Ugly People Doing Ugly Things: Ten Incredibly Unsettling Movies Based on Completely True Stories


When was the last time a movie disturbed you so much you almost wish you didn’t watch it? For me, I used to rarely feel that way, but in the last few years it seems I have been hit with an avalanche of movies that have resonated deep within me, on the worst level possible. This doesn’t mean I don’t like them, but means I can’t seem to shake them. The reason for this is that these films I speak of that I cannot shake were all based on true stories.

And I don’t mean that in the loosest sense of the term “true”, that Hollywood throws around now so liberally. No, I mean these movies are based on the stories, and have it all spot on, right down to the dialogue in some cases. Shutting a disturbing movie off when it is fiction is one thing, but shutting a disturbing movie off and then having it slowly process how it actually happened, can be quite damning, actually. Brief disclaimer  these films are utterly devastating and very disturbing for the most part, so approach this material keeping that in mind at all times. This is NOT a list (or movies) for the kiddies.



She is going to her “happy place” so she doesn’t shut down.

Credit where credit is due on this one, which is the film that inspired the list. An Unreality reader had taken to the comments on one of my “most disturbing” lists and told me that Compliance was one I should check out. I thought little of it, and it took me about eight months to get around to it, but when I did, the film really was a punch to the gut. And not only is it based on a true story, they actually used dialogue from the telephone calls and watched hours of police footage to get this film as freakishly close to us being there as is humanly possible. Being where? You’re going to be sorry you asked.

Compliance is a true story about the “strip search phone scam” that was happening all over the Country between 1994 and 2004, when this very case lead to an arrest. An arrest for what? Long story short, a man well versed in mentalism and simple mind control techniques (note how he never asks for the girls name, but generally describes any young girl who could be working, and the BOSS gives her name up over the phone, as well as personal details) called a McDonalds and convinced the supervisor he was a federal officer watching one of her employees who had been shoplifting from customers. He then convinces the woman, and MANY OTHER PEOPLE to humiliate the young girl he is accusing, and, at one point, sexually assault her. All of this done over the phone. How it all goes down is f*cking mind-blowing, and then, all it took me was a day of research to find the actual interview with the girl and the boss, and for it to be confirmed as all glaringly true and spot on. It is the kind of story that murders a small part of your faith in humanity, and makes you question just how stupid some people really are.



Is “Mexican Devil Worshipping Psycho” a new class for Borderlands 3? I hope so!

Listen, no matter what you think, you do NOT fuck with the Mexican cartel. You just don’t do it. They will do horrible things to you and everyone you love, and they will not think twice about it. And no moment stands as more of an insight into that than the true story of Borderland, not to be confused with the Gearbox epic, Borderlands. While Paul and I recently debated the term “torture porn” (don’t worry, we both hate it), this film is CERTAINLY that, but the problem is, unlike Hostel (which is kinda sorta based on a real thing, but only kinda sorta) and Saw, Borderland REALLY happened. So what happened?

The cartel hired an “enforcer” to keep things going their way, but he had a sadistic side (literally) and had a farm where he kept and tortured his victims. Yes, a farm with a kill barn and shit. And we talking about blood draining and skinning people alive. One minute you are trying to buy some weed, the next minute you come to, hanging upside down, with your blood dripping into a bucket. That is why I only vacation one town over. Oh wait, they just found bombs one town over. Man, I am never leaving my f*cking house.

Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer

do it

They BOTH seem way too happy with what is about to go down, if you ask me.

Before Michael Rooker was playing the “love to hate to love him” character Merle, on The Walking Dead, he played Henry, the titular character in this depraved study of travelling serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, and man, is it unsettling. Though I grew up reading about this man in many true crime books, I never thought I would see any of his supposed crimes represented on film, and when I did sit down to see this movie at sixteen years old, it messed me up for how honestly it dealt with its violence. The tub scene, in particular, was something like I had never seen before. Just brutal, unflinching violence on an oddly intimate scale.

What, you want to see it? I guess you could click here to see some messed up shit from the movie, but do so with warning, this is NOT SAFE FOR LIFE.

An American Crime


Just tell me where Michael Cera is so we can kill him, and this is all over….

This one will take what you think about gender and flip it on its head. Big points for another amazing performance by Ellen Page, who you will sob for in this movie, based on the real life murder of Sylvia Likins, by houswife and neighbor, Gertrude Baniszewski. And while murder is nothing new, it is what the Sylvia character is forced to endure at the hands of her neighbor, that will have you squirming with disgust as you witness it. She took her captive before her death, had local boys coming in and out of the house to abuse her, and it finally culminates with an act so brutal, even I refuse to talk about it. I will say I never drank Coke out of a glass bottle again after seeing this film.

Worth noting is there is another celluloid version of this story, called Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, and it is even harder to take than this film. Regardless of versions, these things really happened to this poor girl, and much like Compliance, I am only worse for knowing it.

The Snowtown Murders

boston bomber suspect

The movie is a slow burn, but once shit goes South, it only gets worse and worse, and will make you long for the pacing of the first half.

I just watched this movie this week, and much like every movie above, it twisted me into knots that I will not soon untie from. I will also tell you that this movie has some images you will NEVER unsee (animal abuse, child rape), so I only recommend that strongest of you see it, and even then, I would recommend against it. It is stark, haunting, and incredibly disturbing, especially when you find out that people in Australia (where it was filmed and the actual story happened) didn’t want the movie to be released for just HOW accurate it was. It did finally get released, and upon seeing it I can understand why a whole continent wouldn’t want that movie to be released, especially when it all happened, exactly like it happens on film.

The Snowtown Murders is based on Australia’s most prolific and well known murders, the body barrel murders, and seeing how this group goes from a bunch of neighbors grilling together, to a bunch of mad men, killing and torturing together, is beyond comprehension. The best thing I ever heard about this film was a comment from a viewer on Netflix, who said “This is an ugly film about ugly people doing ugly things in an ugly world”. Not sure who you are, but that is so spot on, I am using it to surname this article.

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  1. I think there is a lack of De Palma in this list.

    Casualities of War and its remake Redacted fit the title perfectly !
    Anyway, very good choices. I didn’t like Compliance, but it made me and my friend wonder “how is that ever possible”. It’s a shame that the movie only stands because of the “based on a true story”. If it wasn’t the case, everybody would make fun of these people in my opinion.

  2. Infuriating was the point of Compliance, guys. That is how we were supposed to feel. You would be foolish to walk away from that movie thinking anything but that.
    That is why I had to research it, because I felt the same way.
    A sort of “no way” about the whole thing, but yes way.

  3. I saw a documentary about Snowtown on TV (“Crime Investigation Australia”).
    It was just a documentary.
    On TV.
    And even that was horrible.
    I don’t think I want to see the film version.

  4. @remy, I did the same after I watched. Sadly on the imdb forums there are a ton of people who said they would’ve done the same. “If a cop tells me to do something ill do it”.

    Except it wasn’t a cop, and the stuff he was saying to do was so beyond ridiculous. I honestly fear for the future after this planet after seeing that movie. Idiocracy is quickly becoming a reality.

  5. I thought there were going to be ten movies, not six. Plus your link in Emily Rose is actually to the Snowtown Murders.
    Most of your honourable mentions are very loosely based on real stories. The Serpent and the Rainbow is more of ‘A true story gave a film-maker an idea based on a similar concept’.

  6. I was actually really excited by this list because I love to see shocking movies. I love the feeling when you’re about to watch a move and every review serves as more of a warning than anything. So this list was pretty cool except that I was really upset that you posted the link to the best scenes of Henry: Portrait of a serial killer because that essentially ruined every major scene for me. I thought you had posted it as something to get a general idea of what the movie would be so I watched the whole thing, only to find out that those were key elements to the story. That was just really uncool in my opinion.

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