When horror filmmakers need inspiration for a story to tell, sometimes the best place to look is the real-world, as its already filled with many atrocities. In some cases, this means looking to violent stories of serial killers, but in many cases, filmmakers draw upon stories of the supernatural, as it's more difficult to determine fact from fiction.
Some filmmakers, however, choose to make fictional films that are sold as "reality," in some cases even convincing audiences that what we were seeing was truly based on real events.
With films like The Conjuring and Annabelle claiming to be fictionalized accounts of true events, we're taking a look back at some of the most successful fictional films that themselves claim are actual events.
Scroll down to see the most convincing horror movie hoaxes!
War of the Worlds (1938)
Before going further, we have to fudge the rules a little bit to include this legendary event. Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, this radio play aired to celebrate Halloween and is one of the seminal examples of blending fact with fiction. When audiences turned on their radio and heard reports of strange invaders from another planet, they began calling the police, the radio station, and taking up arms and heading outside to battle whatever intergalactic threat awaited them. Few events in horror and science fiction have truly gripped the nation quite like this broadcast, with the exception of the films on this list. Also, considering the story has gotten two theatrical adaptations, we'll give this radio play a pass.
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The Amityville Horror (1979)
Based on a novel of the same name, 1979's The Amityville Horror didn't claim to document actual events, but rather claimed to be based on true events. The extent to which the supernatural events depicted in the film actually happened have been debated by many, but it's important to note that multiple people involved in the writing of the book have admitted that the whole thing was false. The Lutz family, who moved into the supposedly haunted house after previous residents were murdered, conspired with the murderer's lawyer to create the tale. Had the Lutzes not made up the initial story, there'd be no debate over facts because no one would have had any reason to think anything supernatural ever took place in the home.
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Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
One of the original "found footage" horror films, Cannibal Holocaust featured a film crew going into the Amazon, which resulted in their deaths. To help sell the ruse, filmmaker Ruggero Deodato made all the actors sign contracts saying they wouldn't appear in any films, media, or commercials for one year after the film's release, making their disappearance more believable. Having been arrested for obscenity, due to the graphic images in the film, Deodato was also charged with murder, resulting in him contacting the cast to ask them to appear on TV, leading to the murder charges being dropped.
An update on the War of the Worlds format, Ghostwatch aired in the UK without much explanation of what it was, the BBC aired it on Halloween night under their drama station. The program was a mock news broadcast that was partnered with an investigative news team exploring a family's home that claimed to be haunted, with many supernatural occurrences taking place both in the studio and in the home. The film was so convincing, it was estimated that the BBC received nearly 30,000 phone calls from viewers complaining about the intensity of the broadcast. The show was banned from ever airing again, but was released on VHS in 2002.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Most modern film fans' point of reference for found footage films, The Blair Witch Project made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Considering the festival was known for pushing boundaries with its programming, many audiences around the world thought the film was a genuine documentary about a group of hikers that got lost in the woods. Thanks to more and more households gaining the internet and a series of bizarre marketing websites, the mythology surrounding the film made it difficult to get to bottom of things, with many people still believing the film that was released in theaters is just a dramatic reenactment of actual events.
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Honorable Mention - Paranormal Activity (2007)
Following an incredibly similar model to The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity also used opening/closing title cards in hopes of selling the authenticity of a young couple documenting the supernatural events occurring in their home. Since it had been less than ten years since Blair Witch had come out, most audiences refused to be tricked again into believing a found footage movie was real, with this film's success starting a massive craze of low-budget horror movies shot in the POV perspective. Paranormal Activity marked the nail in the coffin of anyone believing what they saw in a horror film, no matter how convincing the footage might have appeared.0comments
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