When you think of watching scary movies leading up to Halloween, you often aren’t going to be queuing up a list of documentaries. Fictional movies are terrifying in their own right (obviously, and wildly successful), but what couldn’t be more scary than something that really happened? We’re not talking about based on a true story, we mean talking to the people who really did some horrible things.
You might have planned to watch our other list of scary movies based on true stories, so add these to that list.
#10. “The Act Of Killing” (2012) is about the death of approximately 1 millions Indonesians over the course of one year…
Between 1965 and 1966 a communist purge lead by Anwar, was the most powerful killing squad in Sumatra. He personally killed an estimated 1000 people. Available on Netflix, this documentary takes a terrifying turn when the director makes killers re-enact their killings.
#9. “Interview with a Cannibal” (2011) is just what the title says, but it’s even creepier than that…
Issei Sagawa was studying in Paris at the Sorbonne when he murdered his 25-year-old classmate Renée Hartevelt. He lured her to her death, raped and dismembered her, then cannibalized her over a two-day period.
Hearing him recount this experience is more than creepy enough, but what will stick with you is that he’s a free man. He was deported back to Japan after being deemed as unfit for a trial.
#8. “Cropsey” (2009) is about a suspected child killer in New York state…
Directors Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio grew up in New York and like many others, they simultaneously grew up in fear of the legend of Cropsey–a killer who “took care of” misbehaving children.
When they started filming they simply wanted to find the origins of the story, but during their research they find a child killer who is suspected of being the man behind the legend. Viewers will get chills wondering if they’ve stumbled into the haunting fable IRL.
#7. “The Cheshire Murders” (2013) is about the most horrifying home invasion of all time…
Dr. William Petit dozed off for a nap in his sunroom on a day in July 2007. That’s when Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky broke into his home, beat him, and tied him to a pole in the basement, then raped his wife and two adolescent daughters. Next, they set the house ablaze and left everyone for dead.
Petit, somehow was able to slip out of being tied up and escaped to his neighbors–although his family was not as fortunate. Hearing him recount the 7-hour ordeal is chillingly intense.
#6. “Suicide Forest” (2011) is as scary what you can imagine that title could mean…
Aokigahara is patch of forest at the base of Mt. Fuji, and is has hundreds of visitors every year, like many other Japanese tourist attractions, but this is for a much more haunting reason. People come here to end their lives. The film crew explores the area and what they see along the way is more than horrifying.
They see man bodies, some skeletons, and some still hanging from trees. That image will stick with you forever.
#5. “Capturing the Friedmans” (2003) is about a terrifying family wrapped up in a child pornography scandal…
Capturing the Friedmans follows Arnold and Elaine, and their three sons Seth, David, and Jesse. When father Arnold gets caught with child pornography, the computer teacher is quickly accused of potentially sexually assaulting his students. Eventually, he and his son, Jesse, are found guilty of molesting several underage boys.
This documentary is scary, because when you meet these people you’d never think they could do such a thing.
#4. “Child of Rage” (1990) is about a disturbed child talking about what’s lead her to feel this way…
Beth Thomas seems adorable and innocent when you first meet in the HBO documentary. But, then as she begins speaking in brutal honesty viewers quickly become terrified by her disturbed thoughts. At an early age, she’s a victim of sexual molestation, so she and her brother were placed in adoptive care.
The long-term effects are haunting, however. She coldly explains her murderous thoughts toward those who love her, and even says she needs to be locked up at night not to act on these thoughts.
#3. “In A Town This Size” (2011) is about about a doctor that sexually assaulted hundreds of his children patients…
Dr. Bill Dougherty took advantage of how easy it was for him to gain access to numerous victims over the span of several decades. Hearing his victims recount the incidents is what makes this documentary so terrifying.
Parents be forewarned that this will absolutely make your skin crawl, and reconsider everything you thought you knew about the people who take care of your children. The fact is, you “cannot judge a book by it’s cover.”
#2. “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” (2012) is about a woman who lied about being a 9/11 survivor…
Available on Hulu, this documentary profiles NYC resident Tania Head (not her real name), who claimed to have escaped from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center on 9/11, is the widow of a man who died that day and she started the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network.
The reason this seemingly heroic story is so terrifying? It was all a lie. She wasn’t there (i.e. the title). Her harrowing recollection of events is so convincing, you may actually believe her.
#1. “The Cove” (2009) is about the brutal capture and killing of dolphins.
In the coastal village of Taiji, Japan, there’s a hard to locate and highly protected cove where dolphins are brutally captured and murdered for profit. The film crew was able to penetrate the cove with hidden cameras and expose the truth behind this massacre.
Viewers are forced to sit through graphic footage of fisherman killing hundreds of dolphin families, and that’s something you can’t unsee.
What happens is something that is both difficult to watch, and will stay with you (and we assume them) for the rest of your life.