Scientists and psychologists have long debated the nature vs. nurture theory. Are we the way we are because of our genes, our IQ, our parents, the toxins in our tap water? Certainly, some diseases like cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, and depression can be passed on genetically, but it's up for grabs how much environment plays into fully developing something that was lurking in one's gene pool.

But really, all that BS doesn't matter in the end when it comes to these families who share an interest in human flesh, chainsaws, torture, rape, and occasionally each other, if you know what I mean. All that matters is getting the hell away from them as fast as you can.

It's really hard to say which of these disgusting groups of related and/or inbred freaks is the worst, so this is in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The real-life familial yearnings of murderer, cannibal, and grave-robber Ed Gein inspired many film villains, but few movies boasted an entire family of murderers and cannibals until Tobe Hooper's 1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This incredibly influential slasher featured the antics of a small town Texas family lead by a character later known as Cook or Drayton Sawyer, who seems to be a kooky, harmless gas station owner at first, but later shows up just how he earned his nicknamed. The Hitchhiker, who is either Drayton's son or brother, is a totally batsh*t crazy dude armed with a straight razor who terrorizes the folks who pick him up off the side of the road, and Leatherface is his brother, who earned his nickname from his love of wearing masks made of human skin. He is the one with the chainsaw. There's also a catatonic grandfather and Granny's corpse in the attic. Later remakes and sequels add more twisted branches to the family tree, including the remarkable Chop Top (played by Bill Mosely), a war vet who enjoys nothing more than scratching the visible metal plate in his head with a clothes hanger.

2. The Firefly family in House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects

Taking his cues from TCM, these two films are also about a family of backwoods Texans who enjoy murder, rape, and mayhem, although the Fireflys have a sexier vibe thanks to old-school scream queen Karen Black, who plays Mother Firefly, and Sheri Moon Zombie as cackling sexpot Baby Firefly. Whereas House has more of a funhouse-gone-wrong feeling, The Devil's Rejects has some pretty grotesque scenes as Baby, Otis (Bill Mosely!), and another character, whose identity would be a spoiler, go on the run after a confrontation with the police back at home goes bad.

3. The Hills Have Eyes

Forget those remakes and their rubber-faced prosthetics; Wes Craven's gang of mutated desert-dwelling cannibals is second to none. Nothing is safe from big daddy Jupiter and his band of horrible offspring when a vacationing family is stranded in their vicinity. (It's implied that nuclear testing could have had something to do with their gnarliness, a point that Alexandre Aja made more explicit in his 2006 remake.) The Carters' RV is full of delicious goodies for the hill-dwellers to steal, torment, rape, and/or eat, besides the regular old nuclear family (heh) – a pet bird and dog meet particularly unpleasant ends. According to, Wes Craven said the story is based on something he read about the Scottish Sawney Beane family, a sort of Loch Ness Monster of cannibalistic clans from the 1700s. Historically inspired or not, the hill-dwellers pack one horrifying punch that left me with the willies.

4. Frontier(s)

Paris is burning, and a group of friends finally seek refuge in a quaint inn in the countryside. Unfortunately, their hosts are French neo-Nazis led by the jackbooted Le Von Geisler, a former SS officer who's hellbent on helping rebuild the Aryan race. They're not all related, but you know, you gotta stick together when you're Aryan. And cannibals. And pig farmers. And unfortunately Von Geisler seems to think the protagonist, the beautiful, pregnant Yasmina (who also doesn't want to bring a baby into the effed-up world they're living in), would be the perfect addition to their little family.

5. Sheitan

Wow, the French are really socking it to us when it comes to icky, icky horror. Some annoying club kids are lured to the countryside by a babe named Eve for Christmas dinner. Because why not? Vincent Cassel puts in an admirable performance as a most looney tunes caretaker who's formed a sort of family with Eve, his pregnant wife, a crazy cameo by Cassel's real-life wife Monica Bellucci, and a few others who are totally down with incest, a little fun with farm animals, and Satan. They also want to bring on the Antichrist in time for Christmas. The lesson here, I'm pretty sure, is to avoid both clubbing and the French countryside. [Hat tip for readers who caught the Belluci/Bello boo boo!]

6. The Brood

Oh, David Cronenberg and your freakish fascination with the female body. Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) has created a rather unconventual psychological therapy called psychoplasmics where patients are encouraged to manifest their problems physically, often mutating their bodies in some way or another. Unfortunately for one woman in his institution, Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar) expresses her inner turmoil by giving birth to psycho children that act out whatever their mom is feeling – which is usually pretty pissed off. They're a creepy murderous lot that Nola conceives asexually (parthenogenetically), and one scene shows her licking a newborn clean.

7. Mother's Day

Soon to be remade by Saw sequelizer and Repo! man Darren Lynn Bousman, this sleazy 1981 exploitationer follows three dumb chicks into the woods ... where they're promptly savaged by two feral freaks and their macabre mama. But if you think the initial assaults were unpleasant, just stick around for the revenge section! It's sort of like I Spit On Your Grave meets Thelma and Louise. Ewww. Bousman's remake isn't even done shooting yet, and already I suspect it's an improvement over the original flick.

categories Cinematical