Throughout the history of cinema, we've seen many heroic fathers that demonstrate all the qualities you'd want to see in your own dad, from strength to selflessness to sense of humor. In the world of horror, however, we've seen disgusting and dangerous dads who you'd never want to mess with.
When Father's Day rolls around, it's an opportunity for families to celebrate not just their biological fathers, but an opportunity to celebrate any father figure in their lives, whether that be a husband, brother, or merely friend. To those who might not have had their own personal father figure, they look to the characters who served as a surrogate parent, exemplifying the various qualities they felt most adequately taught them lessons normally learned from a parent.
In the history of horror, we've seen many terrifying presences, with many of them using their parental power to influence their progeny into doing dangerous things, proving the adage, "Like father, like son." In the case of other characters, outside influences have caused them to transform from an admirable character to an icon of evil, wrenching audiences' hearts as they fell from grace.
Whether it be their inherent evil or a terrible transformation, these are fathers from the history of horror who shouldn't expect to receive a Father's Day card anytime soon.
When we first meet Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, he appears to be a dad who's willing to do anything it takes to provide for his family. Jack has left behind his job as a teacher and accepted a job as a caretaker of a hotel during its off-season, which might not be as glamorous as shaping the minds of the future, but he's desperate for a paycheck.
Early on in the film, we get hints that Jack hasn't always been the perfect father, having made mistakes due to his alcoholism, but he tries desperately to correct his course. The Overlook Hotel, on the other hand, has different plans for him and his family, as its supernatural forces cause a descent into madness for Mr. Torrance, setting his sights on destroying his wife and son in order to appease the hotel's mysterious spirits.
It became difficult for two sons to tell the difference from right and wrong in the single father household of Frailty, as the family's father, played by Bill Paxton, claimed to have been visited by an angel. This angel gave the father the job of destroying demons who took the form of humans, with the father handing out abuse at his sons' doubts about their mission.
While one son believes his father is wrong for what he does and has trouble standing up to him, the other son wholeheartedly believes his father, who thinks his father would never steer them down a dark path.
Even once the father leaves the picture, one of the sons continues down his path of supposed demonic destruction, showing that the fatherly guidance continued his terrifying legacy into a new generation.
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) wants nothing more out of life than to start a family in a nice new apartment with her husband Guy (John Cassavetes). Her husband, on the other hand, is merely tolerant of this burgeoning family and is far more interested in advancing his career than hunkering down for a domestic life.
The Woodhouses' new neighbors strike up a strange relationship with Guy, who never really had a father of his own and takes on one of his neighbors as a surrogate father, marking the beginning of a terrifying relationship.
Guy tries to show his devotion to furthering a family by sleeping with Rosemary when she was unconscious, saying he knew it was a time she was most fertile and would stop at nothing to give her a child. As if this creepy behavior wasn't enough to show Guy didn't have what it took to pass his morals on to a child, he conspired with his neighbor to perform a ritual that made Satan the spiritual father of their future child. By our count, it's tough to find a father with a worse track record than Satan, despite never getting to see his parenting skills in the film itself.
Much like The Shining's Jack Torrance, outstanding circumstances force George Lutz (James Brolin) to take some desperate measures to ensure the safety of his family. Whereas Torrance took a job when he was desperate for cash, Lutz had to move into a house for a price that couldn't be beaten, as it had a history of multiple murders and bloodshed.
What begins as an obsession with keeping the old house warm by chronically chopping wood for the stove eventually turns into George's full-blown and unexplainable madness, waking up every night at 3:15 AM to check on the boathouse and making his family's life a living hell.
Unlike Mr. Torrance, however, George doesn't set his sights on completely destroying his family, as he's eventually able to regain sanity long enough to attempt to flee the house. George taught everyone a valuable lesson, however, in that if a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To call Mr. Grantham (Jon Lormer) a demanding father would be a definite understatement, as the cantankerous father demanded a lot from his daughter Bedelia. Thanks to Nathan's actions, the family amassed a vast fortune, building an empire on bootlegging, extortion, and murder, which included the killing of Bedelia's boyfriend.
On one fateful Father's Day, Bedelia couldn't take her father's abuse any longer, killing her father with an ashtray.
Sadly, Bedelia didn't realize just how full of hate her father was, as he was so adamant about getting his cake on a subsequent Father's Day, he returned from the grave to eradicate anyone who stood in his way.
Not all villainous fathers rule their household with an iron fist, but sometimes rule their household with the help of an invalid son who had a tendency to murder people with chainsaws, wear the skin of his victims, and carry out a number of villainous orders that he was given.
When the main characters in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre first meet Mr. Sawyer, he might not be all that helpful, telling the travelers he doesn't have any gas for them, but later in the film, we learn that all of the horrifying events the group encounter are the result of his orchestration.
Drayton might be the current ruler of the household, but we later learn that he's merely following in his father's footsteps, proving once again just how dangerous a dad can be when they teach their children their terrible tendencies.
After a police raid on the treacherous Firefly family, Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), manage to make their escape to reunite with Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig), kicking off one of the most vulgar and violent road trips you'll see in any movie.
In House of 1000 Corpses, audiences didn't get to experience the extent of what Spaulding had to offer, merely serving as a disgusting clown that was somehow in league with the Firefly family, but the sequel showed that he was as sick and sadistic as any of the family's siblings.
Although many audiences would discount The Devil's Rejects for its display of debauchery, it's worth noting that Spaulding isn't necessarily the biological father of Otis, but potentially just an adoptive patriarch, showcasing the bond between multiple different definitions of a father figure.
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