The Extremely Dysfunctional Family


The Devils RejectsWhen I re-watched The Devil’s Rejects this weekend, I began to think about the concept of family within horror. From there, I began to think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What is it with horror films and dysfunctional families? It is very common within horror for one individual to become a monster, such as Michael Myers in Halloween but in many cases, it is just as common for the entire family to be monstrous.

It appears the genre is trying to make a comment on the unstable, uncertain nature of families. I am not much of a psychologist, but I do find this concept quite intriguing. However, at the same time, these films represent family as togetherness. They all work together to reach a common goal, that goal may be to kill but regardless they are doing it together. The love between characters, especially Mama and Baby Firely in The Devil’s Rejects, is evident. For example, in the care for each family member is obvious. The Firefly family have to be one of the most inventive horror movie families of all time. Beginning in House of 1000 Corpses, director Rob Zombie managed to make the family incredibly surreal yet terrifyingly realistic at the same time. Baby Firefly (Sherri Moon Zombie) has to be one of the most original female horror characters of the 2000’s. As with every other family, the Firely family comically bicker with each other like when Baby and her brother take a couple hostage in a motel.

Even the most protective figure in a family household has been turned dangerous through the genre. This is the mother. Through films such as Carrie and more recently, Mama. Mothers either offer not enough protection or offer too much that becomes dangerous to anyone that tries to become close to the child. This is the case with Guillermo Del Toro’s Mama. Even when you think the kids are cute, they become possessed as in The Exorcist or are just plain evil like Damien from The Omen. None of the grandparents are safe either as shown through the deadly yet comedic grandpa in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And of course there’s the fathers too; The Amityville Horror and The Shining being two examples.

Perhaps the function of a very dysfunctional family offers the same purpose as setting a horror film in a domestic setting, it makes the familiar unfamiliar. I would love to know what you all think is so scary about monstrous families and what the purpose of them are.

Should the ones we love really be the ones we’re afraid of?

1 Comment

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      1. Mark Russell November 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm

        I’m doing my undergraduate film dissertation on this exact subject, and I’m using The Shining as one of the case studies. I was considering both House of 1000 Corpses / The Devil’s Rejects and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I felt the two Zombie films owed too much to the Massacre films and other films of that era to count them on their own, and felt that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been used as an example for this sort of thing too many times and been done to death, so I’m considering writing about 2 or 3 other films instead of those choices.

        I thought it was interesting that in both The Exorcist and Carrie, there lacks a father figure in both families as the families consist of only the mother-daughter relationship, and both of the young girls become possessed in a way (by a demon and telekinesis respectively). It’s an interesting coincidence worth exploring.