“Inspired by true events” is a phrase commonly seen at the beginning of serial killer flicks. But, I always wonder just how “true” these events are? I think the phrase can often be misleading, but it ultimately makes the audience’s experience scarier knowing that these things could have happened like this in the real world. The serial killer Ed Gein provided inspiration for the leading creeps in “Psycho,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Silence of the Lambs.” Only small details from Ed Gein’s horrific murders are used as inspiration. In the case of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” the special edition DVD of the remake has a very interesting documentary-like spill in the special features all about Gein and his killing spree in Wisconsin.
“The Strangers” (2008) is a newer film that is “based on true events” but these events are disappointing when you consider the horrific actions in the movie. For those of you who have not seen it, “The Strangers” follows a couple, on the rocks, who stops to stay the night at a cabin on the way back from a friend’s wedding. Upon arriving, they are greeted and ultimately tortured by strangers. The scariest part of this film (at least for me) is that the killers have no motive at all, just boredom. Also, the entire movie is built on suspense. The killers parole the perimeter of the house (and sometimes the inside of the house) and leave creepy messages on the doors and windows. After I saw this movie, I immediately started searching for the story that inspired the plot. I was disappointed to find that the film was based partly on the Manson murders, 1981 Kedie Cabin killings in Sierra Nevada’s, and partly on an “event” that happened to the director as a kid.
“As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody who didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors on the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses,” – Bryan Bertino, director.
These scary real-life stories have been made into some terrifying films over the years. However, it still bothers me how loosely directors throw around "inspired by true events” or “based on a true story.” How can they honestly put these labels on films that are basically straight fiction? My verdict is that it just straight up makes the movies scarier when you know they are “real.”