5 Great Horror Movies Based On Urban Legends

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Horror movies are always more effective when reminiscent of, or straight up depicting, real world fears. What better way to terrify the masses than by visually portraying urban legends, some of the most widespread of superstitions and irrational paranoias? Many of these folk horror films are tackled by smaller directors looking to kickstart, though some bigger budget gems have been known to shine through. 

Triangle 2009

Triangle Folk Horror movie poster with girl holding axe on a boat with a bloody reflection

Triangle is a twisting, turning, chilling British horror/thriller from Christopher Smith, director of Severance (2006) and Black Death (2010). A potent hybrid of old school slasher à la Friday 13th (1980) and mind-bending science fiction in the vein of Predestination (2014) and Coherence (2013), this unsettling nautical romp is certain to please fans of both. When Jess, a single mother, embarks on a boating trip with her friends, a storm forces them to abandon their vessel for a seemingly deserted cruise liner. Once aboard, the group are faced with a deranged killer, along with waves of psychological mayhem and headache-inducing time loops. 

As the name may suggest, Triangle is centred around the infamous Bermuda Triangle, a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. The region is said to have played setting to, and been the culprit of, a great number of obscure sightings and disappearances leading back to 1492. It was then that Christopher Columbus and the crew of the Santa Maria sailed through the triangle to arrive at Guanahani, though not before reportedly seeing a strange and unknown light in the sea fog. Since then a great deal of boats and aeroplanes have disappeared in the sinister sea-region, from the USS Wasp in 1814 to Turkish Airlines flight TK183 in 2017, some carrying upwards of a hundred passengers at the time of disappearance. 

Triangle does great justice to the eerie and unexplainable legend of the Bermuda Triangle, it’s warping story leaving viewers guessing and re-guessing until its bleak and poignant closing scene. Weight is added through Smith’s use of bloody violence and tense horror, creating a soft hybrid of a film which remains as entertaining and thought provoking now as it ever was. 

Bermuda is not the only area that has a mysterious triangle. The Alaska Triangle has similar tales albeit over land.

The Blair Witch Project 1999

Blair Witch Project 1999 Movie poster with scared face and text

This pioneer of the found-footage subgenre shocked audiences in 1999 with a claustrophobic and wholly believable portrayal of young adults falling victim to the legend of the mysterious Blair Witch. After setting off into rural Maryland to document and hopefully capture some evidence of the insidious figure, including interviewing locals and camping in some questionable spots, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams (playing themselves) soon become lost in the vast wilderness. Seemingly stalked and tormented by the very myth they sought to invoke, the three encounter dread and distress enough to make any viewer think twice about their next camping trip.

Of course, the legend of the Blair Witch is just that, a legend. That being said, it had more of an interesting start than most. Writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez fabricated an entire urban legend regarding the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, plastering missing-person posters around the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and claiming their footage was real. Sundance legally had to confirm the film as a work of fiction, though this did not lessen the impact the marketing ploy had. The rise of a $60,000 indie flick to $248,000,000 blockbuster is staggering, as is the influence the film has had on the horror scene long after its release. 

The Blair Witch Project relied on a strong cast utilising a lot of improvisation to help its desired effect come to life. Not just for the claims of authenticity (though it did help those) but for the raw and genuine atmosphere running through the flick. The actors camped for ten days in the Maryland wilderness while cremembers posed as their antagonist, leaving stick figures and bloody packages at camp, shaking their tents in the early hours. Only Heather, of the three, was given any information about the witch to ensure the others gave authentic reactions and asked plenty of questions. 

While this type of filmmaking can come with complications, such as the actors’ parents being sent sympathy cards over their children’s fictional deaths to this day, it shows a complete commitment from cast and crew. To make something with this impact, small sacrifices must sometimes be made, though we’ll leave it up to the creators to decide whether it was worth it.

Willow Creek 2013

Willow Creek Folk Horror Movie poster with a big foot imprint and red background

When Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) travel into Humboldt County, California on a camping trip to find the famous wildman, Bigfoot, their faith and will to survive are tested in equal measure. 

If Willow Creek isn’t a tribute to The Blair Witch Project then it’s at least a loving nod. Effectively sparse and utilising tireless and detailed acting from what is effectively a cast of two, prolific writer/director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s directorial foray into tense horror is a potent one. It shares Blair Witch’s theme and structure almost to a tee, other than replacing Myrick and Sánchez’ fictitious urban legend with one very much known in the real world.

Bigfoot, also referred to as Sasquatch in Canadian and American folklore, is an ape-like wildman of worldwide legend and innumerable alleged sightings. While all accounts of the Bigfoot are anecdotal, or highly disputable video footage or photographs, it manages to retain one of the highest cult followings of any urban legend, with followers deeply entrenched in the culture of searching out and worshipping the elusive ape-man. 

Bigfoot has been a figurehead in popular culture for years, appearing on television, in films and countless pieces of merchandise. A few horror films such as Exists (2014) and Evidence (2012) have included the towering hair-covered phenomenon as an antagonist, though none quite so efficaciously as this one.

Ringu 1998 / The Ring 2002

The Ring Horror Movie poster showing a glowing supernatural ring

This Japanese frightfest and its American counterpart are a perfect example of a western adaptation done right. Japan has always had a distinct and dynamic take on horror as a genre, favouring dark spaces, pale ghosts with jet black hair and some truly unsettling signature sounds. One may think that a western attempt would completely miss the mark (or, as they tend to, miss the point completely) on such an unmistakable style, though Ringu’s remake The Ring proved to be as good if not a more accessible way to deliver its story to a wider audience. 

When journalist Rachael (Naomi Watts) comes across a videotape that allegedly kills people seven days after watching, she must act quickly to decipher the meaning behind the object before it claims her own life. Featuring a solid performance from Naomi Watts along with a morbidly bleak atmosphere and some horrendously chilling imagery, The Ring managed to take an age-old Japanese urban legend and present it in a way certain to scare the worldwide masses. As if Ringu wasn’t unnerving enough.

The story itself is, as you may have guessed, based on an old Japanese legend dating as far back as the 12th century. Somewhere between 1333 and 1346 a fort now known as Himeji Castle was erected on Himeyama hill in western Japan. A samurai named Tessan Aoyama was said to have taken a particular fancy to a young servant of his named Okiku, so much of a fancy in fact that he vowed to take her away and marry her. When she refused his advances, the samurai hid one of the ten priceless golden plates Okiku was charged with looking after. He told her that if she did not agree to marry him he would openly blame her for the plate’s disappearance, an accusation that would undoubtedly lead to her being tortured and executed. In full knowledge of her predicament, Okiku was said to have committed suicide by throwing herself into a well in the castle grounds. Each night, so the tale goes, she would crawl back out of the well, appearing to Aoyama on a nightly basis until he went mad from her haunts. She was regularly heard counting the plates she had sworn to protect, throwing a destructive tantrum whenever she realised that number ten was still missing. 

Ringu proves that a terrifying story does not have to be wholly original; sometimes a rework of an ancient tale will do just nicely. 

Candyman 1992

Candyman Urban Legend Horror Movie Poster with a bee in an eye

Candyman is the quintessential urban legend brought to life. Based on a 1985 Clive Barker short story entitled The Forbidden, the film shares a few similarities. The infamous Candyman, with his aura of bees and hook for a hand, will appear to anyone who either uses his name in vain or flat out refuses to believe in him. Say his name five times in a mirror (yep, that’s where that came from) and he’ll appear behind you, ready to drive his deadly hook into your tender form. That’s if you’re brave or stupid enough to even bother.

A graduate student named Helen comes across the Candyman legend while researching her thesis paper. Her examination into the insidious entity brings his attention right back on her, and soon she finds herself fighting for her life against an age-old evil that apparently only she didn’t know not to mess with.

Candyman has taken his share of inspiration from several sources, most notable of which being the Hookman legend. In the story, a young couple are getting steamy in a parked car when an emergency radio bulletin says that a mental patient with a hook for a hand has escaped the nearby asylum. The girl becomes terrified when she hears something scraping along the car, convincing the boy to drive off. When he does, neither of them notice the metal hook hanging from the door handle. While the similarities here are purely aesthetic, the Hookman appearance is unmistakable in any form.

The other clear inspiration for this 1992 classic is one of the many manifestations of the ‘say their name five times in a mirror’ dare, Bloody Mary. One of the most widely known tales to date, Bloody Mary is said to have been a witch who was burned for practicing black magic, though more modern retellings say that she was a young woman who died in a car crash. Every kid’s first sleepover isn’t complete without a game of Bloody Mary, making her one of the first spirits many of us will have encountered.

Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bermuda_Triangle_incidents

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187064/

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185937/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/blair-witch-project-true-story-burkittsville-maryland

https://www.mirror.co.uk/film/blair-witch-real-truth-behind-8844017

https://www.vice.com/en/article/8xzy4p/blair-witch-project-oral-history-20th-anniversary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle

https://screenrant.com/candyman-movie-real-urban-legends-inspiration-tony-todd/

https://www.popsugar.co.uk/entertainment/where-does-candyman-legend-come-from-47313482

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Char Man Urban Legend

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore


Camp Comfort County Park can be found along the scenic Creek Road in Ventura County, California, not far south of Ojai. The park has been a resting spot for weary travelers for centuries, with its picturesque, oak-sheltered location and abundance of clear running water. It was commonly referred to by travelers as a “comfort spot”, which was where it got its name. Of course, even the greatest of comfort can never ensure true safety, just as the most peaceful of locations can house the darkest of secrets. The darkest perhaps being the legend of Char Man.

Ojai

Ojai has a plethora of grim and unsettling urban legends under its belt, including the Ojai vampire which was said to have travelled there from either Italy or Spain in 1890. Another more common, and far more grisly, tale is that of the infamous Char Man. One particular bridge in Camp Comfort has been dubbed “Char Man Bridge”, legends telling that any motorist who dares get out and shout for the hideously burned spirit shall meet an agonizing death at his disfigured hand.

Char Man Legends

This particular legend is subject to far more speculation than most. Seemingly everyone has a different version of how the Char Man came to be. A few of these stories begin in a huge fire in 1948. Some surmise that a firefighter was tragically caught in that particular blaze, burning alive in his suit. Others say that a father and son were badly burned in the fire, the father being killed in the blaze while his son went mad from the pain and torment, peeling his fathers burned skin and hanging the corpse in a tree before retreating into the woods.

A third tale revolving around the same 1948 inferno was that a woman was trapped indoors while her husband, badly burned but still breathing, listened to her cries from outside as the fire slowly consumed her. Dark tales from the people of Ojai, to say the least.
That particular fire was reported to have no casualties, so unfortunately these theories into the dreaded Char Man’s origins don’t hold much weight.

One common story told by locals is of a brutal automobile fire near Char Man Bridge, wherein a motorist escaped his car and fled into the woods, still enwreathed in flames. The unknown driver was said to survive the severe burns he endured and still stalks the roadside to this day.

Wherever the Char Man came from, his appearance is unmistakable: covered in horrific burns from head to toe, his skin blackened and peeling, clad only in a few charred bandages. Before unwary motorists see the spirit they shall smell his ghastly aroma of burned flesh, if they’re lucky. If not, the Char Man may just have another skin to replace his own.

Though for some, luck has nothing to do with it. Many locals have taken to the adrenalin-sport of stopping their cars on the bridge, getting out and calling “Help me!” to coax the flaming horror from the treeline. One thing is for sure, if an orange glow appears anywhere in the woodland by Creek Road, it would be best to keep right on driving.

References

Char Man | Creepy Urban Legends (quotev.com)
Creepy urban legends from around the USA (thevintagenews.com)

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THE SAVAGE HORROR OF MORTAL KOMBAT

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Featured Lifestyle

In 1992 a fighting game, centred around the titular Mortal Kombat tournament shattered screens worldwide and changed the way the genre was viewed forever. After ten direct sequels and a horde of spin offs the series is still painting our screens with blood and viscera to this day, most notably with its latest instalment, MK11 (2019), where the grisly Fatalities and Brutalities (that contributed to the founding of the ESRB) are as ever prominent. It was almost reactionary in hindsight, taking the idea of a fighting game from martial arts action to a far more demonic, low-brow and downright nasty horror dimension. 

The idea seems to have been born from some nightmarish dream combining Enter The Dragon (1973) with the savagery of grindhouse cinema. As a child it felt like a forbidden series (MK:Trilogy (1996) being the first I played), one that allowed the inflicting of violence and hatred that I never thought possible at such a young age. They were only sprites, tiny pictures of people, though the brutality between them genuinely shocked me. 

Mortal combat enter the dragon screenshot

We weren’t just fighting here, we were looking to decimate one another, and the idea of finding new and even more complex and disgusting methods of doing so was enough to glue me to the series to this day. Over the top, execution-style fatalities seemed more like torture than fighting and the unnecessary overkill factor had a merciless feel rendering it authentically scary. Using meathooks, machetes and more, the characters of Mortal Kombat pull off such imaginative slaughter that the influence from such slashers as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Friday 13th (1980) are impossible to ignore. 

Taking place in an alternate dimension of gruesome savagery and merciless, unparalleled punishment, the series invokes horrors similar to a lot of real-world mythologies. Reflecting this is a roster of characters ranging from sinister warriors protecting hellish realms, gods that crush craniums with their minds, a spectral ninja with a flaming skull, and a reptilian henchman wearing a disguise of human skin. Properly considered, every pore of the franchise seeps horror. It could even be said that MK deals more and more in cosmic horror with its inclusion of ‘Elder Gods’ and a rather Lovecraftian universal origin story involving ‘The One Being’. 

Mortal Combat scary tongue image

Mortal Kombat has always been a theatre of hideous monsters. Classic characters such as Baraka and Mileena, with their unreasonably large fangs, are born of inbreeding between demons and the citizens of Outworld; while more recent abominations include the insectile D’vorah, who spews swarms of insects and has a penchant for impaling opponents with her terrifying arachnid arms. 

Mk’s horror influences are not entirely limited to slasher and monster movies either; Dark magic permeates the universe, with many fighters demonstrating occult practices. Quan Chi favours necromancy to meet his nefarious needs, while Ermac and Shang Tsung depend on tortured souls to fuel their power. These along with demons, terrifying warrior emperors and brutal multi-dimensional assassins mean the depth and depravity of Mortal Kombat’s character lore knows no limit.

Of course, a roster of savage fighters would be nothing without suitably horrifying places to fight. A good amount of MK’s arenas commonly involve floating spectral skulls, hanging corpses, unsettling faces watching from within sinister trees and lingering darknesses. Mortal Kombat’s arenas are some of the best in fighting game history, and the inclusion of interactive environments has arguably made them all the stronger. From Shang Tsung’s famous courtyard to The Pit, a precarious bridge over a dizzying drop into spike pits below, no fighter is safe from these death traps. Arguably the most gruesome of these is the Dead Pool, an underground dungeon of pure nightmares involving a reservoir of acid ready to consume the next unfortunate loser. 

Mortal Kombat knows exactly what it is, knows its audience and knows why it has had such a widespread appeal over the years. In this knowledge it has taken no effort in distancing itself from the horror scene, involving many of our favorite horror icons as playable characters such as Leatherface, the Xenomorph, Predator, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kreuger. It seems that characters must spill a considerable amount of blood before they can get into the kombat klub. Mortal Kombat is as close as we’re bound to get to an actual horror-themed fighting game and in this kombatant’s humble opinion, it’ll do nicely. 

Article originally posted on Beyond the Veil

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Shaman’s Portal of Beaver Dunes Park

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Oklahoma has been a human settling spot for millenia, since sometime in the interglacial Holocene epoch over 11,000 years ago. Before becoming a part of the United States in 1803 (due to the Louisiana purchase) it was explored by the Spanish and claimed by the French. Eventually it became Native American territory until 1888, wherein it was opened up to legal settlement by other American citizens. The word “Oklahoma” comes from a blend of Choctaw language meaning “red people,” which was a blanket term used to describe Native American tribes. 

Oklahoma is no stranger to myths and urban legends, from The Friendly Ghost of the Stone Lion Inn, to the Tulsa Hex House and The Haunted Chalkboard of Bird Creek School, though none are as infamous and deterring from its more rural spots than the mysterious Shaman’s Portal of Beaver Dunes Park. 

Beaver Dunes Park

Oklahoma greeting card

Located in Oklahoma’s panhandle region on US Hwy 270 in Beaver, Oklahoma, Beaver Dunes Park sits on what is lovingly referred to as “No-Man’s Land” or “The Neutral Strip,” which encompasses over 300 miles of Oklahoma’s extreme northwestern region. Drenched in the paranormal, the dunes have been home to enough human disappearances, secret military excavations, and “Men in Black” sightings to earn it the title “Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle”. 

Shaman’s Portal

Coronado with native americans

It all began in the 1500s with the Spanish explorer Coronado. When Coronado’s men vanished mysteriously from the dunes in a blast of strange, green light, he described the phenomenon in his diary as “the work of the devil”. That’s not to say he wasn’t forewarned, however. Native American guides who had aided him so far in his journey warned Coronado and his men not to wander into the Dunes. They said it was an evil place, though Cornoado’s lust for New World gold spurred him on. It appears the guides were not far wrong. 

“The Shaman’s Portal” title was coined by these very natives, and the place has been suspected of a string of disappearances from that fateful expedition to this very day. As time went on, less and less of these disappearances have been verified, and none in fact proven to have any connection to the alleged portal, though the combination of history and superstition here is enough to deter many from straying too far in. Some locals report that they have encountered military excavation sites under the cover of darkness. Dr. Mark Thatcher, an Oklahoma State University archaeologist, spent three years in the nineties studying the area before suited individuals with military credentials shut his operation down.

So is the area a portal to another dimension, as the natives believe, or could there be some credibility to the electromagnetic disturbances recorded in the dunes? Some say that an ancient alien spacecraft is buried deep below, while others surmise that the explorers were merely incinerated by green lightning or fell victim to some heinous native magic meant to protect the gold the greedy Europeans sought after. Coronado didn’t heed the warnings and whatever happened to his men, they were gone for good. Between sudden disappearances, hardened government suits, and scientifically unexplainable phenomena in the air and soil, this may be one to miss on your next outing.

References

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La Mala Hora – Urban Legend Explored

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Mexico has enough folklore and urban legends to make HP Lovecraft cancel his flight, though none are as menacing and confrontational as the dreaded La Mala Hora.

La Mala Hora Legend

La Mala Hora relates to The Devil’s Hour also called The Witching Hour; a time many know as 3am, and a time at which one may wake suddenly for no perceptible reason with an acute sense of dread wallowing in their stomach. This uncanny hour has been associated with practice of witchcraft, imbued with great satanic significance and even held accountable for the true story of The Amityville Horror, though residents of Mexico know it as something rather more tangible, and far more horrifying. 

In 1910 the phenomenon was described by Aurelio Espinosa as a malicious entity that stalked crossroads around Mexico at night. It would hunt, torment, and even kill anyone brave enough to ignore the tales and travel home alone at such an hour. If these individuals were unfortunate enough to come across the dreaded La Mala Hora and gaze headlong into it, they would be driven hideously and irreversibly insane. Sounds like Mexico has been reading a little of Lovecraft’s work after all.

And because of this, this particular spirit is said to be more feared than the devil himself. Most of Mexico flat-out refuses to talk about it, changing the subject or simply referring to it as “an evil thing”.  

La Mala Hora takes great pleasure in driving its victims mad. Not only this, but it will often attack helpless travelers, paralyzing them in their tracks and brutalizing their weakened forms. After being suffocated by the fiend their bodies are left at the side of the road.

La Mala Hora Lady in White

In Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, the insidious entity is told to take the form of a beautiful woman, sometimes dressed in white, sometimes in black. This incarnation and its diversely gruesome behaviours come across like some demented video game enemy gone rogue. When dressed in white La Mala Hora is said to be gentler and more graceful. She hypnotises weary travellers who, if they don’t notice the space between her feet and the ground, or the fact that her toes are backwards, or the fact that their lanterns have stopped working and all sense of direction seems lost, will follow her obediently into wherever peril she chooses. Perhaps this will be off the edge of a ravine, or perhaps in front of the next passing car. 

When dressed in black, La Mala Hora is more aggressive. She will stop a traveller by any means and attack directly with her pointed nails. The strong-willed should hope to meet her on a “white night,” while no one should hope to see her in black. 

One particular story has been circling the internet for quite some time, earning La Mala Hora its creepypasta certification along the way. In this story a woman goes to stay with her friend who is experiencing marital troubles. On the way she almost hits a woman in the road who, when the car stops, begins scratching fiercely at the windows in an attempt to get in. After driving away as quickly as possible, our protagonist reaches her friend who tells her frantically that she has seen La Mala Hora, the spirit who only appears when death is close. The woman then calls her husband, who she finds has been mugged and shot to death in another area. 

New Mexico Legend

On the southern border of the United States, in the state of New Mexico, La Mala Hora seems to appear much closer to Espinosa’s original description. Usually it’s seen as a black abstract form, like a fleece of wool which expands and contracts, changing size and shape and seemingly floating along the roadside. A widely feared omen, this incarnation is only told to be seen when death is soon to befall a loved one. I would imagine a lot of concerned yet apologetic phone calls taking place around 3am in Mexico. 

One thing is for sure; if I lived near any of the places that La Mala Hora is said to appear, I would doubtfully ever go out after midnight. 

References

10 Fascinating Facts About The Devil’s Hour, 3AM – Listverse

Mexican Monstresses: La Mala Hora – Multo (Ghost) (wordpress.com)

La Mala Hora: From Scary stories at Americanfolklore.net

Urban Legends And Ghost Stories: La Mala Hora (urbanlegends66.blogspot.com)

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