I'm a firm believer of "better late than never" so, depite being one day late, here is a list of 11 of the Best & Worst Horror Dads. Obviously there will be more dads on the "bad" end of the spectrum - we do cover horror here, after all. Without further ado...horror dads:
Nathan Grantham (Creepshow, 1982)
This black comedy/horror anthology was directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King (his debut into screenwriting as a matter of fact). Father’s Day is the first of five short stories and was written by King specifically for the film. It centers around the death of family patriarch Nathan and his daughter, Bedelia, who is the one responsible for Mr. Grantham’s untimely demise. On her way to a family dinner, Bedelia stops at her late father’s grave to drunkenly reminisce about killing him. In her drunken stupor, she spills her bottle of whiskey onto the grave, which inexplicably reanimates her father’s corpse, who is bent on revenge! Creepshow was a staple Blockbuster pick, when I was a kid - I haven’t seen it in a while but, it’s worth checking out if you’re an 80’s kid who’s never seen it.
Verdict: Bad Undead Dad
George Lutz (Amityville Horror, 1979)
Maybe you’ve been living under a rock, maybe you don’t like true crime, maybe you don’t love horror - I don’t know. I don’t judge. However, if you’re unfamiliar with the story that inspired the Amityville Horror book and movies, here it is: In the evening of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered six members of his family, in their Amityville home. He was eventually convicted of second-degree murder, in November of 1975. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into the home, only to move right back out 28 days later. Their reason for leaving? A never-ending series of paranormal occurrences tormented them until they could no longer take it. In the 1979 film, Amityville Horror, the patriarch of the Lutz household, George Lutz, is depicted as a man who is not in the running for any “father of the year” prize. Struggling financially, he doesn’t take the sudden onset of demonic activity in his new house very well. What results is a movie that should be included on any list of “horror classics.”
Verdict: Bad Dad
Louis Creed (Pet Sematary, 1989)
Directed by Mary Lambert and written by King, this movie is tragic and terrifying (or, at least, it was when I first watched, as a kid). When Louis’ young son, Gage, is killed by a truck - right outside their house - he decides, despite a few ominous warnings, to bury him in the local "pet cemetery." Word on the street is, people buried in this cemetary will be brought back to life as some sort of creepy zombie...or something like that. Despite all the horrible shit that takes place after Gage is buried in the cemetery, you can’t really blame Louis for doing what he did - he was a grieving father. Although, his actions caused one of the most horrible scenes in my memory of horrible scenes, and it involves an achilles’ tendon and a box cutter.
Verdict: Good Dad (who simply made questionable choices)
Dr. Pierre Brasseur (Eyes Without a Face, 1960)
This movie shows what can happen because of the actions of a desperate father. Granted, those “actions” include murdering women to harvest their faces. But if you’ve never been in his shoes, you can’t really judge, right? Regardless, the father does commit murder to help his daughter, but it’s an almost creepy help that seems to go slightly beyond just him trying to alleviate his guilt. It’s almost as if he wants to keep her prisoner as a young-looking porcelain doll. An older film, this movie has successfully stood the test of time and remains a seriously unsettling watch.
Verdict: Bad Dad
“Daddy” Robeson (The People Under the Stairs, 1991)
Not an actual father, per se, but a guy does get referred to as “daddy.” This 1991 horror film was written and directed by master of early 90’s horror, Wes Craven. It tells the story of young rapscallion, Poindexter “Fool” Williams, and his rather unfortunate encounter with the Robesons. The Robesons are not your typical American family; There’s Mommy and Daddy Robeson and young Alice Robeson. It’s important to note “Mommy” and “Daddy” are actually brother and sister (from a long line of inbred crazies) and, in addition to Alice, they have lots of other children hidden under the stairs. This movie disturbed me more than any other when I was a kid, which only resulted in it being one of my video store go-to choices. Personally, I prefer this movie to the Nightmare on Elmstreet films - it's just so messed-up in many ways.
Verdict: Bad “Daddy”
Sean Bridgers (The Woman, 2011)
Directed by Lucky McKee, this film is an adaptation of the novel of the same title, written by Jack Ketchem (who actually joined forces with McKee to write the screenplay). It introduces you to a seemingly normal family, the Cleeks, and their new family “pet project.” The big problem is the task that has been assigned to the family by their dear ol’ dad, Chris, is to break or “civilize” a wild woman, who he captured in the woods. Right off the bat, this is a little more than any dad should ever ask of his family; however, Chris Cleek is a controlling, misogynistic psychopath who isn’t happy unless he’s in complete control of everyone and everything. That’s some real “feel-good” stuff, right? Regardless, The Woman is an interesting story and a surprisingly watchable movie (my biggest complaint is with the soundtrack...I hate it).
Verdict: Really just the worst Dad
Jack Torrence (The Shining, 1980)
It’s impossible to have a list of good & bad dads of horror and not include Jack Torrence. No one could possibly forget Jack Nicholson’s terrifying performance as Jack, caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Jack goes a bit nuts while locked up for months in a hotel with more than a few lingering and undead guests. There’s no shortage of creepy figures and terrifying moments in The Shining, and Jack Torrence is really at the top of this list. Even before shit starts to go down at the Overlook, we’re already made aware of Jack’s past (very recent past, actually) drinking problem, which eventually resulted in him dislocating his son Danny’s shoulder. Combine that with all the negative business in the hotel and you know Jack can’t possibly remain sane through this ordeal. After all, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Verdict: Insanely Bad Dad
Jerry Blake (The Stepfather, 1987)
It’s got to be hard enough for a child to get used to a new stepfather in their lives. So imagine how hard it would be if your stepfather was a murderous psychopath? Also, it’s loosely based on the life of actual killer, John List. You pretty much discover right away that Jerry is someone to be afraid of, and you spend a good portion of the movie worried for his new wife and stepdaughter. If you haven’t seen this and feel like checking it out, please do yourself a favor and watch the original. The 2009 remake was a steaming pile.
Verdict: Bad Stepdad
Henry Spencer (Eraserhead, 1977)
A lot of folks aren’t into David Lynch and that’s totally fair. His movies are not for everyone and require viewers to really pay attention and get sucked in. If you’re able to do that, then you’re ready to sit through some terrifying yet, rather understated, examples of horror. Eraserhead is the story of Henry, a man just trying to get by in the nightmare of a world in which he happens to exist. He has a small family but a “family man” he is not. His one and only child has the face that only a mother could love. So when Henry is left alone to care for the kid, he essentially loses his gd mind and we get to watch the horrible process.
Verdict: “Troubled” Bad Dad
William (The VVitch, 2016)
The most recent of the films in this list but since the family patriarch, William, was certainly a key player in Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, it would be a shame to leave him off. Taking place in 1630’s New England, one has to set aside personal opinions regarding religion in order to objectively look at William’s strengths. He clearly loves his wife and his kids and does what he is able in order to provide for them. Sure, he is a devout and strict “man of god”, which in and of itself is a bit on the scary side, but who wasn’t during those crazy times (other than the witches, of course)? The fear and anxiety that surrounded this family -- directly related to their religious beliefs -- was terrifying in its own right. Unfortunately for William, no amount of faith or religious dedication was going to help him once his lovely daughter was singled out for inclusion in the local coven.
Verdict: “Good-Intentioned” Dad
Robert Thorn (The Omen, 1976)
Let’s just get one thing out of the way, Robert Thorn’s evil little offspring, Damien, definitely had it coming. Even though he isn’t the true father of Damien, he does the responsible thing and destroys his son for the sake of all that is good. Wonderfully acted by Gregory Peck, Robert Thorn tries to do the best he can for young Damien but, in the end, the best thing is to destroy him. Not to mention, in addition to trying to be a good father to Damien, Robert is a loving and devoted husband, as evidenced by his reaction to hearing of his wife’s death. The Omen is a great horror classic that has been “blessed” with both sequels and remakes - none of which were actually needed.
Verdict: Good “Dad”
That's it for my list. As per usual, there are some honorary mentions:
- Dad Meiks (Frailty, 2001)
- Frank Parker (We Are What We Are, 2011 & 2013)
- Freddy (Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, 1991)
Are there any you think should be added to the list? Let us know!