Film, TV + Theatre

5 Horror movies that are based on real-life events

Scream fest


By Gwen Ong

5 Horror movies that are based on real-life events


The Amityville Horror

Plot: The movie revolves around a young couple that has just moved into a house, unaware of what had occurred within its walls previously. Soon, the family started experiencing strange and terrifying events.

Real-life: Based on the book of the same name, The Amityville Horror follows the Lutz family and the paranormal events that started when they moved into their new home. Unbeknownst to them, the house is the scene of a mass murder where Ronald DeFeo Jr. had brutally murdered his family a few months prior. The Lutz left the house after 28 days. Although there have been lawsuits pertaining to the legitimacy of the case, it remains one of the most horrifying stories to date.


Open Water

Plot: This psychological horror drama follows two scuba divers who got left behind during a diving trip. They now find themselves stranded in the middle of the sea infested with sharks.

Real-life: The movie is loosely based on the tragedy that befell American tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan. They were part of a tour group that went scuba diving near the Great Barrier Reef in 1998. Due to an inaccurate headcount by the boat crew, they got left them in the sea. A search party was organised after the diving company realised their mistake but the couple was never found. But they did discover a diver’s slate—an underwater communication device, with a SOS message reading “We have been abandoned on A[gin] court Reef by MV Outer Edge 25 Jan 98 3pm. Please help us [come] to rescue us before we die. Help!!!”



Plot: Talk about a dysfunctional family. This biographical crime drama horror film is about a teenage boy named Jamie who falls under the influence of her mother’s new boyfriend. The latter slowly manipulates Jamie into committing various crimes including killing his own brother, who had been abusing him.

Real-life: The Snowtown murders were carried out by John Bunting and his crew between 1992 and 1999 in South Australia. Led by John, the murders were some of the most sadistic ever recorded where the group tortured and killed at least 11 people. Most of the victims were whom John believed to be paedophiles, homosexuals and “weak” individuals. The crimes were covered up by John, who got the victims to call their friends and leave voice messages to say they were going out of town. The group hid the dismembered bodies in a disused bank vault.


The Strangers

Plot: In the film, we see a couple – James and his girlfriend Kristen – arriving at his remote childhood summer home. Following a disagreement, the couple separates and this is when the horror starts as three mask-wearing people breached the house and began tormenting them.  

Real-life: The director was inspired by a series of break-ins that took place near his childhood home but the main inspiration was drawn from the Tate murder carried out by the Manson Family. Yes, led by the notorious Charles Manson. This particular case saw the members of the family invading the home of celebrity couple, Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski before brutally killing them including their unborn child and three friends who were visiting the couple at that time.


The Hills Have Eyes

Plot: This is the stuff of nightmares. When a family’s car breaks down in the middle of an area that is closed to the public, things start to go awry. A family of savage cannibals inhabits the area and they’re ready to make a meal out of them.

Real-life: The film is based on the story of Alexander Sawney Bean, the head clan of cave dwellers in Scotland between 13th and 16th centuries. He lived with his family in the cave for 25 years, where they set out to rob and trap individuals or groups as they travel past their dwelling. Once brought back to the cave, the bodies are dismembered and eaten. It is estimated that the dwellers consumed some 1,000 people before they were found and killed.


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