Dad’s are the best. Their terrible jokes, loud, often rude bodily functions, and ever-present advice are just some of the reasons we love them. If you have a horror movie Dad however they fit into three categories. They are either total dicks and/or killers, they are clueless rubes who get in the way more than they help, or they are fierce protectors. There are a few exceptions and those should be celebrated for sure but by and large, they are either awful, ignorant, or badass. With Father’s Day fast approaching there is no better time than now to develop your weekend playlist for all those loveable Horror Movie Dads out there.
Mom And Dad
A teenage girl and her little brother try to survive a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own children.
Who doesn’t want Nick Cage for a Dad? You know that guy knows how to party and would be at Mandy level of intensity 24/7. In Mom and Dad, he and Selma Blair become homicidal parental units along with every other parent in town. It’s a ton of fun.
Henry (John Nance) resides alone in a bleak apartment surrounded by industrial gloom. When he discovers that an earlier fling with Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) left her pregnant, he marries the expectant mother and has her move in with him. Things take a decidedly strange turn when the couple’s baby turns out to be a bizarre lizard-like creature that won’t stop wailing. Other characters, including a disfigured lady who lives inside a radiator, inhabit the building and add to Henry’s troubles.
Some people should not be fathers, and this sexual deviant is one of them. David Lynch’s trippy Eraserhead is one wild ride and just about the best advertisement for birth control around. If you aren’t ready for a baby, wrap it up, folks.
The People Under The Stairs
When young Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into the home of his family’s greedy and uncaring landlords, he discovers a disturbing scenario where incestuous adult siblings have mutilated a number of boys and kept them imprisoned under stairs in their large, creepy house. As Fool attempts to flee before the psychopaths can catch him, he meets their daughter, Alice (A.J. Langer), who has been spared any extreme discipline by her deranged parents. Can Fool and Alice escape before it’s too late?
One of my favorite political horror movies ever also has one Hell of a bad dad. Daddy Robeson can not be missed. Not only is he “married” to his sister, but he wears a gimp suit to torture the kids he and Mom kidnap. Yikes!
The Devil’s Rejects
After a raid on the rural home of the psychopathic Firefly family, two members of the clan, Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), manage to flee the scene. Heading to a remote desert motel, the killers reunite with Baby’s father, Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig), who is equally demented and intent on maintaining their murder spree. While the trio continues to torment and kill various victims, the vengeful Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) slowly closes in on them.
Captain Spaulding would do anything for his little girl Baby, including punch Mom’s who won’t give up their car and track down the Sheriff who is after the murderous Firefly family. He is brutal.
A lawyer (Sean Bridgers) puts his family in jeopardy when he captures the last member (Pollyanna McIntosh) of a violent clan and tries to forcibly tame her.
This dad kidnaps and tortures a young woman for sport. If that wasn’t bad enough, he enlists the help of his children. There are some lessons parents shouldn’t teach.
After cheating death by surviving being both stabbed and shot, psychotic killer Jerry (Terry O’Quinn) is placed in a mental institution, but he soon murders his doctor and escapes. Taking on a dead man’s identity, he moves to an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles and sets his sights on local woman Carol (Meg Foster), slowly winning her heart. Carol’s son, Todd (Jonathan Brandis), grows suspicious of his mom’s new lover, however, and tensions reach the boiling point at the couple’s wedding.
O’Quinn is terrific, and I have been a longtime fan. There is something so quietly menacing about him in almost every role. That subtlety plays very well here in his portrayal of the worst new Daddy ever.
One day, a widowed blue-collar worker has a revelation: he must destroy those revealed to him as demons. He then begins the serial killings of `God’s Hand Killer’ across Texas, but he also has two young sons, the younger of whom idolize him and believes in the cause, while his older brother is revolted but cannot bring himself to stop his father. Twenty years later, the elder son walks into a police station and confesses.
The late, great Bill Payton is incredible as both the psychopathic dad and director of this underappreciated film. It is top-notch from top to bottom and easily one of the most compelling films on this list.
Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home. When tragedy strikes, Louis turns to his neighbor Jud Crandall, setting off a perilous chain reaction that unleashes an unspeakable evil with horrific consequences.
The original or the remake, either one is good and a prime example of fatherly love that goes way too far. Whether it be Gage from the original movie or his darling daughter in the reboot, this Dad should have learned, “sometimes dead is better.”
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes a winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The same is true for all our dads. Let them have a little fun instead of having to mow the lawn and fix stuff around the house. If you don’t, they might go completely crazy and chase you around with an ax.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths and must survive the terrors of Leatherface and his family.
Easily the single most disturbing scene in any horror movie is the family dinner our heroine is subjected too. I don’t know what it is about the ancient patriarch who should be dead but isn’t sitting at the table that still scares after all these years, but he does.
Parents (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) take drastic measures when it seems their new home is haunted and their comatose son (Ty Simpkins) is possessed by a malevolent entity.
Patrick Wilson’s Dad would go to any lengths to save his son from The Further, including go there himself. Wilson is a likable actor, and his run throughout the franchise is great.
True-crime writer Ellison Oswald (Ethan Hawke) is in a slump; he hasn’t had a best seller in more than 10 years and is becoming increasingly desperate for a hit. So, when he discovers the existence of a snuff film showing the deaths of a family, he vows to solve the mystery. He moves his own family into the victims’ home and gets to work. However, when old film footage and other clues hint at the presence of a supernatural force, Ellison learns that living in the house may be fatal.
Poor Oswald should have been paying attention to his family instead of the creeping evil slowly taking over his house. He pays the ultimate price for being an absentee dad.
The Last House On The Left
Teenagers Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head to the city for a concert, then afterward go looking for drugs. Instead, they find a gang of escaped convicts who subject them to a night of torture and rape. The gang then kills the girls in the woods, not realizing they’re near Mari’s house. When they pose as salesmen and are taken in by Mari’s mother (Cynthia Carr) and father (Gaylord St. James), it doesn’t take the parents long to figure out their identities and plot revenge.
This one is a twofer. The Dad of the band of violent turds hooked his own kid on heroin so he could control him, and the father of the victim proved he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to avenge his daughter.
The Hills Have Eyes
Wes Craven’s cult classic about cannibalistic mountain folk, including the Carter family, who are on the trail of stranded vacationers in the arid Southwest Californian desert.
Just because you are the father to a cannibalistic cult doesn’t mean you don’t care. Papa Jupiter easily has the craziest backstory of any of the dads on this list.
28 Weeks Later
Six months after the original epidemic, the rage virus has all but annihilated the population of the British Isles. Nevertheless, the U.S. Army declares the danger past, and American soldiers arrive to restore order and begin reconstruction. Refugees return to British soil, but one of them carries a deadly secret: The virus is not gone and is even more dangerous than before.
Wowza, this is one bad Dad. He starts out as a selfish coward, and later when he’s infected, becomes a bloodthirsty maniac. Robert Carlyle is an incredible actor, and he is superb in this film.
After a powerful storm damages their Maine home, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his young son head into town to gather food and supplies. Soon afterward, a thick fog rolls in and engulfs the town, trapping the Draytons and others in the grocery store. Terror mounts as deadly creatures reveal themselves outside, but that may be nothing compared to the threat within, where a zealot (Marcia Gay Harden) calls for a sacrifice.
Not only is Thomas Jane incredibly easy on the eyes, but he would do anything to save his family from the Lovecraftian monsters who arrived in the mist to take over his town. The final scene is a killer literally and figuratively.
A Quiet Place
If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by sound. Knowing that even the slightest whisper or footstep can bring death, Evelyn and Lee are determined to find a way to protect their children while desperately searching for a way to fight back.
Jim from The Office(Jim Krasinski) has come a long way since his sitcom days. Everyone loves this doting father and husband, who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his family from the alien monsters attracted to sound. It’s heartbreaking.
Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.
Rose’s dad is the worst kind. He pretends to be some kind of “woke” accepting father who, in reality, is a racist, elitist pig. Jordan Peele’s masterpiece is a great example of monsters hiding in plain sight.
A controlling, manipulative father (Christos Stergioglou) locks his three adult offspring in a state of perpetual childhood by keeping them prisoner within the sprawling family compound. The children are bored to tears in spite of distractions like Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), an employee of their father’s who makes regular visits to sexually service the son (Hristos Passalis). Increasingly curious about the outside world, the older daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) hatches a plan to escape.
Talk about gaslighting; this dad managed to convince his whole family they aren’t safe unless they are home under his rule. This slow burner is a masterclass in psychological horror meted out by one hideous father figure.
Train to Busan
A man (Gong Yoo), his estranged daughter and other passengers become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak in South Korea.
This strained father/daughter relationship is put to the test in the grim Korean zombie film. Strained or not, he is a doting father and does a fair amount of damage in pursuit of safety for his daughter.
The Devils Candy
A struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his family move into their dream home.
This isn’t your stereotypical dad, and he doesn’t always make the right decisions as Satan is messing with him as much as his daughter. His love is true, though, so he always finds his way back to her.
Suspicion leads to hysteria when rural villagers link a series of brutal murders to the arrival of a mysterious stranger (Kunimura Jun).
This is a fantastic horror movie that is beautifully shot, intricately written, and features a perfect real-world dad. When whatever weirdness that has taken over the town invades his daughter, Officer Jong-goo finds the courage to do what it takes to save her.
When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.
Steven Spielberg made a living giving the cinematic audience conflicted dads. Chief Brody is afraid of and for his sons. It is the whole reason he is out on the water hunting a giant shark.
The Autopsy Of Jane Doe
When father and son coroners investigate the death of a beautiful `Jane Doe’, they find increasingly bizarre clues.
This is one of my favorite lesser-known horror films that give us a healthy father/son relationship. Jane Doe is creepy and bone-deep scary, and the realistic love between father and son is endearing.
The Loved Ones
In order to avoid a ghostly figure in the road, Brent Mitchell wraps his car around a tree, killing his father. While his mother goes to pieces, Brent escapes into a marijuana fuelled world of pain and guilt.
Some Daddy’s would do anything for their little girls, even abduct and torture people for them as witnessed by Lola’s father, who helps put on the Prom of a lifetime for his darling little girl.
Stranded in rural Australia in the aftermath of a violent pandemic, an infected father desperately searches for a new home for his infant child and a means to protect her from his own changing nature.
It’s rough being a dad during a zombie pandemic. On the run and desperate to save his child, he must find a way to protect her from the monsters everywhere and the one slowly growing within himself.
America is a grim, gray shadow of itself after a catastrophe. A man (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wander through this post-apocalyptic world, trying to keep the dream of civilization alive. They journey toward the sea, surviving as best they can on what they can scavenge, and try to avoid roving gangs of savage humans who will turn them into slaves, or worse.
This is a brutal movie with a heartbreaking end. The post-apocalyptic world is a savage place where only the equally savage can survive. It goes to show how much people are willing to change to save their children.
A Nightmare on Elm’s Street 3: Dream Warriors
During a hallucinatory incident, young Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) has her wrists slashed by dream-stalking monster Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Her mother, mistaking the wounds for a suicide attempt, sends Kristen to a psychiatric ward, where she joins a group of similarly troubled teens. One of the doctors there is Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), who had battled Freddy some years before. Nancy senses a potential in Kristen to rid the world of Freddy once and for all.
Nancy’s Dad doesn’t always make the best choices, but when push comes to shove, he is Team Nancy. He’s a ride-or-die kind of father that anyone would want in their corner with or without Freddy Krueger in the picture.
Eyes Without A Face
Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is riddled with guilt after an accident that he caused disfigures the face of his daughter, the once beautiful Christiane (Édith Scob), who outsiders believe is dead. Dr. Génessier, along with accomplice and laboratory assistant Louise (Alida Valli), kidnaps young women and brings them to the Génessier mansion. After rendering his victims unconscious, Dr. Génessier removes their faces and attempts to graft them on to Christiane’s.
Dr. Genessier’s heart is in the right place, but his actions are anything but acceptable. Just like Louis Creed from Pet Sematary, sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone. Grief, hubris, and madness are not a healthy cocktail.
Strange and creepy happenings beset an average California family, the Freelings — Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), teenaged Dana (Dominique Dunne), eight-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins), and five-year-old Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke) — when ghosts commune with them through the television set. Initially friendly and playful, the spirits turn unexpectedly menacing, and, when Carol Ann goes missing, Steve and Diane turn to a parapsychologist and eventually an exorcist for help.
Craig T. Nelson’s Dad is kind of doof, but he’s basically a decent human being that made some unfortunate decisions. He’s likable and recognizable as an “Every Dad” type that inadvertently puts his family at risk when he fails to see the danger right in front of his nose. Eventually, he gets it and throws practicality to the wind to save his family.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.