Not Based On A True Story: Exposing Five Horror Films That Stretched The Truth

The Strangers actual events

For many of us, horror films that purport to be “based on” or “inspired by” actual events are infinitely more terrifying than a fictional feature. And it seems as though Hollywood has caught on to that notion. Some films faithfully retell a harrowing account backed up by supporting evidence. Yet others play a bit fast and loose with the details, hoping to raise the stakes by convincing viewers that what they are about to see really happened. For today’s purposes, we will be taking a look at films that took the latter approach. Read on as we recall five horror films ‘based on actual events’ that actually aren’t.   

The Strangers 

This horrifying tale of home invasion purports to be ‘inspired by true events’. That suggests the terror contained within is loosely recreating a harrowing ordeal that actually occurred. The film’s story was very loosely influenced by details of the Manson Family murders and the Keddie Cabin Murders (which saw four people brutally killed in a small California town). But on that basis, one could say that nearly any home invasion picture is ‘inspired by true events’. Still, the notion that this film is somehow rooted in reality makes an already terrifying film even more frightening. So, I can’t fault writer/director Bryan Bertino for playing up the fact that he drew a modicum of inspiration from actual events. 

These five films really stretched the definition of ‘based on a true story’.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 

As you’re probably aware, the implication that the events depicted in the film are retelling a “tragedy which befell a group of five youths” is not true. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a work of fiction and a terrifying one at that. While the claim that the flick is based on a true story isn’t quite accurate, certain elements of the Leatherface character were inspired by the notorious killer, Ed Gein. However, only a handful of similarities between Gein and Leatherface exist. The film is, in no way based on the crimes committed by Gein. Though the picture may not be nearly as factual as the disclaimer suggests, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remains one of the most unnerving horror films ever lensed. And the flick’s documentary-esque style combined with the suggestion that the events depicted within are factual makes it even more harrowing to experience.   


The Mothman Prophecies

The Mothman Prophecies claims to be based on events which occurred in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. However, on that basis, one could say a film about The Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot was based on actual events. Sure, there are people that claim they have encountered Nessie, Bigfoot, or The Mothman. But without any definitive evidence of said creatures’ existence, it’s more than a bit of a stretch to suggest that The Mothman Prophecies is based on a true story. In spite of that, the fact that there have been multiple “sightings” of the creature depicted lends an extra layer of tension to the viewing experience.  

Mothman Prophecies, Actual Events

The Fourth Kind

Easily the biggest stretch of the truth on this list, The Fourth Kind tackles a series of real-life disappearances that happened in or around Nome, Alaska. It suggests the departures were the result of alien abduction when there is no real evidence to back up that claim. Furthermore, the film asserts that the depictions within are entirely factually based. It goes so far as to include ‘reenactments’ and ‘archival footage’. Yet, the archival footage features actors playing fictional characters. It wasn’t actually pulled from an archive. 

The flick created such a stir with its insistence that the events depicted within were real that the mayor of Nome (at the time of the film’s release) even went so far as to call The Fourth Kind “Hollywood hooey” in an interview with CNN

Actual Events, Fourth Kind

Wolf Creek

The title card says that Wolf Creek is ‘based on actual events’ which makes the 99-minutes that follow all the more terrifying for the uninducted. But in reality, director Greg McLean uses actual events to tell a highly fictionalized story. McLean was loosely inspired by the crimes of Ivan Milat and Bradley John Murdoch. Milat is believed to be responsible for the murders collectively known as The Backpack Killings. Murdoch was convicted in a separate case involving the 2001 murder of a backpacker. 

Actual events wolf creek


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