While I’m writing THE DAY WE ATE GRANDAD, I’m also having fun with re-watching/re-reading Horror and Gothic families (blood family + found family!) I’m a big Rob Zombie fan so a lot of them are from his films, but I love the moments of banter and bits where we get to see the relationship dynamics and how that plays out. I also absolutely hate a lot of these guys.
Horror Families I Can’t Stop Thinking About
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
The quintessential Gothic family for me. I have loved them and their parties since I was a kid, just – fully enraptured. I’ve always wanted to write something like that. I love the benign nature of them, but also the underlying darkness that they do think serial killers are their kind of people, and they have parties for their criminally insane friends who just like to dance. And sure, Granny likes to put curses on people and Morticia has a torture kink, and it’s still the most wholesome thing when you put it all together. That’s just deeply engrained in me as the ideal [fictional, Gothic/horror] family: like, yes, I would like a lot of this, please.
The demonic vampire family at the heart of BROIL (2020) have some interesting eldritch elements, an act of dinner party cannibalism, and some intriguing worldbuilding. I got confused with the characters the first time I watched it, but there’s no romance and the whole thing is about as fucked up as you can get. The whole premise is that the clan are divided about offing the patriarch, and one faction intends to do so using a chef who moonlights as an assassin.
I think I can use this film as a comp for my stuff, as it has that whole weird cult/demented family politics/cannibalism vibe.
SLASHER S04: FLESH AND BLOOD is set on a private island where a toxic, dysfunctional family destroy each other for the patriarch’s approval and are in turn stalked and brutally murdered by a masked figure known as The Gentleman. The dynamics of this brood of bastards are really twisted and upsetting, and I didn’t like the “East European orphan” trope at all, but apart from that, the dynamics really vibed with the way my eldritch clan sought Beverley Wend’s approval and how willing they are to turn on each other to survive.
I did not expect to like HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and I was too scared to watch it for ages, but as I got a bit more desensitised to body horror and gore, I thought I would give it a go. I found some things in the trilogy that are now stuck in my head.
I love the dynamic between Baby and Ma, the interactions between Otis and Grandad, and then in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS the relationship dynamics between Baby, Captain Spaulding, and Otis. 3 FROM HELL was another interesting sibling dynamic with the half-brothers (??) bickering and how they handled Baby (not) coping with things in prison.
CARNIVAL WORKERS IN “31”
Another Rob Zombie film, “31” was crowdfunded online and I liked the relationships between the main characters (Charly, Venus, Panda, Levon and Roscoe) and how that played out while they tried to survive a death-maze. It’s completely bonkers and a really gory exploitation film, and it made me laugh so much in places just because that’s my go-to reaction when i don’t know what the fuck I’m looking at. So when I tell you “this really made me laugh” . . . yeah.
ANNABELLE & NORMAN
The siblings in TWO HEADS CREEK (2019) are not incestuous, but they are twins, and on the search for their biological mother in creepy small town Australia, where everyone looks like they’ve stepped out of STRICTLY BALLROOM. Obviously, everyone in town is a cannibal because human flesh is so good it’s like crack. The twins have a dysfunctional sibling dynamic which is really fun to watch unfold, and the way they have to work together in adversity and decide what is really important to them is something I really love watching develop.
THE LE DOMAS FAMILY
The Le Domas family in READY OR NOT (2019) sold their souls to the Devil (in the form of their mysterious benefactor, Mr Le Bail), and the central premise is summed up in a line one of the sons says (paraphrased) : You’ll do pretty much anything as long as your family say it’s okay.
In this case, they have to hunt Grace down and kill her in a ritual before sunrise, and if they fail, they all die. The lengths they will go to in order to survive – and keep their legacy intact – have taken a toll on the younger gen, with Daniel an alcoholic and Emilie a heavy drug user. I liked the concept of the film, and the way the relatives all react to Grace as the newcomer, but also the idea that Grace pulled “the bad card” from the box because she’s too good for Alex, and would endanger the family’s deal by breaking toxic cycles instead of perpetuating them. Grace is forced to be as ruthless as they all are in order to survive, so the end is pretty bleak regardless of outcome.
The idea of a family (like the Galloways in SLASHER S04) tainting everything they touch and dragging other people down to their level is a theme I like to play with and enjoy seeing worked out in various ways.
VILMER (apparently a SAWYER FAMILY member)
There are a lot of things going on with Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Next Generation BUT I actually loved/hated Matthew McConaughey’s character Vilmer, and the whole twisted dynamic he pulled together. I don’t remember anyone else in this film except Darla, who’s his girlfriend, and obviously Leatherface is in it as one of his brothers or something, and then there’s Renee Zellweger as the Final Girl.
I really liked the original film, I appreciated what it was trying to do I think, and I know the director wanted more people to pick up on the dark comedy elements of it which I think were definitely there, but I haven’t watched the second one yet to see how those came through more in the sequel. In my head, the soundtrack for the entire sequence where Sarah Hardesty is running screaming from Leatherface is Is This The Way to Amarillo by Tony Christie and now I cannot watch that without singing “Sha la la la la la la BRRRBRRRRR” out loud which is why I’m only invited to remote film nights now.
The abusive patriarchal bullshit in that family is really interesting to me and the whole thing about slaughterhouses/consumer capitalism > cannibalism / death of the American Dream / corruption/decay of society, all that, just love it. The ableism and everything else, hate it. But I still think the whole family dynamic through the mess of sequels and plots and reboots is worth a look, which all gets taken out of the newest one (2022).
Other dynamics/vibes that I think show up in my work:
- CRIMSON PEAK
- WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
- CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU
- THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE
- THE LODGERS
- HANNIBAL RISING