ketchum captured the story brilliantly in The Girl Next Door, and Gregory M. Wilson directed the film adaptation that brought the horrific story to the big screen.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=typY725pjZ4&w=640&h=360]

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990), Monster (2003), From Hell (2001)
Here’s a group we’ll call our Infamous Serial Killers. All three of these films involve serial killers that achieved some type widely recognized fame. Michael Rooker was outstanding in bringing killer Henry Lee Lucas to life in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. And the casting of Tom Towles as Henry’s partner, Ottis Toole, was fantastic considering the fact that Towles bore an uncanny resemblance to Toole.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IU3P6WXzvXU&w=640&h=360]

Charlize Theron turned Hollywood on its ear with her reverse makeover to play Aileen Wuornos, a killer convicted of six murders (accused of seven), in Monster. Theron raked in the awards for this one, including the Academy Award for Best Actress.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH_mFlx9LHg&w=640&h=360]

And in From Hell filmmakers The Hughes Brothers adapted Alan Moore’s graphic novel based on the hunt for Jack the Ripper and recruited Johnny Depp and Heather Graham to help tell the tale.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JCALbQ84RE&w=640&h=360]

Fire in the Sky (1993)
We’ve had a brutal torture film and a trio of infamous serial killers, so to continue to mix things up, we’ll discuss Fire in the Sky, a movie about an apparent alien abduction. The film tells the story of Travis Walton, a logger in Arizona who claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Walton disappeared for five days and could not be found after an exhaustive search. Walton eventually returned and had quite the tale to tell, and it was one of the most interesting, and difficult to disprove, stories of alien abduction ever. Walton wrote a book about his experiences entitled Fire in the Sky, which was adapted for the screen by Tracy Tormé and directed by Robert Lieberman. D.B. Sweeney brought Walton to life on the silver screen. Remember the wicked alien scene? Check it out again below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsjhdoWKtXM&w=640&h=360]

The Amityville Horror (1979), The Conjuring (2013)
We’re going to have to call this one the Warren Pair. And by that, of course, we refer to Ed and Lorraine Warren, two paranormal investigators who became quite famous for their work and, thanks to filmmaker James Wan, have been featured in some memorable horror films. Best known for investigating the home of George and Kathy Lutz in 1976, the Warrens were some of the first paranormal investigators on the scene of what would eventually become The Amityville Horror. The film would be an instant success and spawn 12 sequels and a remake.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fSqS0MrOZ0&w=640&h=480]

Another of the more prominent Warren investigations was that of the Perron Family in 1971. The Conjuring was the cinematic retelling of that tale. Incidentally, Lorraine Warren was a consultant on The Conjuring and even appeared in a cameo role.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k10ETZ41q5o&w=640&h=360]

Stuck (2007)
Okay, you might not be overly familiar with this one, but it’s one of the more unique true crime stories to ever be adapted into a film. The story behind the movie goes like this…on October 26, 2001, Chante Jawan Mallard struck homeless pedestrian, Gregory Glen Biggs, with her car. The driver was allegedly intoxicated with a combination of marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. Biggs became lodged in the windshield; and Mallard simply drove home, parked the car and left the guy to die there (thanks for the ride, lady) before trying to cover up the crime later. Stuck was one of three films to adapt the story, this one starred Mena Suvari as the driver and Stephen Rea as the… uh… drivee. The movie, directed by Stuart Gordon, indeed took liberties with the story, fleshing it out into something more of a survival tale for the unfortunate pedestrian, but it certainly managed to get the point across. And that point? Look both ways before you cross the street, especially if a potential driver may be hopped up on booze, weed and X.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3VT9y49NbU&w=640&h=360]

Eaten Alive (1977)
So you say you like the crazy true crime stories? You think Stuck was a cool tale but wanna raise the bar? Say no more; we’ve got the perfect one for you. Thirty years before Stuck was released, there was an absolutely insane movie called Eaten Alive, which was an instruction manual on how to get rid of pesky, unwanted dead bodies. For his follow-up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, director Tobe Hooper again teamed with Chain Saw co-writer Kim Henkel and actress Marilyn Burns to recreate an unbelievable tale (also a young Robert Englund was included in the cast). Eaten Alive told the story of Joe Ball (aka The Alligator Man, The Butcher of Elmendorf and Bluebeard). He killed somewhere between 2 and 20 victims and fed them to alligators he kept at his bar, the Sociable Inn, using them mainly as an attraction for customers. When confronted by police, Ball drew a gun and shot himself. An employee that claimed to have assisted Ball in several “clean ups” told the story of over 20 murders.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cQGA5VRj50&w=640&h=480]

Open Water (2003)
There’s a real lesson to be learned from this film. If you are out swimming in the open ocean with some tour guide or other, make your presence known on the way out to the diving spot. You don’t have to be a jerk or anything, but tell a corny joke or do a card trick, wear a funny bathing suit or T-shirt… do anything that will get you noticed because, on the off chance you don’t get back onto the boat in time, someone will hopefully remember you and say, “Hey, where’s the guy with the Die, Die My Darling T-shirt who was telling the goofy knock-knock jokes.” It might just save your life. Open Water is based on the story of real life couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who went out on a scuba diving excursion and were left behind, never to be found. The names in Open Water have been changed from the original story, but the tale is indeed quite the same. So once again… be memorable, stay alive.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWBRpZhk_vA&w=640&h=360]

Wolf Creek (2005)
John Jarratt created one of the most beloved serial killers in recent times when he hit the screen as Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek. However, the tale goes beyond the outstanding performance of Jarratt and hearkens back to “The Backpack Murders,” a series of murders committed by Ivan Milat in Australia. The bodies of seven victims were found partially buried. (Partially buried? Not really the time to be loafing around. If you’re burying murder victims, it’s best to see this job all the way through). Mick Taylor’s quarry site was actually filmed at the location of another actual murder, bringing even more reality to the film. And as a tip of the cap to the inspiration for the film, outside of Taylor’s mining site is a sign reading “Navithalim Mining Co.” Spell it backwards, Dreadies… Ivan Milaht… not perfect, but indeed a reference to the original crimes.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm8duRDsS8E&w=640&h=360]

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Wes Craven segment of our program has arrived, and it contains two films that you might be surprised to find out were inspired by true events. We start with A Nightmare on Elm Street, which you’d think has absolutely no basis in reality at all. And you’d be right. It doesn’t. However, Craven does tell that one of his inspirations for Nightmare came from a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times about three separate refugees fleeing Cambodia who refused to sleep after experiencing disturbing nightmares and died after eventually falling asleep.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdb_HSvf2Zk&w=640&h=480]

As for The Hills Have Eyes, Craven goes back to the legend of Sawney Bean for this one. The original script for Hills (entitled Blood Relations: The Sun War) sticks a little closer to the Bean legend, with dozens of incestuous family members in the clan. The true life Sawney Bean story might be more gruesome than Hills as legend has it that over 1,000 people were killed and cannibalized by the clan.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edn5EzHXVBU&w=640&h=360]

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
Based on the sheer brutality of this film, it’s difficult to imagine this is based on a true story. But unfortunately, as we’ve said already, the horrors of real life often far surpass that what we see on the screen (unless Ryan Nicholson or Fred Vogel are behind the camera!!!) I Spit on Your Grave is not the exact retelling of a specific true crime incident, but it was actually a true crime incident that inspired the story. Writer/director Meir Zarchi went on to write the movie after he came to the aid of a girl who was raped in New York. Zarchi took the woman to the police station but was appalled by their treatment of her before bringing her to the hospital. Zarchi would go on to say that the violence of the film was not exploitative but necessary to convey the intensity of his experience with the real life victim.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPTs4QiTgYc&w=640&h=360]

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Psycho (1960), The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
And we conclude with an Ed Gein block. Gein has been loosely linked to all three of these classic films as well as numerous others. But Gein’s influence can be obviously seen in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as the home décor of the Sawyer home seems to be very similar to some of the body part creations found in Gein’s home.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vs3981DoINw&w=640&h=480]

His overbearing mother is very evident when paralleled to Norman Bates in Psycho.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv88ASiLmgk&w=640&h=360]

And Gein’s stamp can be seen in The Silence of the Lambs, but not in Hannibal Lecter, but “Buffalo Bill” Jame Gumb. That memorable dance routine that Buffalo Bill does while trying on his makeup and skin suit would have undoubtedly been a Gein favorite. Relive it below.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0ilk2NfOyw&w=640&h=480]

The Town That Dreaded Sundown Release Details:
RLJ Entertainment, under the Image Entertainment brand, released the thriller THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN on DVD on July 7, 2015. The film is also now available on Blu-ray exclusively at Best Buy.

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me, Earl and The Dying Girl, “American Horror Story”), screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Carrie, “Glee”), and based on the 1976 cult-classic film of the same title directed by Charles B. Pierce, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN will be available on DVD for an SRP of $27.97.

Based on a terrifying true story, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN picks up 65 years after a masked serial killer terrorized the small town of Texarkana, when the brutal “Moonlight Murders” suddenly begin again. While on a trip to Lovers’ Lane, 17-year-old Jami (Addison Timlin) watches as her date is brutally slain by a masked serial killer. Barely escaping with her life, Jami becomes obsessed with finding the killer referred to as “The Phantom.” As the body count mounts and the carnage comes closer, Jami delves deeper into the mystery with the help of the town archivist Nick (Travis Tope), following clues that point her toward the killer’s true identity.

The film stars Addison Timlin (“Californication,” That Awkward Moment), newcomer Travis Tope, Gary Cole (“Veep,” Office Space), Joshua Leonard (“Bates Hotel,” The Blair Witch Project), Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish,” The Departed), Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story,” Dallas Buyers Club), Edward Herrmann (“The Good Wife,” “Gilmore Girls”), and Veronica Cartwright (The Birds, Alien). It is produced by Jason Blum (the Paranormal Activity franchise, Sinister) and Ryan Murphy (“American Horror Story,” “Glee”).

The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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Vampire Hunter D: The Series Gets Writer For Pilot Episode

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It’s been a little while since we’ve heard news about “Vampire Hunter D: The Series”, the CG-animated series based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s titular character. However, some new news broke today over at ANN as they’ve reported that Brandon Easton, who is writing the scripts for new Vampire Hunter D comics, has been tapped by Unified Pictures to write the pilot for the series. The pilot will be based on Kikuchi’s “Mysterious Journey to the North Sea” storylines, which make up the 7th and 8th titles in the book series. Unified is making this series in conjunction with Digital Frontier, the Japanese animation studio behind the CG Resident Evil titles.

Easton told the site, “I’ve had to manage the expectations of three entities: the creator Hideyuki Kikuchi, the producers at Digital Frontier and Unified Pictures, and ultimately myself. This means that you have to find new and exciting ways of telling a story that has a set of concrete rules that have been fully established by the novels.

Meanwhile, the studio has also announced that Ryan Benjamin is taking over as the artist and colorist on the Vampire Hunter D: Message From Mars series with Richard Friend inking the issues.

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Watching A Quiet Place’s John Krasinski Get Scared by Freddy on Ellen Will Brighten Your Day

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I was just researching the new Platinum Dunes horror-thriller A Quiet Place and stumbled across this video. It features the film’s writer-director and star John Krasinski getting scared by a man dressed as Freddy Krueger on “Ellen.”

It’s as much fun as it sounds, and I’m sure it will make your day. It sure as hell just brightened mine.

Give it a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

John Krasinski directs the film, which will be the opening night entry at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, TX. Emily Blunt stars alongside Krasinski, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds.

A Quiet Place will then open wide on April 6.

Synopsis:
In the modern horror thriller A Quiet Place, a family of four must navigate their lives in silence after mysterious creatures that hunt by sound threatens their survival. If they hear you, they hunt you.

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Interview: Director Jeff Burr Revisits Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

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Director Jeff Burr was gracious enough to give us here at Dread Central a few minutes of his time to discuss the Blu-ray release of his 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Recently dropped on 2/13, the movie has undergone the white-glove treatment, and he was all-too-happy to bring us back to when the film was being shot…and eventually diced thanks to the MPAA – so settle in, grab a cold slice of bloody meat, read on and enjoy!

DC: First off – congrats on seeing the film get the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray – you excited about it?

JB: Yeah, I’m really happy that it’s coming out on Blu-ray, especially since so many people bitch and moan about the death of physical media, and this thing made the cut, and it’s great for people to be able to see probably the best-looking version of it since we saw it in the lab back in 1989.

DC: Take us back to when you’d first gotten the news that you were tabbed to be the man to direct the third installment in this franchise – what was your first order of business?

JB: It was fairly condensed pre-production for me, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about the import or the greatness of it – it was basically just roll up your sleeves and go. It was a bit disappointing because a lot of times in pre-production you have the opportunity to dream what could be – casting had already been done, but certain decisions hadn’t been made yet. A very condensed pre-production, but exciting as hell, for sure! (laughs)

DC: R.A. Mihailoff in the role of Leatherface – was it the decision from the get-go to have him play the lead role?

JB: No – I totally had someone else in mind, even though R.A. had done a role in my student film about 7 years earlier, and we’d kept in touch, and I’d felt strongly because I’d gotten to know him a bit that Gunnar Hansen should have come back and played Leatherface, which would have given a bit more legitimacy to this third movie. He and I talked, and he had some issues with the direction that it was going – he really wanted to be involved, and it ended up boiling down to a financial thing, and it wasn’t outrageous at all – it wasn’t like he asked for the moon, but the problem was that New Line refused to pay it, categorically. I think the line producer at the time was more adamant about it than anyone, and Mike DeLuca was one of the executives on the movie, and he was really the guy that was running this, in a creative sense. I made my case for Gunner to both he and the line producer, and they flat out refused to pay him what he was asking, so after that was a done “no deal” I decided that R.A would be the right guy to step into the role. Since New Line was the arbiter of the film, he had to come in and audition for the part, and he impressed everyone and got the part. He did an absolutely fantastic job – such a joy to work with, and he was completely enthusiastic about everything.

DC: Let’s talk about Viggo Mortenson, and with this being one of his earliest roles – did you know you had something special with this guy on your set?

JB: Here’s the thing – you knew he was talented, and I’d seen him in the movie Prison way back in the early stages of development and was very impressed with him, and he was one of those guys that I think we were really lucky to get him on board with us. I really believe that The Indian Runner with he and directed by Sean Penn was the movie that truly made people stand up and notice his work. Every person in this cast was one hundred percent into this film and jumped in no questions asked when it was time to roll around in the body pits.

DC: It’s no secret about the amount of shit that the MPAA put you through in order to get this film released – can you expound on that for a minute?

JB: At the time, I believe it was a record amount of times we had to go back to the MPAA after re-cutting the film – I think it was 11 times that we went back. What a lot of people don’t realize is after Bob Shaye (President of New Line) had come into the editing room and he thought that it was very disturbing, and cut out some stuff himself. He thought that it would have been banned in every country, and it was banned in a lot of countries but so were the previous two. It was definitely on the verge of being emasculated before even being submitted to the MPAA, and I would have thought just a few adjustments here and there – maybe a couple of times to go back…but eleven? It was front-page news in the trade papers then, and I think that the overall tone of the film was looked at as being nasty. The previous film (Chainsaw 2) had actually gone out unrated, and with the first film being so notorious, I think it was a combination of all of that, and now even the most unrated version of this would be rated R – that’s how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction.

DC: Looking back at the film after all this time – what would be one thing that you’d change about the movie?

JB: Oh god – any film director worth his salt would look back at any of their films and want to change stuff up, and with this being 28 years old, I can look back and say “oh yeah, I’d change this, this and this!” You grow and learn over the course of your time directing, and this was my third movie and my first without producers that I had known, so the main thing that I’d do today would be to make it a bit more politically savvy. I had always thought that they wanted me to put my vision on this film, and that wasn’t necessarily the case, so maybe I’d navigate those political waters a little better.

DC: Last thing, Jeff – what’s keeping you busy these days? Any projects to speak of?

JB: Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of movies that I’m working on – I’m prepping a horror movie right now, and then I’ve got a comedy film that I’m doing after that. You haven’t heard the last of me! I’ve had a real up and down (mostly down) career, but I still love it – it’s what I love to do, and it’s still great that after 28 years people still want to talk about this movie, and are still watching it – that’s the greatest gift you can get, and I thank everyone that’s seen it and talked about it over all these years.

BUY IT NOW!

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