Thanksgiving is a time for way too much food, drink, and often family. Whether you host or go to Grandma’s house the results are invariably the same. You walk away full and fuzzy-headed. A day filled with the delicious smells of candied yams, sugared ham, and succulent turkey. Between the “pass the mashed potatoes” there are the inevitable uncomfortable conversations about life choices and politics. To help make your family gathering slightly less unpleasant here are our top ten horrific family movies. If nothing else these terrible family units will make you realize yours isn’t quite so bad.
A Beverly Hills teen (Billy Warlock) discovers his parents are part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite.
As family parties go, you won’t find anything weirder than this one. A bizarre example of body horror from Brian Yuzna is a cult classic for a reason. This is pure late ’80s madness at its best. Bonus, if you are into butts, you will be very, very happy. Watch it on Shudder.
9. The Visit
Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) say goodbye to their mother as they board a train and head deep into Pennsylvania farm country to meet their maternal grandparents for the first time. Welcomed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie), all seems well until the siblings start to notice increasingly strange behavior from the seemingly charming couple. Once the children discover a shocking secret, they begin to wonder if they’ll ever make it home.
Over the river and through the woods to our monstrous grandma’s house, we go. This trip to Grandma’s house that goes very wrong is creepy with a capital C. M. Night Shyamalan creates a painful picture out of normal moments just slightly askew. Watch it anywhere you stream movies. Then give his new show a try on Apple TV Plus.
Ten-year-old Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) senses that something is not quite right with his family. Sure, his mother, Lily (Mary Beth Hurt), is the perfect 1950s housewife, and they have a comfortable life in the suburbs, where his dad, Nick (Randy Quaid), works at a mortuary. But what’s with the enormous cuts of meat that his father brings home every night? What, or whom, do they come from? Michael takes his concerns to a school counselor (Sandy Dennis) who decides to come over for dinner.
If you haven’t got your fill of Cousin Eddie(Randy Quaid) this holiday season, this horror-comedy is for you. This well-crafted film is both horrific and hilarious. The costumes and set designs are perfectly executed and acting is spot on. Do not be fooled, Parents is gruesome and disturbing. It is a dizzying mix of your worst childhood fears and surrealism. You can stream it free on Tubi.
In this chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, withdrawn and sensitive teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) faces taunting from classmates at school and abuse from her fanatically pious mother (Piper Laurie) at home. When strange occurrences start happening around Carrie, she begins to suspect that she has supernatural powers. Invited to the prom by the empathetic Tommy Ross (William Katt), Carrie tries to let her guard down, but things eventually take a dark and violent turn.
If you thought your Mom was judgemental you might want to consider after watching this classic. Carrie(Sissy Spacek) and her Mom the sublimely deranged Piper Laurie are so dysfunctional the finale hardly seems surprising. The final crucifixion scene remains one of the most under appreciated villain deaths for the mix of arresting visuals, grief, and fear it portrays. You can get it anywhere you stream videos.
Stringent vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) encounters a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world during her first week at veterinary school. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her principles and eats raw meat for the first time. The young woman soon experiences terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.
I mean, we all think we have strange siblings. But not this level of strange. This is another film best left for after the eating is completed less you lose your appetite. If you are dieting this holiday, I guess it might become a strong tool for weight loss. Writer/Director Julia Ducournau knows exactly what she wants to say in this singularly powerful film. You can catch it anywhere you stream movies.
A mysterious man arrives at the offices of an FBI agent and recounts his childhood: how his religious fanatic father received visions telling him to destroy people who were in fact “demons.”
This incredible film from 2001 stars the late great Bill Paxton and everyone’s favorite chilled hippy Matthew McConaughey (all right, all right, all right). It is a chilling look at a very flawed family who may not be quite as evil as you think. It is chilling and more than a little ambiguous which hits all the sweet spots. Paxton and McConaughey are unbelievable and watching this film will make you appreciate your Dad’s stories a lot more. It could be so much worse. Watch it anywhere you stream or with your Starz subscription.
4. We Are What We Are
The Parkers, a reclusive family who follow ancient customs, find their secret existence threatened as a torrential downpour moves into their area, forcing daughters Iris and Rose to assume responsibilities beyond those of a typical family.
Without giving too much away, suffice it to say, there are “beyond meat” at least the traditional choices at this family meal. Families can build us up, offer advice, support, and comfort. Then there is the other kind that provides antiquated traditions, repression, and homicidal tendencies. When you need a reminder that dry stuffing and soupy green bean casserole could be so much worse stream this one that can be found on Shudder.
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.
This Greek film is definitely not appropriate for the whole family. I can not stress enough this should not be watched with your parents. There are several extremely graphic and uncomfortable scenes that will make even the most stoic squirm. It truly is the kind of movie you can’t shake off. This is one sick family. If you want to end the party early stream it on the family TV from Tubi for free.
When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.
As bad families go, this one is right up there. Family secrets are revealed, along with more elderly skin than you ever want to see. It may take some research to figure out the details but It is beautifully shot and nothing short of brilliantly acted by Toni Colette and Alex Wolff. Ari Aster cemented his place as one of the freshest voices in horror with this masterpiece. Get it anywhere you stream movies.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
When Sally (Marilyn Burns) hears that her grandfather’s grave may have been vandalized, she and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), set out with their friends to investigate. After a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover a group of crazed, murderous outcasts living next door. As the group is attacked one by one by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who wears a mask of human skin, the survivors must do everything they can to escape.
You can’t have a horrific families list without including the Grandaddy of all terrible family dinners. After forty years the dinner party scene still stands as one of the most terrifying sequences of all time. When your family encourages mass murder and lives in as much filth as this one you don’t have a chance. You can get it free on Tubi.
For more list fun be sure and tune into Drafting Horror. It’s a new list each episode. Listen as Ty and Tracy debate their top five movies in the subgenre to the death. Mostly they just curse and shout a lot. Either way, it’s entertaining and you might learn something from their obscure facts. Happy Thanksgiving!
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.