It’s Cops ‘n’ Killers Month here at Nightmare on Film Street, so for this edition of the Collector’s Crypt, we’re digging deep into our evidence locker and bringing you the coolest collectibles that are from horror movies that are based on true stories! While there are varying degrees of truth to all of these claims, claiming the events in your movie is real has proven to be an effective marketing tactic that gets people into the theater.
Also effective at getting eyes on your movie? Really cool promotional items!
The Texas Chainsaw Merchandise
In 1974, perhaps the most notorious horror film that claims to be based on true events was released: Tobe Hooper’s slasher classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Following a group of five young friends who stumble upon a farmhouse full of cannibals, including the skin-wearing, chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, the movie became an instant classic, despite it’s tenuous ties to reality. Tobe Hooper was inspired to create the Sawyer family by lone murderer Ed Gein, who robbed graves, skinned his victims, and decorated his home with real skeletons, but who never used a chainsaw and lived in Wisconsin, not Texas.
Nevertheless, the marketing trick worked, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has become one of the longest-lasting franchises in horror history. After 3 sequels throughout the 1980s and ’90s, a remake produced by Michael Bay was announced to hit theaters in 2003. This time, they doubled down on the true story claims, with all of the marketing featuring the “Inspired by a true story” tagline and the movie itself starting with purportedly real footage shot by crime scene investigators in 1973, the year the crimes supposedly happened.
At early press screenings of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, the marketing team provided attendees with these awesome “evidence” swag-bags, packed full of items “recovered” from the scene of the crime. Along with a movie poster, the bags contained an evidence tag for a meat hook, a beat-up container of Epsom salts, Kemper’s (played by Eric Balfour) bracelet, a bloody clot of hair, along with 3 exclusive photos.
Two of these are photos seen in the movie, featuring the hitchhiker played by Lauren German and her family before they encountered Leatherface. The third appears to be a young Leatherface showing signs of the skin disease mentioned in the movie as the reason for wearing masks made of flesh, next to an unknown young girl. This appears to be an exclusive photo for marketing purposes and never appears in the film itself.
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Not included in the swag bags but an awesome promo piece in its own right, these small foam stress-ball chainsaws featuring the Texas Chainsaw Massacre logo and release date printed on the side were also given out to promote the remake. And even better, the pull cord on the handle makes the tiny chainsaw buzz to life!
Souvenirs From Wolf Creek
2005’s Wolf Creek follows three young backpackers on a road trip across the Australian outback who encounter a psychopath named Mick Taylor, played with menacing glee by John Jarratt, after their car breaks down. Although the characters and events depicted in the film are entirely fictional, writer-director Greg McLean has stated that the Mick Taylor character was inspired by two Australian murderers, Ivan Milat, responsible for the deaths of 7 backpackers between 1989 and 1993, and Bradley Murdoch, who was found guilty of murdering Peter Falconio .
Milat was responsible for the so-called “Backpacker Murders” in New South Wales between 1989 and 1993, in which seven young backpackers disappeared and were later found dead. In 2001, British tourist Peter Falconio disappeared and his body was never found. Bradley Murdoch was eventually found guilty of his murder.
A sequel, Wolf Creek 2, followed in 2013, as well as a television series in 2016, with John Jarratt reprising his role in both. When the series came to U.S. televisions on PopTV, press outlets received a cool package to promote the return of Mick Taylor. They contained a two-disc DVD set of the six-episode first season of Wolf Creek, as well as an “Australia’s Deadliest” t-shirt featuring the main villain, and even a bobblehead version of him as well!
Handy Hostel Amenities
Eli Roth’s sophomore effort, Hostel, also follows a trio of backpackers encountering trouble, this time in the form of a hostel that serves as a front for Elite Hunting, a sinister organization located in an decrepit warehouse where rich people pay to torture unsuspecting tourists to death. Theatrical posters and trailers touted Hostel as “inspired by true events,” although these claims are dubious at best – Roth claims to have seen a website advertising such a thing, but it has never been confirmed or surfaced again. Nevertheless, it is a perfectly plausible scenario and the marketing tactic paid off: Hostel opened number one at the box office and spawned two sequels.
To promote the release of the gruesome movie, a couple of appropriate promo items surfaced: first, a Hostel-branded pocket multi-tool, which folds out to reveal a multitude of handy-yet-sharp tools. Nail clippers adorned with the movie’s logo have also appeared on eBay in the past, as well as t-shirts and temporary tattoo versions of Elite Hunting’s bassett hound logo.
Deliver The Merch From Evil
While this month’s last item from the Crypt takes a decidedly more supernatural approach, it both claims to be inspired by true events, as well as featuring a cop in the main role! What could be more perfect? 2014’s Deliver Us From Evil was directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and marketed as being “Inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD Sergeant.”
That sergeant is Ralph Sarchie, who doubles as demonologist in his spare time and authored the non-fiction book Beware The Night, collecting his stories of encountering demons during various exorcisms he performed and witnessed, from which the movie took its inspiration. While most of it’s particular scares were created just for the film, the true story aspect still gives it an extra creep factor!
One of the most effective scenes, which was prominently featured in most of the trailers and TV spots, features Sarchie’s daughter, played by Lulu Wilson (Annabelle: Creation, Ouija: Origin of Evil), alone in her bedroom when her stuffed owl suddenly moves across the room by itself, accompanied by it’s menacing “Ha-ha-hoo” call, a frightening foreshadowing of scarier events to come.
To promote the movie, replicas of the owl were sent to critics and journalists, along with Deliver Us From Evil-branded night lights. The stuffed owl toy was custom made for the movie, so these are the only replicas available for collectors, making them a must-have! And yes – it makes the “Ha-ha-hoo” noise when you squeeze it!
That’s it for this edition of the Collector’s Crypt! Do you have any collectibles from movies based on true stories that we missed? Let us know on Reddit, Facebook, or Twitter, and your merch could be featured in a future edition of the Collector’s Crypt!