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    22 Comments     Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

    Stranger Than Fiction

    Entertainment editor Matt Barone suspends all disbelief for his nine favorite “based on a true story” horror flicks.

    There may be no larger cinematic okie-doke than the “based on a true story” tagline. Mostly used by horror films, this sometimes gimmicky, always controversial attention-grabber walks a fine line between fiction and reality. What typically happens is you’ll watch a film that’s branded with the “true story” peg and then consult trusty Google for the facts, but are then met with adverbs such as “loosely” preceding “based.” Dig deeper, and you realize that the screenwriter read about some rather fucked-up event at some point and then streamlined the skeletal story down to its barest bone (ghost story; homicidal guy next door hiding body parts in his freezer) before dizzying the true crime with money-shots, CGI-compatible imagery, and extended scenes of carnage and/or creepy shit.

    It’s often difficult to discern what’s directly referencing real events and what’s nothing deeper than a filmmaker’s crafty touch. In the case of this week’s The Haunting in Connecticut, it’s largely the latter. The film—which I’m seeing tomorrow night, so there’ll be no critical mass readable for now—takes the 1980s case of a Southington, Connecticut funeral parlor turned home that allegedly housed more evil spirits than Poltergeist’s one, two and three and goes to ghost-town. “Ectoplasm” shoots out of a kid’s mouth, a shower curtain attempts to strangle a girl and cryptic text is burnt on to one teenage boy’s skin. All for movie-watching effect, of course. Those blinded by that “based on a true story” tag, though, may very well believe that shower curtains really can attempt suffocation. Other than an especially-ambitious shower curtain copping a breeze-assisted feel on a well-endowed lady or two, such crude powers are fortunately unavailable at your nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond. You can bathe easy.

    In recognition of the The Haunting in Connecticut hitting screens this weekend, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite “based on a true story” horror/suspense movies. There have been several terrible “based on…” flicks, too, but I’d much rather let those rot in cinematic oblivion. If I must cite a few, though, I’ll do it just to warn any prospective viewers. Avoid, at all cot-damn costs, the following films, most of which are lying anyway: 2005’s An American Haunting, 2007’s killer crocodile shit-show Primeval and After Dark Horrorfest 2009’s snail-sped Slaughter.

    Here are my nine personal favorite “good” ones, in chronological order:

    The Exorcist (1973)

    Widely regarded as the scariest film of all time, The Exorcist needs little introduction. It’s everything that critics and film-fanatics have said. What some many not realize, however, is that the original 1971 novel, by William Peter Blatty, was based on an exorcism case from 1949. While he was a student at Georgetown University in the 1950s, Blatty heard a story about a 13-year-old boy named Robbie who had undergone about six weeks worth of exorcisms. After researching the account, Blatty turned began writing his novel. The rest is Hollywood history.

    Bonus: Also a winner (but in no way, shape, or form even close to The Exorcist) is 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which seems to be based on the court case of Anneliese Michel, of Germany. Considered a victim of demonic possession, she underwent a year’s worth of weekly exorcisms between September 1975 and July 1976, the latter portion of which were accused of causing her death at age 24.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, and 2003’s remake)

    This one is the most debatable of the lot. Tobe Hooper’s original ‘74 film was directly inspired by a trip to Sears, actually, when, after waiting on line for a frustratingly long period of time, Hooper glanced over at a for-sale chainsaw and envisioned slicing his way to the register (he tells this story in the awesome 2000 documentary An American Nightmare). Beyond the film’s primary instrument of murder, though, Hooper loosely based his film around the real-life case of Ed Gein, a Wisconsin man who, in the mid-1950s, murdered several victims and kept their body parts in his home before eating them. Like the movie’s Leatherface, Gein wore the scalps and faces of his victims, but, unlike Leatherface, Gein worked alone.

    Bonus: Gein also inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs.

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    This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 at 11:07 am and is filed under Columnists, Theater of Mine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    22 Responses to “Stranger Than Fiction”

    03.25.09 at 11:52 am

    President Ward says:
    I’am a big fan of horror movie’s.

    03.25.09 at 3:10 pm

    ShaKha says:
    The Wes Craven film is Deadly Friend, isn’t it?

    03.25.09 at 3:20 pm

    popurls.com // popular today says:
    [...] [...]

    03.25.09 at 3:26 pm

    Morpheusx30 says:
    yeah it’s definitely Deadly Friend….thats a classic scene..lol

    03.25.09 at 3:43 pm

    Ian says:
    Wolf Creek (2005) was also tagged as “based on a true story”, but was actually just inspired by a couple of high profile Australian serial killer cases.
    Primeval (2007)is fiction, but based on the stories of the giant crocodile Gustave, which does in fact exist, and has claimed more than 300 lives.

    03.25.09 at 3:56 pm

    bob says:
    Ed Gein only actually killed two people. I wouldn’t classify that as “several”.

    03.26.09 at 12:11 am

    Liamm says:
    My Deadly friend http://s5.tinypic.com/izcpkh.jpg

    03.26.09 at 6:21 am

    Erik says:
    Ed Gein only actually killed two people. I wouldn’t classify that as “several”..

    03.26.09 at 7:14 am

    ted says:
    what about emily rose……thats a good one

    03.26.09 at 9:09 am

    stevew says:
    The Amityville Horror was admitted to be a fake by the author himself. Granted, that DeFeo guy did kill his entire family in that house, which could cause some freaky stuff to happen, but not what was in the book/movie.

    03.26.09 at 1:18 pm

    memo says:

    03.26.09 at 9:53 pm

    President Ward says:
    Candyman was a good one to.

    03.27.09 at 9:53 am

    Funny Man says:
    Candyman was my favorite as well.

    03.29.09 at 2:30 pm

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    03.29.09 at 4:13 pm

    Paul says:
    It’s amazing that some of thse movies are so lame. You’d think the fact that they were based on a true story would make them a must-see. I guess a bad director can’t overcoem a great story. Great directors are always coming out of The FIlm Connection. http://www.film-connection.com They offer one on one mentoring and hands on experience.

    09.23.10 at 12:05 am

    insurance minimums oklahoma says:
    Great read! I want you to follow up on this topic!!!

    09.24.10 at 10:30 am

    gallardo insurance says:
    Hey Rubin, I don’t think so??

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    chris carter says:
    It has been sometime since i have commented on somebody elses work, luckily this is positive though. Wonderful post, i will be reading this blog much more within the future.




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