Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Throughout the years, there have been many horror films that proclaim they are "based on true events." Some actually are. Some aren't at all. Nearly all are very very loosely based on something that did really happen once upon a time. Some fans get very upset when we are lied to and told a film is based in reality, but it's actually not. Does it really matter? No, it doesn't. Proclaming such a thing is merely a device used to scare the audience just that much more and really, isn't that why we go see horror movies in the first place? But how do we seperate fact from fiction? What "based on actual events" horror films really are based on actual events? And which ones are complete fabrication?
The Amityville Horror
The truth behind Amityville is a bit of a tricky one. There is certaintly no denying the fact that, in 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr (pictured above) busted out the rifle and brutally massacred his entire family in the house on 112 Ocean Avenue. All six family members, including four children ages 9-18, were shot dead in their beds. DeFeo claimed that evil spirits, in the form of voices in his head, forced his hand. The next year, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home and claimed, more then likely to cash in on the horrific event, that they were experiencing paranormal activities and that George was even becoming possessed, much like DeFeo. Well, the plan worked as they got a book and several movies out of it, but the story is considered by most to be entirely false. The current residents of the home have reported no paranormal events. Or maybe the evil spirits just aren't letting them tell. While there is no doubt that if ghosts are real that motherfuckin' house is haunted as can be, the DeFeo murders remain the only thing true about the Amityville Horror.
On a side note, I live on Long Island, less than an hour away from the actual Amityville House and I do plan on visiting one of these days and posting some pictures up on here!
Nightmare On Elm Street
While there are no claims at any point during the film that it is based on actual events, Wes Craven drew inspiration for the film from a real story he read. Let me let Wes tell ya ; "It was a series of articles in the LA Times, three small articles about men from South East Asia, who were from immigrant families and who had died in the middle of nightmares—and the paper never correlated them, never said, ‘Hey, we’ve had another story like this." What about Freddy? Is he based in any truth? According to Craven, he is! Craven claims that Fred Krueger was a kid who used to bully him around in school, thus the perfect name for a horror villain. Talk about turning a negative into a positive. Craven drew the inspiration for Krueger's look from an elderly man he saw walking his streets as a youth. The film is essentially based in some level of truth, and every town does, in fact, have an Elm Street. At least mine does.
The Serpent And The Rainbow
A movie about zombies. This is clearly a fabrication from the mind of Wes Craven, right? Wrong. Not only was the story originally a book written by ethnobotanist (the study of relationships between plants and humans) Wade Davis, but it's also true! The movie is the story of Clairvius Narcisse (pictured above) who was allegedly poisoned, buried alive, and given a concoction which mimicked the effects of zombification. The story goes that Clairvuis's brother, embattled in a land dispute with him, poisoned Clairvuis with the drug Tetrodotoxin, which made him appear dead on the outside. Clairvuis was then buried alive and upon his exhumation, was given a brew which, in so many words, made the mofo a zombie. The man was then used along with other "zombie slaves" to work on a sugar plantation. Narcisse eventually returned home to his family after his master died and regular doses of the drug had ceased. Not even Craven could make this stuff up!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The most oft discussed "true" horror story ever made into a film. Only, it's really not a true story at all. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was very...very....very...very loosely based on serial killer Ed Gein (pictured above). Gein also inspired the killers in the films Silence of the Lambs and Psycho. Just about the only connection between Gein and Leatherface at all was the fact that Gein did remove the skin from his victims and create various furniture pieces and even a skin suit out of them. Gein was never known to use a chainsaw. Eddie was more known to exhume bodies then he was to kill hapless victims. In fact, the chainsaw idea only came about when director Tobe Hooper was standing amongst a large crowd in a hardware store and, upon seeing a chainsaw on display, wondered what it would be like to pick it up and go to town. So rest easy tonight, Leatherface never has been and never will be out to get you. Although it is certaintly entirely plausible that you could be killed via chainsaw...it wouldn't be the first time.
Like Texas Chainsaw, Wolf Creek is only partially based in fact. The inspiration for the killer came from Ivan Milat (pictured above). Known as the "backpack murderer" Milat killed seven local and international hitchhikers in the 80's and 90's in Australia. Unlike Mick in Wolf Creek, Milat is not still out there. He is currently serving several life sentences and still claims his innocence. Milat was only caught when he failed to kill two would be victims. One of Ivan's older brothers claims that Milat killed a lot more people then is reported. He claims the number to be around 28. The idea for the film was also inspired by Bradley John Murdoch, a mechanic who allegedly stopped British tourists Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees by pulling them over and telling them sparks were coming out of their exhaust. Murdoch killed Peter and tied up Joanne Lees, much like in the film. Lees managed to escape while Murdoch was busy with Peter's body and currently has a book out on the true story. Peter's body was never found and neither was a weapon, but Murdoch was found guilty and is currently serving at least 28 years. There is no Mick Taylor, but the events of Wolf Creek are certaintly not entirely from the mind of filmmaker Greg McLean.
In part 2 we'll examine the films Henry : Portrait of a Serial Killer, Them, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and The Mothman Prophecies!