Growing up, I used to be obsessed with the television show “Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.” Even as an adult, I’m still obsessed with films and television shows that ride that fine line between real and fabricated. Ask most horror fans, when those 5 words - BASED ON A TRUE STORY - come on the screen, a part of us jumps for joy as the story has suddenly taken on a much more macabre yet realistic undertone. These types of films/television shows/books have a way of playing off of our fears while simultaneously embedding itself deep within us. Whether it’s a true crime story or something within the supernatural sphere we are inexplicably drawn into knowing more.
Some of the most well-known, “are they fact or fiction” films land in the horror genre. For example, most of you may be familiar with The Warrens. For those of you who aren’t, they are considered to be world-renowned ghost hunters, and their encounters have been shared with millions of people. James Wan, one of the best modern-day horror directors, has directed two films based off the Warren’s experience, THE CONJURING and THE CONJURING 2. THE CONJURING dealt with the Perron family who were tormented by an evil spirit and THE CONJURING 2 dealt with one of the most documented ghost encounters ever, the Enfield Poltergeist. As much as these stories have been documented there is just as many accounts of them being debunked; which begs the question, what is true and what is false? This ties into another famous story we’ve all heard of, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. For years, it was believed that the horrifying events that unfolded at George and Kathy Lutz home were real, but as time went on it was revealed that it was all a lie, made up during a night of drunken debauchery. Some people still believe that the house at Amityville is haunted by the spirit of those killed at the hands of Ronald DeFeo, Jr. and refused to be swayed by the admission of the Lutz that it was all fabricated.
There is an endless stream of films that test our limits on what is real. I would be re-missed if I didn’t bring up one of the all-time biggest hoaxes a film studio has ever played on it’s viewers, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. To this day, no other film has been able to trick the audience as well as The Blair Witch. Their incredible marketing strategy led viewers to believe that three filmmakers had disappeared in the woods while making a documentary about The Blair Witch. The studio even went so far as to make MISSING PERSONS signs, but alas, it was all fake. To this day, I don’t think a found footage movie, or any movie in general, will ever be able to pull off a stunt such as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. In a world of constant social media updates, it would be damn near impossible to keep a secret such as that.
So where does this leave us today? Lucky enough, those of us in the mood for something different in the “based on a true story” genre are in for a real treat. Have you ever heard of a Disappointment Room? For those not familiar, it’s a room that families back in the day created to hide kids with disabilities; whether that be Down Syndrome, deformities, illnesses, etc. A few years ago, HGTV ran an episode about a couple who had bought a home in Rhode Island. It was originally built by a prominent judge many years ago, and as the couple explored they soon discovered an awkward room in the attic that just didn’t make sense. Upon the discovery, the family began to research the home as curiosity had gotten the better of them. The wife, who worked at the local library in town, started to recount her story to her co-workers, upon which an elderly lady approached her and stated, “You have a disappointment room in your attic.”
Don’t believe me? Check out the HGTV episode here for the segment from their show “If Walls Could Talk.”
Taking this story, Relativity Media is releasing their next film, aptly titled THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM, September 9th, 2016. The film, directed by D.J. Caruso (EAGLE EYE, DISTURBIA), centers around Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Mel Raido) who move from Brooklyn to a once-grand southern mansion with their 5 year old son looking for a fresh start. But Dana’s discovery of a secret room unleashes unexplainable events that test her sanity and slowly reveal the home’s terrifying past.
How much of this film is fact? We may not know, but to all stories that have that BASED ON A TRUE STORY warning I think it would be safe to assume that there is always a little bit of truth buried deep within. As someone who didn’t know much about Disappointment Rooms prior to writing this article, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them in my travels.