Murder mysteries and true crime stories have always caused a buzz in the cinema world. Films that are shocking and gruesome tend to grab the attention of viewers and critics alike. Yet, there may be stories you’ve seen that you didn’t know were based on real events. Although many of these stories have been slightly altered for Hollywood effect, here are the actual facts of 3 spine-chilling stories that you won’t believe made it to the silver screen.
From Hell, 2001
Johnny Depp, Heather Graham
Jack the Ripper was a nickname given to the person who committed at least five murders during the late 1880s and early 1890s in London’s Whitechapel district. Police officers in the area began to catch on to the fact that a serial murderer might be in their midst after they recognized the style in which each woman was killed. It seemed that Jack’s preferred victims were young prostitutes in the Whitechapel district. Jack preferred to leave the desecrated remains of his victims on the street or on public grounds for all to see. Each woman was killed with a left to right cut of the throat, bodies were mutilated and some organs pillaged.
Jack the Ripper was never caught and many speculations still remain regarding who could have committed these awful crimes. Many suspects were questioned, but there was never enough evidence to charge someone with these heinous acts.
My Thoughts: This is one of my favorite true crime stories. They take some liberties with the ending, but it’s done creatively and thoughtfully – so it works. The visuals are dark and creepy and full of eerie color tones. This is a must watch for true crime fiends.
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Aileen Wuornos killed seven men over the course of two years. She claims that all of these crimes were committed in self defense. Sadly, Aileen suffered from severe mental illness including borderline personality disorder, which may have caused her to commit these crimes and/or could have been a result of the crimes. Nevertheless, Aileen was working as a prostitute during this time and insisted that some of her customers were physically violent with her, causing her to fight back and kill them. Aileen’s stories varied wildly during her trial. Sometimes she admitted to burglary and wanted to leave no witnesses, other times she insisted that the men would have hurt her had she not acted in self-defense.
Aileen was sentenced to six death sentences and faced execution on October 9th, 2002. One of her last interviews before she was executed is still available to the public. In it she discusses the reasons she has been treated unfairly, including “sonic pressure” used as a torturing device, and why she was forced to kill her victims.
My thoughts: This is the most real movie out of any others on this list. You are truly immersed in Aileen’s journey into madness. You feel for her and for her victims. It’s a shocking tale that won’t leave your memory any time soon.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo
In 1968 and 1969, five murders occurred around the Northern California area. The attacks claimed seven victims total with two survivors. In December of 1968, a couple was shot and killed in their car while on a date. The man was shot once in the head and the woman ran from the car only to be shot five times in the back. Six months later, another couple was shot at and The Zodiac Killer called the Vallejo police to take responsibility for the shootings. The phone call was traced to a pay phone, which happened to be near one of the victims houses blocks from the Vallejo police station. In August of 1969, the killer sent in three cryptograms to local newspapers with a letter taking credit for the murders. He demanded that the puzzles be published on the front page and that they must solve them in order to know his identity. Six days later the San Francisco Examiner received a letter stating “Dear Editor, this is the Zodiac speaking”. This is the only time the killer was named in any correspondence. The letter contained information which had not been released to the public regarding the shootings. The killer later called police again confessing to the crimes and also sent additional letters containing pieces of victims clothing.
The Zodiac Killer was never caught and two of the three cryptograms were never solved. The puzzle that was solved included information about killing people for fun and the victims joining the killer in the afterlife as slaves. The killer supposedly called a TV show and identified himself as “Sam” the killer. He asked for a specific lawyer, Melvin Belli, to be present on the show who he later sent more pieces of clothing. The last letter from the Zodiac Killer was received on January 29th, 1974 and took credit for a total of 37 unsolved murders.
My thoughts: This movie expertly tells the tale of a detective who gets completely lost in his search for answers in the case of the Zodiac. His life fell apart due to his obsession with this case. This true and unsolved mystery will leave you with so many questions you might want to look into it yourself, but don’t get too wrapped up. Many people have worked on this case and very few have left with any actual leads.
Although some of these stories are incredibly shocking and gruesome, it’s good to remember that these stories are anomalies, even within the crime world. Truthfully, only about 1% of crime ever occurs at the hands of a serial killer. So, rest assured that you can sleep at night knowing there isn’t a criminal mastermind lurking behind every corner.