A good horror or sci-fi movie can scare or fascinate us on the big screen, and most of us can leave the fantasy in the theater. But what if the overly-friendly neighbour or that strange light in the sky happens in our real lives? Some of that real life horror has been committed to film, documenting the stories of ordinary people, or seemingly so, who have lived these very experiences. For them, especially those who lost loved ones, it is worse than any Hollywood nightmare, and for those who stand by their convictions it is a lesson in tenacity. Here are a few titles that resonated with me, and although they may not be your first choice for a Saturday night flick, they give a voice to folks that either lived through some real horrors, or had some allegedly real, and really weird, experiences.
My Amityville Horror (2012, 1 hr, 28 mins)
This documentary focuses on Daniel Lutz who lived in the famed Amityville House with his family when he was a child a year after the gruesome murders. I missed this doc when it screened at Toronto After Dark Film Festival a few years back, so I finally sat down to watch a very strange and eerie account of what he went through. His reluctance to reveal his true feelings and the damage done to him is evident in his large blue eyes, and I cannot tell you what I believe other than his life was a tortured existence for many years during and after his Amityville experience. It is a must see if you want some understanding of the media storm surrounding this famous haunting.
Cropsey (2009, 1 hr, 24 mins)
I was completely drawn into this Staten Island, N.Y. story. The filmmakers and natives to the area, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, explore the small town legend of Cropsey, a crazed killer of children said to roam the wooded area around the abandoned Willowbrook State School. Their quest to find the truth behind the Cropsey boogeyman reveals stories of missing children, heartbreak, a terrible history of mismanaged and abusive hospital facilities, and the slow but sure persecution of real suspected killer Andre Rand.
The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012, 1 hr, 16 mins)
Short but informative, this film, with the help of reenactments, forensic and personal accounts, shows us how a seemingly friendly but introverted man charmed his neighbour and the detective in charge of questioning him despite being one of the most notorious serial killers of our time. Don’t expect a grand exposé here, rather it gives you a snapshot of what people thought of him, how they related to him, and how he got away with murdering his victims for many years due to the shortcomings of the police. This documentary will definitely make you paranoid when a stranger is unusually nice to you.
The Hidden Hand: Alien Contact and the Government Cover-up (2013, 1hr, 20 mins)
Abductees and scholars speak on the presence of aliens on Earth in this 2013 documentary. What may sound like loopy hoo-ha ends up coming from some more than credible witnesses like military officials and the sixth American astronaut Edgar Dean Mitchell, as well as celebrated authors like Whitley Strieber, Jim Spark and David Icke. Several accounts of alien abduction likened to being “tagged like deer” and many cover-up conspiracies fueled by greed are discussed, and details on ties to The Vatican and Area 51 will peak your interest in this hotly debated subject. If you follow the vein of thought, this slightly dry but interesting film will lead you to think that alien visitation is more common than you think, making the Fox Mulders of the world proud.
The Billy Meier Story (2009, 1 hr, 34 mins)
“Billy” Eduard Albert Meier has been in contact with aliens for most of his life, and is known for his prophetic messages that he relays from the Plejaren alien race. With an early life that James Bond would envy, Billy Meier has seen other worlds and world leaders; he has opened his own organization that publishes the prophecies of his alien friends and their spiritual teachings among other things, and he has allegedly seen the future. This documentary takes you from experts who try to debunk his U.F.O footage, to mental health officials that try to certify any kind of craziness, and testimonials from his faithful followers. It will certainly make you stroke your literal or figurative beard and scratch your head in wonder as you listen to some compelling information. Despite the somewhat cheesy looking spacecraft footage and drawings of his alien informants that look like the European Jesus and Beyoncé (which would explain a lot), this movie really strikes a nerve as the world goes to Hell in a hand basket, and sadly, we don’t need aliens to tell us this.