Amazon Prime’s ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ is a horror-comedy series about Dolores Roach, who is released from prison after serving an unjust 16-year prison sentence. In her bid to survive, Dolores takes the help of an old friend who runs an Empanada shop. However, Dolores soon finds herself involved in a series of gruesome murders. The series provides a delectable blend of horror, comedy, and thematic storytelling that will resonate with the viewers. Naturally, viewers must be wondering about the creation of ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ and if it is based on a true story.
The Inspiration Behind The Horror of Dolores Roach
No, ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ is not based on a true story. The story of Dolores Roach, which blends several social evils into her quest for survival while circumstances force her into a life of crime, appears realistic on a superficial level. However, it is not based on real events in any shape or fashion. The series is instead based on an Off-Broadway stage play titled ‘Empanada Loca.’ The one-woman play was written by Aaron Mark and premiered in 2015, starring Daphne Rubin-Vega (‘In the Heights‘). Mark later adapted it into a podcast produced by Gimlet and released on Spotify.
The original play tells an entirely fictional story that was partially inspired by the tale of Sweeney Todd. The fictional character first appeared in the book ‘The String of Pearls’ and was created by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest. In a 2018 interview with Vulture, Mark opened up about conceptualizing the original one-woman play. “I’d been working on a series of one-person horror plays that were contemporary reinventions of old horror characters and properties, and I had this crazy idea for a contemporary reimagination of the old Sweeney Todd legend back from the penny-dreadful days,” Mark said.
The story takes place in the multicultural backdrop of New York City, and its primary theme is gentrification. The play uses cannibalism as a metaphor for gentrification, which often sees poor urban areas being revamped by wealthier people moving in. In the same interview, Mark explained how his experiences while growing up in New York’s Washington Heights shaped the story. “The character and the story was very much drawn from my experience moving there and watching the gentrification happen. And living on the first floor, where I could hear people all night out my window talking. Dolores is very much drawn from people I’ve known in my neighborhood,” Mark stated.
From Mark’s words, it is evident that his real experiences inspire the thematic elements of the play and the characters of the subsequent podcast. However, the narrative itself is fictional, which presents Dolores as an urban legend very much in the vein of Sweeney Todd. An underlying theme of the story is survival, which is reflected through Dolores as she struggles to make ends meet while living in poverty. “For me, as a writer, it was exciting and challenging to embrace, on the one hand, the horror, and on the other, the really fundamental, very frightening, animalistic survival instinct that I think all human beings have,” Mark said about the story’s survival elements.
Ultimately, ‘The Horror of Dolores Roach’ is not based on a true story. It is a mostly faithful adaptation of the podcast of the same name and the stage play that inspired it. The series uses tropes and cliches of the slasher horror genre and subverts it with humor. It takes inspiration from the classic macabre penny-dreadful stories of the 19th century while it also provides some modern context by tackling themes such as gentrification.
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