10 intense horror movies fans mistook for documentaries

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Unconventional marketing tactics have long been used to promote horror projects that couldn’t count on big budgets, and, from the buzzing ARGs for avant-garde films found to promoters tying red balloons. at the sewer grates to scare off ticket sales for Stephen King. adaptations, guerrilla marketing methods can work wonders in some cases.

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Another proven strategy is to pretend that a movie is a representation of real events. This is especially prevalent in the horror genre, with famous films like Amityville Horror and the original Freddy bet on the “based on a true story” chip.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Leatherface makes one final murder attempt in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Often considered a pioneer of the slasher genre, Toby Hooper’s film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was a low budget movie that didn’t feel like it was going to go much further than a few grindhouse theaters. However, it became a huge success, and that may be in part because the promoters claimed it was based on a true story.

Dubbed “one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history” in the film’s opening crawl, the alleged massacre after which the film was named never really took place. It was loosely based on the crimes committed by American serial killer Ed Gein, but it is by no means an adaptation of his story.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

A still from the 1980 horror film Cannibal Holocaust.

1980s Cannibal holocaust has a reputation for being one of the vilest, most extreme horror movies of all time. A grindhouse project led by Italian filmmaker Ruggero Deodato, it is a flagship film in the found images genre that was originally presented as a true documentary.

The events of the film were so believable that, according to RBC, the director was charged with murder and forced to prove that the actors and actresses who starred in the film were still alive. Grizzly as it is, this marketing gimmick certainly helped bring attention to the film.

Strangers (2008)

A still from the 2008 film The Strangers.

In an opening sequence reminiscent of the first images of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2008 The foreigners proclaims that the setting of the film was “inspired by real events”. While there’s certainly no shortage of weird home invasion stories to base a horror movie on, the movie doesn’t quite look like one event in particular.

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According to Alternative press, director Bryan Bertino admitted that the film was at least partially inspired by the LaBianca-Tate murders. However, the similarities between the actual 1969 event and the 2008 film are only superficial.

The Poughkeepsie Bands (2007)

A still from the 2007 horror film The Poughkeepsie Tapes.

Another found footage film that adopted the pseudo-documentary style that had been well established at the time of its initial release, Poughkeepsie bands debuted at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, but the film has been put on hold for unknown reasons and will not receive a DVD release until 2017.

Designed as a documentary about a horrific serial killer, the film explores the gruesome content of a collection of hundreds of VHS tapes salvaged from the killer. While the marketing ploy of pretending to premiere real found footage became scarce in the late 2000s, the film’s decade of inaccessibility has raised fears for some that Poughkeepsie bands maybe the real deal.

Tobacco (1976)

A still from the 1976 horror film Snuff.

Backed by the disturbing slogan “Shot in South America … where life is cheap”, 1976’s Snuff courted controversy from its inception. According to ComingSoon.net, feminist groups challenged the film’s treatment of women, and viewers were disturbed enough to alert police departments in New York and Los Angeles.

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The poor quality cinematography exhibited in Snuff should have immediately dismissed the idea that the events depicted in the film were genuine. Sadly, the concept of a “snuff” movie – a film intended for public consumption containing actual acts of violence and murder – was a popular concern at the time and gave credence to the filmmaker’s overzealous claims.

Ghost watch (1992)

A photo from the 1992 BBC mock documentary Ghostwatch.

Long before mock documentaries became an established art form, the 1992 BBC film made for television Ghost watch broke new ground by blurring the lines between horror film and television news.

Starring real news anchors and framed as a true exploration of the paranormal, Ghost watch utterly terrified viewers, many of whom missed the warning that the events depicted on screen were, in fact, fictional. The impact of the film was so severe that, according to The independent, it has actually been credited with causing PTSD in some children.

Paranormal activity (2007)

Security footage of a couple in bed in their bedroom from Paranormal Activity (2007)

One of the highest grossing movies of all time, the first Paranormal activity The film was developed for a budget of nothing less than $ 15,000 and generated a return on investment of $ 193 million. It’s spawned a slew of sequels and side projects, but no movie in the franchise has had as much of an impact as the original.

While this is not the first found footage film to draw the line “these things really happened”, many have fallen prey to the marketing gimmick and, according to Curler, the actors were dissuaded from appearing at the film’s premiere to advance the idea that they might be dead.

Guinea pig (1985 – 1990)

A still from the Japanese horror film Guinea Pig.

Guinea pig is actually a collection of extreme gore Japanese films that debuted in the late 80’s and were meant to be an adaptation of a manga written by the director of the series.

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Each film focuses on the kidnapping and torture of various victims at the hands of sadistic killers, and the series is known for its sickening detail. As recalled by Buzzfeed, the Guinea pig the series achieved notoriety in part thanks to the actions of American actor Charlie Sheen, who once stumbled upon the second film, Flower of flesh and blood, and found it so convincing that he alerted the authorities.

Faces of Death (1978)

A close up of a human skull.

Faces of death comes across as a grueling examination of the concept of death and how living things react in the moments just before their demise. Grizzly and deeply disagreeable, Faces of death was billed as a compilation of real-world events that weren’t tampered with for the camera.

Fortunately, this is not exactly the case, and although genuine footage was used, the company’s many brutal scenes were, according to one iHorror interview with a production company owner with insider knowledge, rigged with special effects. However, a case of a body washing on a beach was in fact genuine.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Excerpt from the horror film The Blair Witch Project.

Backed by one of the most legendary marketing campaigns in movie history, the 1999s The Blair Witch Project was billed as a legitimate documentary produced by a group of since-deceased amateur filmmakers.

Set in the real town of Burkittsville, MD, the film is steeped in authenticity, with the substandard footage further serving to sell the narrative. The Blair Witch Project was, of course, completely fictional, but many viewers at the time of the film’s release believed they were seeing actual snippets of salvaged footage.

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