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Did you know Horror movies are great for first dates? For instance, the chemicals our brains release when we fall in love happen to be the same exact chemicals released when we get scared! With that fun fact, here are my top five Horror favorites! They were all based on actual events, so they're a great conversation starter! Single and happy? Well, I guarantee these will make you want to sleep with the lights on! And maybe get your dog, cat, stuffed animal, or even a body pillow to cuddle with...
#5 - The Serpent and the Rainbow
A Wes Craven directed horror film, The Serpent and the Rainbow was based on a book published in 1985 about the actual studies of Dr. Wade Davis. Of course, Wes Craven embellished and the Dr. wasn't too happy with him. His whole point was to 'exorcise' the Western way of demonizing the beliefs held in the West African Vodoun religion. Davis wrote about the secret societies he encountered and his detailed studies on the herbal concoction that Haitian Shamans used to make Zombies. Accepted as punishment in Haiti, it created the belief that the victim had died, when in fact, they were still alive. The drug lowers the heart rate and renders parts of the brain paralyzed. In Vodoun, or Voodoo, the Serpent represents Earth, and the Rainbow represents the Sky. There's a whole lot more in the symbolism, but that's my cut and dry version!
Wes Craven played on all the White man's fears of the Black man for this film! Very different from the book, once his Dr. Dennis Alan arrives in Haiti to find the drug, he finds himself at the mercy of Craven's Voodoo Witch Doctor who doesn't like him poking around the local graveyards. Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow is soaked with vivid symbolic imagery and sensual dream sequences. The movie plays with the viewers mind and gets stuck there!
I rated this movie fifth on my list because number one, the excellent acting of Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, and the unforgettable Zakes Mokae made it seem real. It's scarier than even another favorite movie of mine, The Skeleton Key, which isn't even based on a book by a Harvard Professor! Wes Craven gives the impression that he read between the lines of Dr. Davis' book! And my number two reason? It's probably impossible to remake anything that was marked by Craven's creepy touch! It never gets less scarier to watch knowing the background of his inspiration. In fact, that knowledge only adds to making it a pretty scary flick to watch, even though it's from the 80s!
#4 - Fire in the Sky
My list wouldn't be complete without a movie depicting the true story of an Alien encounter! Encounters of the fourth kind are considered an Alien Abduction. This classification comes from the system of close encounters that was created by famous Astronomer, Astrophysicist and Ufologist, Josef Allen Hynek. He was a scientific advisor on several UFO research projects for the United States Air Force. That kind of says a lot about how true the facts behind this movie are!
Fire in the Sky was directed by Robert Lieberman and based on the book written by Travis Walton, who also has a website about his personal experience here! Walton was abducted in 1975 from Snowflake, Arizona where he worked as a logger. He and his coworkers spot a UFO while driving home from work one night. He's the only one with the cojones to try and get close enough to check it out. Before the eyes of his very surprised friends, a beam of light emits from the UFO, hits him like a lightning strike and he disappears! Walton was missing for five days until he returns with temporary amnesia. I already didn't like the idea of being in the middle-of-nowhere, Alaska. I just know that any isolating environment, like Alaska, is going to equal a 'What-the-hell-was-that?!' experience! The memories of Walton's missing five days slowly come back to him. If you're anything like me, and you like staring up at the night sky, this movie will successfully scare the crap out of you!
#3 - A Nightmare on Elm Street
The sensationalism of this movie franchise earned it number three on my list! A Nightmare on Elm Street scared the crap out of almost everyone when it hit theaters back in 1984! It was directed by Wes Craven, and was again his embellishment of real events. He based his movie on a news story he had read, in the LA Times, about the death of a boy who was found to have died mysteriously in his sleep.
The boy and his refugee family had survived The Killing Fields in Cambodia before arriving in the U.S. He had reportedly begun to have nightmares so bad, yelling out when he did sleep, that the young boy would stay awake for days at a time. He told his parents that he was afraid to sleep because he didn't want the bad thing to get him. Also in the NY Times archives, there's this story, which Craven also could have read back in 1981! The 18 men and women, previously healthy Laotian refugees, had died in an obscure pattern during a four-year period. The investigating forensic pathologists stated the Laotian refugees died from a terror induced nightmare called 'Oriental Nightmare Death Syndrome'. In Filipino, it's called 'Bangungut', and the English translation is a nightmare!
In the first movie, Wes Craven introduces Freddy Krueger, who appears in the nightmares of Nancy and her friends. He always wears a red and black striped sweater, large brimmed hat, and has razors on his hand when he chases after them! What you eventually find out is that Freddy started hunting Nancy and her friends out of revenge. When he was alive, Freddy had been the town kid-killing pervert. Nancy's parents were part of the mob, all pretty disgusted parents from the Elm St. neighborhood, who had killed him.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Nancy's mom had kept a memento... in their basement. Death had only made Freddy more dangerous... now he could get his victims in their dreams! Not long after her friends started getting sliced and diced, when one girl dozed-off in class, or when another was forced to sleep off his underage drinking in the local jail where her dad worked as a cop, Nancy, naturally, gets a little hysterical! I mean, who wouldn't? The sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, and way too much caffeine, on top of her PMS and all the other pressures of High School to fit in! Now her friends are getting killed in class while they sleep? Nancy's parents decide to put bars on their house to keep her all locked in, safe and tight, at night! The first chance he gets, Freddy sadistically kills her boyfriend and she is forced to helplessly watch, from her barred bedroom window! Nancy defeats him by facing her fear of him... which she had to fall asleep in order to do!
The actor who played Freddy, Robert Englund, made himself legendary with this role created by Wes Craven! Don't confuse him with Tobin Bell, who stars in the Saw movies. Those are another bunch of my favorites! So far, they haven't gone all cheesy like the Nightmare franchise did. Perhaps that happened BECAUSE the first movie was so scary? To be honest, even though the second is pretty good, too, only the first, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is one of the definite Craven originals! He also directed the seventh film in the sequels, but this one carries his 'Genius of Horror' signature!
Before you watch my number three pick, ask yourself this question: Can the true event that inspired Wes Craven's movie, a nightmare, really have the power to kill? Here's my best advice if you DO decide to watch this movie... Don't fall asleep!
#2 - The Exorcist
The eerie feeling I get when I watch this movie places it to number two on my list! There are also sequels and all are just as equally spooky! The book was written about a teenage girl named Regan MacNeil, to give anonymity for the real family that suffered. The young boy Regan's character was based on, had no memory of the event and went on with his life. But, just the title by itself gives me the chills! The novel, The Exorcist, written by William Peter Blatty, was published during a time when demonic possession was not considered a big enough problem that required the intervention of the Catholic Church.
About two decades before the book, in St. Louis, Missouri, a young 14 year old boy, who had been given the pseudonym Ronald Doe, was treated using rites of the Exorcism by priests from the Catholic Church. Ronald's problems seemed to start with his use of an Ouija Board. He had been gifted an Ouija board by his aunt and they had used it together before she died. After she passed away, Ronald said he used it to make contact with her spirit. The sweet, loving spirit of his dear aunt began to turn sinister. Soon, the family was subjected to angry disembodied voices, unexplained knocking, and furniture moving by itself. Young Ronald Doe was even physically attacked, the entity leaving visible scratches all over his body. On the advice of their Protestant minister, the family fled to St. Louis, where they contacted the Catholic Church. It is documented that the Catholic Church Diocese had granted their permission for The rites of Exorcism to be performed on an unnamed boy, age 14, who was a patient at Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. The hospital is no longer there, as it was later torn down.
This controversial film was banned in every Middle Eastern country when it was released to theaters. The film, directed by William Friedkin, made the possibility of possession, and the use of Exorcism as treatment, more widely accepted. The timing couldn't have been more perfect! The early 1970s was just after civil rights activism, anti-war protests, and the hippies infusion for us to have peace and show love for all mankind, which had all made the 60s such a famous decade! It was much easier for people to turn the symptoms that affected our PTSD plagued War Veterans, and the lasting hallucinations of bad LSD trips, into a case of demonic possession!
The young Regan was portrayed by Linda Blair. The events of her demonic possession make you forget that it's just a movie! After playing with an Ouija Board and making contact with a spirit named Mr. Howdy, the young girl becomes possessed by a demonic spirit. Regan swears, speaks in tongues, spews green bile, levitates above her bed, and has her body slashed by the unseen evil that overtakes her body! Father Damien, the Catholic priest that is called in by Regan's mother to exorcise the demon from her daughters body, winds up suffering his own fate!
To make The Exorcist even more terrifying, the film set for the MacNeil's home caught fire the first day of filming! Only Regan's room had been mysteriously undamaged! Also during production, at least three people died, two had played characters that died during the movie, and one was the son of one of the actors! There were many more strange deaths and coincidences during the filming and even long after The Exorcist was released! It is believed that the film was cursed by the demon that had possessed it's original victim, Ronald Doe!
#1 - The Amityville Horror
I don't even know where to begin for my number one pick! I read the book as a teenager, and then being the proper nerd I was, I looked up a ton of information at the local library. The events that happened to the Lutz family and what their book, The Amityville Horror, is all about, fall in line with a residual haunting and demonic possession.
The home located on Ocean Ave is near water, has a boathouse, swimming pool, full basement, seven bedrooms (including the attic), detached two-car garage, and came at a huge discount when George Lutz, and his wife Kathy, bought it. When they fled, they had lived in their dream home for only 28 days.
For many years, The DeFeo Family had formerly occupied the home with their five children. One fateful night, their oldest son shot his parents and his four younger siblings, execution-style, while they all slept in their beds. Not a single neighbor heard the gunshots. Ronald DeFeo Jr. was arrested and eventually convicted of his family's murder. His defense was an insanity plea based on his statement that he had heard voices telling him to murder his family. That didn't matter. He was convicted of six counts of 2nd Degree Murder and is serving six consecutive life terms at the Green Haven Correction Facility in New York. Ronald DeFeo Jr. later recanted his testimony and has changed his story numerous times over the years. This website details the mysterious crime that took place and the Lutz's real-life haunting.
The DeFeo Ghost
The movie was pretty much exactly like the book. Only a few details had been embellished for dramatic effect. There were flies, but, they didn't attack the priest who blessed the home when the Lutz family moved in. Also, there were no issues paying the mortgage. There had been a huge down payment from George and Kathy selling two prior homes, and other costs were cut with George able to move his Land Surveying business to his new basement and dock his boats himself. The only reason a family would move so quickly from their dream house, bought at such a huge discount, was that it really was haunted.
The little boy in the photograph above was taken by Paranormal Investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, when they investigated the home. They had set up infrared cameras and out of all the pictures taken, this is the only frame that caught something!
Considering the horrific crime that had taken place before the Lutz family moved in, there is not a doubt in my mind that they had encountered the leftover energy. There also had to have been some pretty powerful Mojo going on to muffle the sound of six gunshots. Ronald DeFeo's parents had slept in the same bed and neither one had woken up! There had been signs, is what the investigators said, that Ronald's mother, Louise, and his sister, Allison, had shown signs that they were awake at the moment they were shot. But, both had been in different rooms. Nobody went running out the front door. No needle marks had been found on the bodies. Toxicology tests confirmed no drugs were found in any of the victims at the time of death. Water is an excellent conductor, yet the gunshots were not heard by any neighbors?
Ronald DeFeo, Jr. probably did hear voices telling him to kill his family! Those same voices probably worked the Mojo necessary to keep the noise from traveling. Sure, he could have been high on Heroin, but doesn't that make users sleepy? Why was he then awake enough to carry out his crime, and then travel to a bar to alert his friends? If he had administered the drug to keep his family asleep, via food or drink, why wasn't it found during the autopsies?
The senseless act he carried out, I believe, only added to whatever had gotten in his head. It's strange to note that George Lutz looked quite identical to Ronald DeFeo Jr. in appearance. When the Lutz family moved in, George had been the prime target. Missy Lutz had met her invisible friend, Jody, after moving into the home. Since children are usually the ones who can see spirits easier than adults, I think it's safe to say it was probably the boy in the picture. We don't know if any of the DeFeo's children had any experiences with 'invisible friends' during the decade they all lived there... at least, until their 23 year old son began to hear voices and murdered them in their beds!
Yes, The Amityville Horror takes the cake for me on my list of scariest Horror movies based on a true event! Don't be surprised if after you watch any of my five top picks, you can't wait until the Sun rises! Now that I've successfully spooked myself, I'm going to watch Season 5 of The 100 on Netflix!
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