Horror Movie Villains Based on Real People


Natural Born Killers 

Villains: Micky and Mallory 

Real People: Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate

The 1994 film Natural Born Killers is about a young couple in love who go on a mass murdering spree. It stars Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis and Robert Downy Jr. It was directed by Oliver Stone with the first screenplay written by Quinten Tarantino, who later disowned the film. Natural Born Killers is an extremely controversial movie because it is believed to have inspired many different “copy cat” murder sprees, such as the Columbine High School Massacre. The couple in the movie Micky and Mallory are loosely based off a real life couple who committed a 10 person murder spree in the late 50’s. Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate were convicted of the homicides, with Charles receiving the death penalty and Caril getting a life sentence. Charles was executed via the electric chair 17 months after his trial and Caril was paroled after spending 17 years in jail. Caril told the judge and jury that she was held hostage by her boyfriend during the murders but the judge didn’t buy her story because she had many opportunities to escape but never tried to. Charles said that she took part in the murders too but Caril denied this. The Starkweather-Fugate case has inspired other films such as The Sadist, Badlands, and Kalifornia


The Hills Have Eyes

Villains: The Mutant Family

Real People: The Sawney Bean Clan

The Hills Have Eyes is a horror-slasher film series created by Wes Craven, who also created A Nightmare on Elm Street films and the Scream films. The plot is about a family stranded in the desert who get attacked by a group of mutant cannibals. Wes Craven got his inspiration for the mutants based off the Scottish legend of The Sawney Bean Clan. A man named Alexander “Sawney” Bean didn’t like to work for a living so he and his wife went and lived in a cave by the coast where they ambushed people to steal their goods and cannibalize them. They lived there for more than 25 years and had 8 sons, 6 daughters, 18 grandsons and 14 granddaughters by incest. At night, the Sawney family would ambush and murder travelers and take their remains back to the cave. It is said they killed and ate more than 1,000 victims. Finally, after an attack gone wrong the local townspeople found out the whereabouts of the cave.  The story goes that once the cave was raided, there were remains of human limbs in several barrels and piles of people’s goods and jewelry. The whole family was then executed without trial. The men had their genitals cut off and burned, then their limbs severed and they bled to death. The women were burned alive at the stake. It is argued by historians on whether or not The Sawney Bean Clan is based on true events or just local folklore.


The Silence of the Lambs

Villain: Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Real Person: Alfredo Balli Trevino

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1988 crime novel by the author Thomas Harris. In 1991, it was turned into a film by the same name that won many Academy Awards. It is Harris’ second book with the infamous brilliant cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Harris got his inspiration for a brilliant Doctor-murderer character when he visited a Mexican prison. There he met a man named Alfredo Balli Trevino. Trevino was a very well spoken, talented surgeon who went to jail for killing his lover after an argument. He slashed his lover’s throat with a scalpel then hid his body by cutting it up into very many tiny pieces and burying them. That interview Thomas Harris had with Alfredo Balli Trevino stuck with him, until a couple years later he wrote his first novel with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a character that would become a fictional legend.  



Villain: Annie Wilkes 

Real Person: Genene Jones

Misery is a 1987 thriller novel written by Stephen King. It’s about a famous romance author who is kidnapped by a psychotic fan then forced to write her stories. The book was made into a film in 1990 and won an Oscar. In the plot the psychotic fan of the author is a nurse named Annie Wilkes who rescues the author after he is knocked unconscious after an automobile accident. Annie nurses the author back to health but soon the author figures out she is crazy and deranged. She was also accused of killing many infants when she was a pediatric nurse but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict. Stephen King got a lot of inspiration for his character Annie Wilkes by the real life killer nurse Genene Jones. Who is responsible for the deaths of up to 60 infants when she was a nurse. She would inject the babies with drugs so they would go into cardiac arrest, then she would save them and get the credit for being a hero. Genene Jones was arrested in 1982 and given a sentence of 99 years. 


The Usual Suspects 

Villain: Keyser Soze 

Real Person: John List

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 mystery Neo-noir film about a team of criminals who work for a mysterious crime lord named Keyser Soze.  Keyser Soze’s identity is unknown but his influence has become legendary status among criminals. Not much is known about him except for his ruthlessness. Keyser Soze killed his own wife and kids when their lives were threatened by enemies. He did this to show that nothing will stop him. Christopher McQuarrie wrote the screenplay for The Usual Suspects and got the inspiration for Keyser Soze by an American mass killer named John List. John List killed his mother, wife and three kids then ran away to take up another identity, not to be caught for 18 years. He planned the murders out so perfectly that the police didn’t find the bodies for a month after he left. John List fled the state, became a new person and even remarried. He got caught after a neighbor recognized him from a TV show called America’s Most Wanted that told about John’s cold case and had an aged rendition of what he would look like. John List was arrested and charged for five counts of first degree murder. He said he did it because there was too much evil in the world and he wanted to ensure their souls go to heaven. He died in 2008 at the age of 82. 


The Girl Next Door 

Villain: Ruth Chandler 

Real Person: Gertrude Baniszewski

The Girl Next Door is a 2007 American horror film adaption of Jack Ketchum’s 1989 novel of the same name. The book is about the abuse and murder of a teenage girl named Meg by her evil Aunt and cousins. The Girl Next Door is based off the real life crime and murder of Sylvia Likens. Sylvia Likens was born in 1949 and died in 1965 in Indiana when she was only 16. Her and her sister Jenny were being taken care of by a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski for $20 a week, while their parents worked out of state at carnivals. As time went on Gertrude started abusing the two girls especially Sylvia. Gertrude would even get her own kids and some of the neighbor kids to torture, and humiliate Sylvia. It got so bad that Sylvia died from her neglected and dehydrated condition. After her little sister Jenny told the police everything that happened, Gertrude, two of her children and two of the neighborhood boys were arrested for the murder of Sylvia. It is considered to be the worst crime ever carried out in the state of Indiana. 


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho & The Silence of the Lambs 

Villains: Leatherface, Norman Bates & Buffalo Bill 

Real Person: Ed Gein 

Ed Gein is perhaps the most notorious murderer in the entire world. His crimes tend to dwarf all others while his actions and demeanor take the cake for being the creepiest. Ed Gein is America’s most prolific murderer and body snatcher. He was born is 1906. He lived with his alcoholic father, his overprotective and very religious mother and his older brother. He grew up on a farm where his mother forbade him and his brother from making friends. His father died due to his alcoholism, his brother died from cardiac arrest, though some think he was Ed’s first kill, and his mother and only friend died from a stroke in 1945. Ed was all alone on his farm. Not long after his mother’s death Ed started stealing the bodies of women who died that reminded him of his mother. His intention was to make a skin suit and “become his mother”. This weird and creepy obsession with his mother is the inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho and the skin suit is inspiration for the serial killer Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. In 1958, the police raided Ed Gein’s house because he was the lead suspect in a murder of a store clerk. They found her body at his house along with several mangled human corpses Ed Gein would make stuff out of. They found masks made from human skin which was the inspiration for “Leather face” in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The police found waste buckets made from human skin, a belt made from female nipples, bowls made from human skulls and a lot more messed up stuff made out of human remains. Ed Gein was declared insane with schizophrenia and died in an insane asylum in 1982. 

Peter O'Melia