They say truth is stranger than fiction, and these ten true crime stories are even more twisted and nightmare-inducing than the horror films they inspired.
Welcome back to Morbidly Beautiful! Thank you so much for all the love and feedback I received for last week’s article! I’m truly proud to be apart of the Morbidly Beautiful family, and you guys are in for a treat this week! I’ve decided to do a list on ten horror movie that were inspired by real serial killers and true crimes.
I wanted this list to be very different, so instead of movies that are specifically about serial killers, I’ve gone in a different direction. What you will be reading are movies that have elements of true crime, but they aren’t played out like a biopic movie. Instead, the writers have written a whole new story for them. You won’t find movies like Monster, Helter Skelter, or The Zodiac on this list. Get ready, because you are about to have your mind blown!
You may never look at some of your favorite horror movies again after you find out the gruesome details behind what inspired them to create these movies.
10. Scream (1996)
Starting with one of the most beloved series of all-time, what was originally called Scary Movie became the cult classic Scream — and a prized possession in the horror community. However, did you know that this movie was inspired by the real-life crimes of Danny Harold Rolling? If you’re not familiar with the name, he was also dubbed the Gainesville Ripper, and confessed to killing 8 people.
Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter of Scream and a horror movie fan, felt motivated after hearing about the crimes. He wrote a short script about a girl being home alone and being taunted by a prank caller, and that’s how Scream was born.
9. The Amityville Horror (1979)
For this movie, we won’t be focusing on the Lutz family that moved into the infamous house and began feeling supernatural forces that terrorized them and caused them to move out 28 days later. Rather, we’ll turn our attention to the murders that took place before the family moved in. On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr walked into a bar and claimed that his parents had been murdered. After contacting the police, it would soon be discovered that all 6 family members were dead, with Ronald DeFeo Jr as the lone survivor.
Ronald, a heavy drug abuser, first claimed his family was murdered by a hitman for the mafia. Later, however, he would confess to the murders, claiming he killed them because he heard the voices of his family members plotting against him. In the 2005 remake, the writers went a different route with the story. For the reimagining, they proposed that new information had been discovered about the original events — claiming a Native American burial ground hidden under the house had caused the inhabitants of the house to go crazy and kill their family members.
The events that allegedly took place at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, have spawned a great deal of controversy — not to mention numerous books, movies, and legal battles.
8. Murder By Numbers (2002)
You’re probably wondering what a psychological thriller staring Sandra Bullock is doing on this list, but it’s the crime that the movie is loosely based on that is most terrifying. Nathan Leopold and Richard Leob were two wealthy men who attended school with one another. Together, they decided to come up with the “Perfect Crime,” thinking that because of their higher intelligence levels, they could get away with murder; that was not the case.
Despite their excessive planning for seven months, a pair of glasses were left at the crime scene, and after already having suspicions that the two were involved, the police arrested both of them and received a confession. The murder victim was a fourteen-year-old boy that they had kidnapped. They beat him to death with a chisel to the head. To conceal the body’s identity, they poured hydrochloric acid on his face, on a scar that he had on his stomach and going as far as to his genitals to hide the fact that he was circumcised. Perhaps this was the reason behind reports stating that Ryan Gosling actually vomited on set during the murder scene.
This was not the first time the infamous duo was depicted in a movie; Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope was the first, and Murder by Numbers was the fourth movie to come along.
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This is easily one of the most treasured horror films of all time — and one that caused a lot of people to turn into vegetarians. It’s also a movie that made people walk out of the theaters, even being banned by many other cinemas due to the excessive amount of violence. The film makers claimed that it was based on a true story of cannibals and a chainsaw-wielding maniac with a face made of the skins of his victims. While most of the story is in fact entirely fictional, Tobe Hooper was indeed inspired by the infamous real-life ghoul, Ed Gein.
If you are not familiar with the name, he was dubbed the “The Butcher of Plainfield” and arrested for exhuming bodies from local graveyards that he would use for home décor. He also made a skin-suit, so he could become his mother who had passed away. This would be where Alfred Hitchcock got his inspiration for Psycho as well.
Tobe admitted that there was another criminal that had caught his attention, and that was Elmer Wayne Hanley Jr. Tobe was fascinated by the “Houston Mass Murders” because Elmer would recruit victims for an older man to rape and kill, just so he could make $200. If you are fascinated by true crime, read about this guy; but be warned, it will haunt you.
6. The Stepfather (1987)
We all want to create that perfect family, don’t we? Well, that’s all Henry Morrison wants. And after killing his family and changing his identity, he believes he’s found that with a widow and her teenage daughter. The movie is loosely based on real mass murderer, John List. Claiming he saw too much evil in the world, John killed his wife, mother and 3 young children. It wasn’t until a month later that the police would find the family murdered and John gone.
18 years, 5 months, and 22 days later, after an airing of “Americas Most Wanted,” John was finally arrested. He now had a new identity and was going by Bob Clark; which is apparently a name he stolen from a fellow student. He was sentenced to life in prison and died of Pneumonia at the age of 82.
5. Wolf Creek (2005)
Feel like taking a trip to the outback? You may reconsider after watching this Australian horror film that was inspired by two real life killers. John Jarret gives a performance of a life time. It’s like watching the lovable Crocodile Dundee lose his shit and start killing tourists. The real-life killers that Greg Mclean used as inspiration are Ivan Milat and Bradley Murdoch.
Ivan had been arrested in 1971 for kidnapping and raping two women. He was later released and was free to become “The Backpack Murder”, killing 7 victims that happened to be tourists of the area. He was finally caught after the bodies were found in a nearby forest, and a potential victim that had gotten away positively identified Ivan. He was given a life sentence for each victim with no possibility of parole.
Bradley Murdoch was another Australian Native who was arrested for the abduction and murder of British tourist, Peter Falconio, and his girlfriend in 2001. The case affected Greg so much that he paid homage to the real-life couple by having Ben in the film get rescued by a couple in a orange and white Volkswagen, which is the same type of car that the couple were driving when they were attacked by Bradley Murdoch. The body of Falconio has never been found.
4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Our beloved Wes Craven was one of the most creative writers and directors to ever grace the planet. This is his second movie on the list, and it has quite the back story! We all know the story of The Hills Have Eyes, the original and the remake being very popular amongst the horror community. What you may not know is that it was Sawney Bean who inspired this classic horror movie.
Bean was born during the 150os. He was reported to be the leader of a 48-member clan (all his children and grandchildren) that killed and ate over 1000 people. It’s a very famous Scottish legend that has gathered a lot of tourism over the years; everyone wants to see the cave that this notorious family of cannibals lived in. The family was eventually caught by the Scottish Kings men, and they were declared insane and executed in grotesque fashion.
Wes tried to get away with a lot with this movie, even as far as wanting to kill the baby in the movie. The cast and crew put their foot down and all threatened to walk out if he did that. And if you think the scene where Beauty is killed and ate looks a little too real, that’s because it is. Wes bought the dead dog from the police department, and they used it to make the scene as authentic as possible. You can say Wes was very dedicated to his craft, and he is greatly missed by the horror community.
3. The Strangers (2008)
Director Bryan Bertino gave us one of the most horrifying home invasion movies of all time. A couple becomes terrorized by three people in masks and have to fight to survive in a secluded farmhouse. Bryan said that the movie was inspired by true events that actually happened to him. When he was younger, someone came to his house and asked for someone who didn’t live there. They went away, but he found out later that houses in his neighborhood were broken into.
The movie also has a hopeless feeling to it that can only come from being partially inspired by the Manson Family murders. It is also said that Bryan was fascinated by the unsolved Keddie Murders. In April 1981, Sue Sharp and her five children were renting a cabin in Keddie California. Onn April 12, one of the children who had slept over next door found the bodies of Sue, John and Dana tied up in the living room. The youngest of the children was missing from the scene, and it wouldn’t be until 1984 that her remains would be found. The Keddie Murders is still unsolved to this day.
2. From Hell (2001)
Now, we can’t have a list like this and not include one of the most chilling killers of all time, Jack the Ripper. From Hell is an adaptation of the Graphic novel by Alan Moore with the same name. Jack the Ripper is a name given to an unidentified murderer who plagued the streets of London in 1888. Five Women of the night were killed in a horrific manner. The killer would remove organs from three of his victims, and that is were the speculation originated that the killer could indeed be a surgeon of some sort.
The title of the film came from a letter that George Lusk (a volunteer who patrolled the streets of London) received with the headline “From Hell” and which included half a preserved human kidney that was believed to come from one of the female victims. For the movie, they wanted to be as authentic as possible in the retelling of one of the most heinous crimes of the century — taking extra care to duplicate the crime scenes and the murders themselves. They had real photos of the victims plastered on the wall at the police station and even used quotes from real police reports depicting the crime scenes.
Jack the Ripper prowled the streets of London looking for the perfect woman to kill, and he has inspired many books, movies, and even musicians. He is the most iconic killer of all time.
Before we get to our number one film on the list, let’s take a look at some important Honorable Mentions: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1996), inspired by serial killer Henry Lucas; The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), inspired by the Texarkana Moonlight Murders; Psycho (1960), inspired by Ed Gein; and The Sacrament (2013), inspired by the Jonestown Massacre.
1. Stay Alive (2006)
This spot has been reserved for a special woman that can only be described as “Evil.” Up until this point, there have been no female serial killers that have inspired a writer to come up with their own story. That was until the 2006 movie Stay Alive came around and they made sure to pick the most brutal female serial killer in history; one that you could even say was the first of her kind.
In the movie, it is depicted that Elizabeth Bathory’s story takes place in New Orleans. In reality, she lived in Hungary. The movie follows a group of people playing a video game that kills them in real life if they die in the game, with Elizabeth being the villain of the story. In 1609, Elizabeth was accused of torturing and murdering hundreds of women.
Witnesses, survivors, and physical evidence that was obtained during her arrest showed the reports to be true. They even found horribly mutilated bodies, as well as some imprisoned and dying females. She was then imprisoned in her own castle and held in solitary confinement in her windowless bedroom; she died five years later.