Horror movies have created some of the most notorious (and beloved) boogeymen over the years, with each standing out to viewers for their unique M.O.’s and choice of weapons. While horror movie bad guys can be terrifying enough to haunt you in your dreams, it’s the real-life boogeymen who should be keeping you up at night.
Monsters are real and their horrific actions have stained history. The following horror movies are inspired by real murders.
Steven C. Miller’s 2012 SILENT NIGHT is a remake of the 1984 classic, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT. The film followers a female deputy on Christmas Eve as she fights off a psychotic Santa with an affinity for flamethrowers. What many viewers don’t realize is that some of the events depicted in Miller’s take on the evil Santa actually happened.
On Christmas Eve in 2008, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo showed up at the Los Angeles home of his former in-laws dressed as Santa. Pardo walked into the party with a gift-wrapped box in one hand—which contained a homemade flamethrower—and a handgun in the other. He opened fired at the party, then pulled out the flamethrower and set the home ablaze. He fled the scene and committed suicide. Nine people died during the deadly night that has since been dubbed the Covina Massacre.
SILENT NIGHT briefly depicts the incident in a flashback to explain the revenge-seeking Santa’s actions in the film.
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
The 2007 film adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s harrowing novel of the same name depicts the torturous last days of a young girl. The story follows a young boy and his interactions with the girl next door, who eventually is held captive by a sadistic woman. The boy does nothing as the girl is brutally assaulted by countless children in the neighborhood and eventually she succumbs to her injuries.
The story is based on the 1965 true murder of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens. Likens’ parents entrusted a neighborhood woman named Gertrude Baniszewski with caring for their children. Little did they know, they were leaving Sylvia and her sister in the care of a mentally unstable woman with sinister intentions. Baniszewski took out her anger on the 16-year-old and encouraged her children and their friends to participate in abusing the girl. Sylvia was beaten, burned, starved, sexually assaulted and more before she died of shock, malnutrition and a brain hemorrhage. Baniszewski was sentenced to life in prison for the crime, but was paroled in 1985.
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS
In THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS, a hopeless teenage boy develops a close relationship with his mother’s volatile new boyfriend and embarks on a gruesome journey that destroys everyone in their town. The hard-to-watch movie depicts the murderous reign of real life serial killer John Bunting that occurred in Southern Australia between 1992 and 1999.
With the help of two accomplices Bunting targeted pedophiles and homosexuals—or anyone he didn’t like—and tortured them for hours before killing them. Eight of his victims were dismembered, crammed into barrels full of hydrochloric acid and buried inside an old bank vault in the village of Snowtown. Three other victims were murdered at Bunting’s sadistic hands before he was ultimately caught and convicted to life in prison.
In GRIMM LOVE, a criminal psychology student gets more than she bargained for when she chooses to complete her thesis on German cannibal killer Oliver Hartwin. The student delves deep into the lives of the killer and his final victim, exposing how psychologically unstable the pair were and eventually finds a tape of the murder.
The psychological thriller is based on the cannibal murder case of Armin Meiwes, a German man who found a willing victim to eat via an ad he posted on the blog, The Cannibal Café. Bernd-Jürgen Brandes beat out 200 other people who responded to the ad and soon met Meiwes in his soundproofed “slaughter room” where his penis was amputated. The pair attempted to eat the penis together and eventually Meiwes slit Brandes’ throat to end his life. Meiwes had consumed about 45 pounds of Brandes’ flesh before surrendering to the police. The events that took place were videotaped.
When two journalism students set out to investigate an unsolved murder on the 50th anniversary of the crime, they find themselves submerged in the mystery. The Hungarian found-footage horror BODOM is based on the infamous Lake Bodom murders that occurred in 1960 in Finland; however, the true story is far more disturbing than the fictional tale that takes place in the film.
On June 5, 1960, four teenagers set out for a fun-filled camping trip at Lake Bodom. Their trip took an evil turn when three of the four teenagers were brutally beaten and stabbed in their tent as they slept. One person survived and over 40 years later, he was arrested for the crime. A jury found him innocent and the case remains unsolved.
Three backpackers hoping to enjoy the Australian Outback are preyed upon by a maniac in 2007’s WOLF CREEK. The tourists mistakenly trust a stranger named Mick Taylor and soon find themselves unwilling participants in his twisted game. The relentless violence against the characters in the movie were actually inspired by the infamous Backpack murders that occurred in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales, Australia.
In the 1990s, the bodies of seven backpackers were discovered in an area of the forest known as “Executioners Drop.” Each body was found face-down with their hands tied behind their backs. The victims all died of various injuries including stab wounds, gun shots, strangulation and decapitation. The killer spent time with his victims before and after their deaths and several victims had stab wounds to their spines that most likely paralyzed them during the duration of the attacks.
Authorities were led to the home of Ivan Milat, where they found numerous pieces of evidence—like sleeping bags and clothing belonging to the victims—that connected him to the murders. He was sentenced to life in prison for the seven murders and police have reason to believe he is responsible for many more unsolved murders.
MEMORIES OF MURDER
Some detectives take their work home with them and for two dedicated officers dealing with an unknown serial killer terrorizing their streets, their work becomes their lives. In director Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean thriller MEMORIES OF MURDER, viewers are taken on a violent journey with two homicide detectives as they use any means necessary to solve a string of murders that have riled up their city.
The film is based on the Hwaseong serial murders, which became known as the first serial murder case in South Korea. The murders occurred in Hwaseong, South Korea between 1986 and 1991. Ten women—ranging in age from 14 to 61—were kidnapped, raped and strangled with articles of their own clothing. It became one of the biggest crime cases in South Korea at the time, employing over 1 million policemen to investigate the case and a suspect list of over 3,000 people. Despite their efforts, the serial killer was never caught and the mystery remains unsolved to this day.