Dysfunctional Family Horror

I’m shocked I hadn’t thought about this sooner. I guess I can give a writing generator prompt credit for bringing up a similar topic on what to write about or coming up with something fresher and left field. And boy this is left field.

Families in film in general can shape the overall experience of watching and debating. Blood relations or found families, friendships, relationships, we become invested. These are the characters we’re gonna follow and see if they make it through or get defeated by others. We hope for the best but horror tends to be a 50/50 with those kinds of results but great at delivering some great family drama in a horror setting.

So today, we’re gonna look at some films that I think showcases different relationships and family dynamics.


Hellraiser (1987) – The Cotton Family; Uncle Frank, Julia, Larry and Kirsty. This film is nothing but a soap opera wrapped up in leather, pleasure and pain. The cenobites aren’t the villains, it’s Frank and Julia.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – A glimpse into the Sawyer family is in the first original film but it’s on full blast in the sequel. Especially how Leatherface is portrayed compared to the rest of the family. thedevilsrejects_6

House of 1000 Corpses (2003) & The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Similar to Texas Chainsaw, we don’t see the Firefly family on full display until the sequel The Devil’s Rejects, even finding out that Spaulding is indeed a member of the family.

Hereditary (2018) – This film has everything for a family drama; a grandmother passed away, triggering a series of events that affect the entire family, even destroying it in death. The title says it all.

Ginger Snaps (2000) – The relationship between the sisters Ginger and Bridgette is well documented as them against the world, very close, secure, a ride or die sistership. That is until Ginger is attacked and transforms into a new Ginger, a creature, someone Bridgette doesn’t recognize.

The VVitch (2015) – Devastation and tragedy just follows this family. It’s essentially a tale of how a family becomes broken when one of their own goes missing and nothing but blame and accusation comes out of it. And Black Phillip. I want a stuffed Black Phillip goat toy.

Us (2019) – Our tethered selves, I wonder what my tethered self would be like and how scary af that would be. The battle over who would control the top. Everywhere was experiencing these changes, these interruptions but we follow the Wilson family and how Adelaide is harboring a secret.

The Guardian (1990) – I just discussed this film last week and well, young family, new baby, an outside supernatural force posing as a nanny to destroy it. Lots of destroying families in this list…. theaddamsfamily_5

The Addams Family (1991) – The love and unconventional energy this family has is so cool. They do their own thing, they live their lives authentically and people have a problem with people being themselves and not following the “rules”. Obviously the love and passion of Morticia and Gomez is the prominent thing but also the disappearance and then reappearance of Fester and his relationship with his “mother”.

The Shining (1980) – The original just showcases that Jack is on tail end of the thread, just hanging on before he snaps and that Wendy deserves better. Danny deserves better. They got their better afterward because if your father/husband cannot protect you and is part of the problem, even before going to the Overlook Hotel, it’s time to go. GO.

13 Ghosts (1960) – I chose this one over the remake simply because I found myself caring more for this family in the original than the remake. Minus Matthew Lillard and Rah Digga in that remake, the original shows more of an authentic family dynamic. The remake has some great ghosts though. Like wow. The Jackal? Juggernaut? Hammer? GREAT. basketcase_2

Basket Case (1982) – Dwayne and Belial, twins. One is a fully grown human male, the other is well, a blob with arms? They share a telekinetic bond and on the hunt to get revenge of those who separated them unwillingly. There’s a lot of screaming in this film but the brother, especially twin brother dynamic is deadly. Literally.

The Omen (1976) – What should be a beautiful blessing and time, creating life, giving birth, a new addition to the family, it goes to literal hell when your child has 666 hidden in his hair roots and is the Antichrist. That’s awful. That’s terrifying. And it’s more terrifying when other people know and are trying to get close to you.

It’s Alive (1974) – An underrated, maybe cult classic about a mother’s love for her child, no matter how… disfigured it may be. How dangerous it may be as an infant. It’s also about the disgust of the father and how he distances himself.

Ready or Not (2019) – Marrying into a family should be a great thing, a big change but I don’t trust anyone who plays an “initiation game” that ranges from puzzles to a horrible game of hide and seek. NOPE. alicesweetalice_7

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) – Religion and family is a recipe for drama. A broken family being doted on by a young priest, jealousy between two sisters, neglecting a child and the death of one, I wonder how clean Alice’s hands are by the end of the film.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) – A case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, a family is chased and hunted down by cannibals. A family of cannibals. There’s a lot of juxtaposition there, clean cut, suburban family versus an almost driven to survive family that lives in the desert.

Pet Sematary (1989) – The film is just so tragic, just… rough. I know Stephen King himself mentioned how hard it was for him to write this novel and how much it scared him and I think when combined with director Mary Lambert, you feel the emotional trauma of every single character.

Child’s Play (1987)
Beetlejuice (1988)
The Lost Boys (1987)
The Mimic (2017)
Phantasm (1979)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Conjuring (2013)
A Quiet Place (2018)
Coraline (2009)
Psycho (1960)

What films can you think of that is heavily focused on the family dynamic, positive or negative or just dysfunctional? What do you think of these narratives? Leave a comment below!

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