The 11th edition of Horror Facts will focus on horror films that were inspired by true events, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Poltergeist (1982), The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and more!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Inspired By: Ed Gein, AKA the Butcher of Plainfield (1957)
Fact: The film has inspired many generations of filmmakers. Rob Zombie says that the film is a major influence on his own film work: “It’s just the style that it was made in. It’s beautifully shot—it’s that really rough, handheld look. Usually, movies look like movies. This just looked like you were there.” Alexandre Aja has said it’s one of the most influential movies for him, especially in terms of what he did in the horror genre afterwards. Ridley Scott refers to the film as one of “only a few really, really great movies.” The film is also among Wes Craven’s five favourite movies. He refers to it as “amazingly visceral visual storytelling.”
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Inspired By: The unsolved Texarkana Moonlight Murders, where a “Phantom Killer” murdered five people over ten weeks (1946)
Fact: The film is considered one of the first “slasher” films and has inspired others slashers. The sack the killer wears on his head is similar to Jason Voorhees look in Friday the 13th Part Two (1981).
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Inspired By: The Lutz family who moved to a house in Amityville, New York after Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six family members there (1975)
Fact: The real-life house where the murders took place wasn’t used in any of the film’s shots and the city of Amityville refused the film crew from shooting any scenes in the city. They wanted to distance themselves from the negative press the film might create.
The Shining (1980)
Inspired By: The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where a number of guests reported ghost sightings (1911-present)
Fact: In Stephen King’s novel, the mysterious events take place in Room 217, the same room King stayed in at The Stanley Hotel in 1974, which was completely empty at the time due to it being closed for winter. The management staff of Oregon’s Timberline Lodge, which was used for exterior shots of the hotel in the film, asked that the room be changed to 237, which at the hotel doesn’t exist. They thought that after seeing the film guests might avoid booking room 217. Quite the opposite happened and room 217 is the Lodge’s most requested room.
Inspired By: The Hermanns family in Seaford, New York (1958)
Fact: Stephen King was originally approached to write the Script for Poltergeist. Spielberg wrote a treatment for the film in 1980, titled Night Time, and met with King about the script, but King’s publisher had apparently asked for too much money. Drew Barrymore auditioned to play Carol Anne in the film but Spielberg thought she’d be better in the role of Gertie in E.T. which was released a week after Poltergeist.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Inspired By: Real-life killers Ted Bundy, Ed Gein and Gary Heidnik
Fact: Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes together during the film. During the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Hopkins mocking Foster’s southern accent was improvised on the spot. She later thanked him for getting an honest reaction out of her.
Inspired By: The Gainesville Ripper who killed five students in three days (1990)
Fact: Woodboro High School scenes were originally planned to be shot at Santa Rosa High School in Santa Rosa, California but the school changed its mind just weeks before production began. After getting approval from the school’s administration, the city school board banned the production because they felt the script was too violent. The scenes were eventually shot at a community centre in Sonoma. In the end credits, Wes Craven left the message: “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa city school district governing board.”
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Inspired By: Anneliese Michel, who underwent Catholic exorcism rites and eventually died at the age of 23 (1976)
Fact: Jennifer Carpenter’s audition was so authentic and chilling that filmmakers decided to cast her on the spot. To prepare for the audition and her role, she spent hours in a room full of mirrors practising different body positions and facial expressions to see which would be the most alarming.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
Inspired By: Ed and Lorraine Warren and the Snedeker family (1986)
Fact: The Haunting in Connecticut is said to be Jennifer Lawrence’s favourite horror movie. Paranormal Researcher, John Zaffis, who investigated the real-life case is actually the nephew of Ed & Lorraine Warren.
The Conjuring (2013)
Inspired By: Ed and Lorraine Warren and the Perron family (1970)
Fact: The Conjuring was given an R rating. When filmmakers asked the MPAA for clarification and if additional edits could result in a PG-13 rating, they were told the film was so scary there were no cuts or edits possible to make it a PG-13 film. Not wanting to alter the film, the filmmakers accepted the R rating without appeal.
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