On Father’s Day, we take a look at ten of the most memorable dads in horror — from the wonderfully loving fathers to the wickedly bad dads.
Father’s Day is a great day to celebrate all of the wonderful dads out there. However, as horror has taught us, not all dads are as loving as others. Some are downright despicable. Whether they were heroic dads who made us stand up and cheer or villainous monsters who made us uncomfortable every time they were on the screen, these unforgettable fathers certainly made an impact on audiences.
In no particular order, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of the best and worst fathers in the horror genre.
1. LOVING FATHER: Nathan Wallace, Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
In this tale that is described as taking place in a “not so distant future,” there is an epidemic of organ failures. A company called Geneco comes to (seemingly) save the day, offering organs for sale and providing people with a payment plan for their new body parts. However, if they fail to keep up with their payments, they receive a visit from the infamous Repo Man, whose job is to violently repossess those life-saving organs.
The Repo Man is Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head), a loving father to daughter Shiloh (Alexa PenaVega). Shiloh’s mother, Marni, died during childbirth because of a horrible accident; Nathan accidentally poisoned her. He keeps his identity and profession a secret in order to protect his daughter, who has a rare blood disease. Since he is a doctor, he also acts as her caretaker.
This film is definitely one that has always stood out to me. Despite Nathan’s dirty deeds and very bad decisions, he shares an obvious bond with his daughter who is “the world to him”. You will no doubt take issue with his methods, including the lengths he goes to protect his daughter and keep her close, but there is no denying his love for her.
Nathan Wallace teaches us that protecting our children should always be our main priority, no matter what the cost may be.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch Repo! The Genetic Opera in the US for free on Tubi or Pluto TV.
2. BAD DAD: Alvin Marsh, IT (2017)
When children begin to go missing in the small town of Derry, Maine, a group of misfits comes together to figure out what evil entity is doing these horrible things. Of course, while they are trying to discover how to stop this awful being, they are facing their own personal demons.
One character in particular, Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis), has to face her abusive father, Alvin Marsh (Stephen Bogaert), at home and does her best to avoid him every chance she can get. It is obvious that Beverly not only resents her father but fears him as well since IT takes the form of her father in the final showdown.
Alvin Marsh’s screen presence is definitely one that can send chills down any audience member’s spine. The moment he looks at his daughter, you just know there is something wrong with their relationship. While the original miniseries focused primarily on the physical abuse that Beverly endured, this remake touches on the uncomfortable topic that she may have also endured sexual abuse as well.
Alvin Marsh is a character that is easy to hate, and his despicable treatment of his daughter makes him one of the worst fathers in horror history.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch IT (2017) in the US on HBO Max.
3. LOVING FATHER: Steven Freeley, Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist tells the story of Steven Freeley and his family, including his wife Diane, eldest daughter Dana, son Robbie, and youngest daughter Carol Anne. The family seems to be living a normal life until their lives are turned upside down by a supernatural disturbance.
The paranormal activity begins slowly, with Carol Anne being able to talk to voices through the white noise in the television and claiming that any strange activity that occurs in the house is the cause of what she calls “the T.V. people.” One night during a horrible storm, a tree branch breaks through the window and grabs Robbie. As Steven and Diane are outside attempting to save him, a white light emerges from the closet and sucks Carol Anne into it.
The Freeley family goes searching for Carol Anne, but she is nowhere to be found. Instead, the family soon discovers they can hear her voice from the television. With the help of paranormal investigators and a clairvoyant, they are able to save their little girl — but the trouble is far from over.
Steven is a loving father to his children and a loving husband to his wife. When his daughter Carol Anne goes missing, he says that he does not care about the strange activities that are occurring, he just wants his little girl back. Steven is the sterner of the two parents, but that is only because of how protective he is of his children.
Stevan and his wife Diane are great examples of what parents should be like, putting their children first no matter how dire the circumstances.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch Poltergeist in the US on HBO Max.
4. BAD DAD: Chucky, Seed of Chucky (2004)
This campy film is the fifth installment in the Child’s Play franchise. It takes place after the events of the previous film, Bride of Chucky, which shows Tiffany giving birth to a doll that she and Chucky conceived.
Their child (who is later on named Glenn) is the very opposite of his parents. He is harmless and has no desire to kill, unlike Chucky and Tiffany. After he sees them on television, he travels to Hollywood to meet them. Chucky and Tiffany are shocked to learn that they had a child together and both have very different reactions. While Tiffany is loving and accepts him immediately, Chucky is quick to joke about his appearance and makes fun of him. Chucky and Tiffany make a plan to transfer their souls into the bodies of Redman and Jennifer Tilly. As for Glenn, it is decided that they will impregnate Jennifer and transfer his soul into the baby.
When one thinks of the killer doll Chucky, I’m sure they do not think of “father of the year.” Chucky is not exactly the most loving and accepting of fathers. He hates that his son is not like him and wants to raise his son to be a killer like him. It is a shame that there are several people that might relate to having a father that is unsupportive of them and their decisions.
In the end, Glenn got to live the life he wanted and Chucky got a reboot, so I guess everyone won.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch Seed of Chucky in the US on Netflix.
5. LOVING FATHER: Lee Abbott, A Quiet Place (2018)
In a world in which you could not speak if you wanted to survive, but you also had a family to protect, what would you do?
Lee Abbott and his wife Evelyn do everything that they can to survive and to keep their family safe. In this post-apocalyptic world, they must stay silent so that the creatures cannot hear them.
Still mourning the loss of their son, Evelyn becomes pregnant (which honestly doesn’t seem like the best idea in this sort of world, but that’s just my opinion). She finds herself in danger one day when she is home alone and goes into labor. The family works together to distract the creatures so that Evelyn will be safe. In the end, (*SPOILER ALERT*) Lee sacrifices himself so that his children can get away.
Lee Abbott is truly a great dad. Not only is he protective of his family, but he goes above and beyond for them, proving there is no cost too high when it comes to keeping his family safe.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch A Quiet Place in the US on FXNow, fuboTV, DIRECTV, or Spectrum On Demand (or you can rent it on VOD). A Quiet Place Part II is coming to Paramount Plus on July 12, 2021.
6. BAD DAD: Daddy, The People Under the Stairs (1991)
In this film, the main character, Fool (Brandon Adams), is trying to find a way for his family to pay their rent so that they are not evicted. After breaking into the landlords’ house, Fool is shocked to discover there are people locked in the basement. He also encounters the landlords’ daughter, Alice (A.J. Langer), who helps Fool hide after his friends are killed in the house.
The landlords, who call themselves Mommy (Wendy Robie) and Daddy (Everett McGill), are actually a brother and sister duo rather than a married couple. They originally ran a funeral home before getting into real estate and becoming greedier. Alice tells Fool that a child should speak no evil, see no evil, or hear no evil. And if they misbehave, Daddy takes off the bad part of them and locks them in the cellar.
All of the people under the stairs are children that have been kidnapped and are now cannibals. Fool later discovers and reveals to Alice that she too was kidnapped and is not their actual daughter. Fool makes sure that Mommy and Daddy do not make it out alive, and the people that have been trapped in the cellar are set free.
The “dad” in this film is definitely an odd one. He calls himself Daddy and wears leather when chasing down someone that he intends to kill. He and his sister, Mommy, are both clearly abusive towards their adopted daughter Alice and punish her over anything that she does wrong in their eyes.
Daddy may not technically be a father, but he still provides a valuable lesson for any real dads out there; be a loving father and don’t be a ‘Daddy’.
Where to Watch: You can currently rent The People Under the Stairs in the US on most VOD platforms.
7. LOVING FATHER: Lieutenant Donald Thompson, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This film tells the story of the horrible monster, Freddy Krueger, who haunts the dreams of the Elm Street children. He wants revenge for his death, so rather than go after the parents, he chooses to go after their children.
Krueger was a child murderer and justice was never served, so the parents burned him alive and decided to never tell their children. After a string of murders happens, Nancy Thompson, one of the victims of these dreams, goes digging and decides that she wants to kill Krueger. After pulling him out of her dream, she lights him on fire and enlists the help of her father, Lieutenant Thompson. They both watch in horror as Krueger takes Nancy’s mom down to hell.
Throughout the film, the career-focused Lieutenant Thompson believes that his daughter is losing her mind. He refuses to listen to her, thinking he knows best, and even uses her as bait to capture a suspected killer. With that being said, he still has her best interests at heart and just wants his daughter to be safe. So, when she asks for his help, he is quick to respond, even if he is a little too late to help.
He also reappears in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, where he makes amends for his mistakes and helps defeat Krueger once and for all.
Thompson shows that you can be supportive of your children and be there for them, even in times where it seems impossible.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch A Nightmare on Elm Street in the US on HBO Max.
8. BAD DAD: Jack Torrance, The Shining (1980)
No list about horror movie fathers would be complete without the one and only Jack Torrance.
This terrifying tale, based on the beloved novel by Stephen King, revolves around Jack (Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Jack accepts a seasonal job working as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for five months during the frigid Winter. As the snow piles up outside, the family finds themselves isolated from the outside world and trapped not-so-safely inside the hotel.
Over the progression of the film, Jack seems to lose his mind. He becomes more and more aggressive with his wife and distances himself. He begins hallucinating and even speaks with Mr. Grady, the man that murdered his wife and daughter while working as the caretaker a few years prior to Jack. He eventually becomes completely unhinged and tries to kill his own wife and son in the unforgettable — and absolutely chilling — climax of the film.
This is another father I think it is safe to say won’t be winning “father of the year” anytime soon. Even before he becomes possessed by the hotel and tries to murder Danny with an ax, he wasn’t exactly a model father given his propensity for drinking and violence. He once even dislocated Danny’s shoulder while drunk.
Jack Nicholson sells the role perfectly, giving a convincing and terrifying performance as a very flawed man who becomes the perfect target for the evil influence of a haunted hotel.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch The Shining in the US on HBO Max.
9. LOVING FATHER: Tom, Bird Box (2018)
This might be a controversial choice since this father figure isn’t one for very long, but hear me out.
Bird Box is a Netflix original film, based on the novel by Josh Malerman. It tells the story of Mallory and her children, known only as Boy and Girl, who are trying to survive and find a safe place where they can finally see the world again.
Five years after living together as a family in a post-apocalyptic world in which they must keep their eyes covered in public, Mallory (Sandra Bullock) and Tom (Trevante Rhodes) are attacked by “enlightened” people. These people have stared into the evil force that causes people to kill themselves, and have gone crazy as a result. They want the family to “take a look” and face the deadly threat head-on, but Tom wants to protect his family. He tells Mallory to take the kids and leave.
He tries to kill the people with his blindfold on but realizes he cannot protect his family without his sight. So, he makes the decision to take off his blindfold. Ultimately, Tom ends up sacrificing himself for the safety of his family.
This is truly a sad death to the character of Tom. He was always a leader and made smart decisions. He may not have been the biological father of Boy or Girl, but he protected them and raised them alongside Mallory. And he gave the kids hope for a better future. Mallory even named Boy after him at the end of the film.
If that’s not enough to sell you on Tom being a great father figure, then I don’t know what is.
Where to Watch: You can currently watch Bird Box in the US on Netflix.
10. BAD DAD/LOVING FATHER: Steven Wilkins, Trick ‘r Treat (2009)
In this anthology horror film, we are told four different stories that occur on Halloween. One of those stories revolves around Principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker). On Halloween night, Wilkins encounters troublemaking student Charlie (Brett Kelly), an overweight child who is seen smashing pumpkins down the street. Wilkins encourages him to eat the candy he was stealing, but as Charlie is eating, he becomes sick to his stomach and begins to vomit blood.
Wilkins then reminds Charlie of one of the traditions of Halloween, which is to always check your candy. We discover Wilkins has poisoned the candy. He proceeds to drag Charlie’s body to the backyard so he can bury him, before casually heading back inside to help his son Billy with his jack o’ lantern.
While pumpkin carving, Wilkins seems annoyed with Billy. He grabs a knife and tells his son to go to the basement, leading the audience to believe he is about to murder his son. He thrusts the knife down and lifts it, revealing blood. This blood turns out to be the blood of Charlie because the jack o’ lantern is actually his head. Wilkins follows through with his promise and helps Billy with the eyes of the “jack o’ lantern.”
Mr. Wilkins turned out to be a total creep in the film, but there is no doubt that he loved his son. He murders some kid, chops his head off, and uses it as a jack o’ lantern for his son. It’s hard enough being a single father, but from what we see in the film, Wilkins handles it pretty well. His son clearly loves his dad, seeing how he dresses up as him at the end of the film.
It’s safe to say Wilkins doesn’t exactly exhibit model behavior in this film and can easily be seen as a villain. But, in the eyes of his son, he’s a hero — and isnt’ that what Father’s Day is all about?
Where to Watch: You can currently watch Trick ‘r Treat on Cinemax or Directv, or rent it on VOD.