Horror & Family Law on The Big Screen

by | Oct 28, 2022 | Child Custody & Visitation, Child Support, Divorce, Move-Away, Restraining Orders

Dealing with family law related issues like a divorce or child custody dispute can be terrifying. The lack of clear outcomes and defined timelines is suspenseful to say the least. The looming dread of court, attorneys, and tough discussions with loved ones – and maybe not so loved ones, could reasonably be understated as spooky. You may find yourself checking your phone, email, or mail for that next jump scare, trick, or the hopeful “treat”, that you’ve been waiting for and asking yourself, “What’s next?”.

Unfortunately, the elements of dread, suspense, fear, and surprise are among some of the many feelings and emotions that are universally felt by the people involved in family law legal dispute. With Halloween looming and the “spooky season” in full force, you may be surprised to find out that there’s actually a lot of movies within the Horror genre that at their core, are fundamentally familial relationship stories.

Your high school English teacher may have correctly told you that to tell an effective story of any type, the material must be relatable to its audience. Because most of us will have the shared experience of familial relationships and the disputes that arise therein, it should be no surprise given further thought that Horror has long used this as a springboard for its audience’s emotional investment with the characters whose stories we watch play out.

I’ve compiled a short list of Horror movies that touch on various family issues which fortunately for you, almost certainly have worse outcomes than any scenario you are likely to experience in reality.


Dark Water (2005) – Child Custody Dispute / Divorce / Ghosts

Dark Water is an early 2000’s film where the protagonist is actively involved in a move-away and custody dispute with her ex-husband. They have a kindergarten aged daughter, and it appears likely that protagonist “Dahalia” (Jennifer Connelly – Labyrinth / Top Gun II) has primary physical custody of her daughter but that she needs to prove she can provide stable housing and schooling as part of an ongoing custody dispute. This is an extremely common scenario in divorces with children, or where modification of existing custody arrangements is moved for by the parents of a child. Fortunately for you, me, and the people of the real world, most of these disputes don’t involve supernatural intervention from the “former” tenants of haunted apartment buildings.


Train to Busan (2016) – Child Visitation / Divorce / Zombies

This 2016 Korean film is just a generally great zombie flick with some child visitation and father daughter bonding intermixed with a localized zombie apocalypse. Our protagonist “Seok-woo” (Gong Yoo – Squid Game / The Age of Shadows) is a divorced father who wants to spend his child’s birthday with her in the Korean city of Busan. His daughter lives with his ex-wife and he is portrayed as overworked, flawed, but well-meaning generally regarding his daughter.  Unfortunately for our protagonist, his birthday visitation with his daughter is interrupted by the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse. While setting up a defined custody and visitation schedule may still be subject to offset by such an outbreak, it’s generally advisable for the interests of everyone involved to do so.


Bride of Chucky (1998) – Marriage / Possession / Pre-Nuptial Agreement

This 1998 movie is objectively bad but entertaining if you like this genre. With that said, it deals with some significant issues many relationships and later marriages should put under serious consideration. Threats of violence both physical and emotion within a relationship are common themes in family law disputes and they are present here. In reality these scenarios should be treated with caution, care, and potentially profession intervention by in this fantasy world, it seems to work out reasonably for the future husband and bride. There’s also the element of a “shotgun wedding” which is another ill-advised transaction which occurs in the real world. Chuckie and his Bride also fail to consider beforehand or put together a pre-nuptial agreement which is something that is always worth significant consideration prior to entering into marriage.


Hereditary (2018) – Family Trauma / Intestate Succession / Occult

This 2018 film is simply excellent and lastingly disturbing. When I watched it with my then roommate when it came out, it had me and another 200+lb 30-year-old man hiding under our sheets that night. We do not feel any shame. Unlike Bride of Chucky, this is an objectively good movie. Toni Collete (The Sixth Sense / Little Ms. Sunshine) as “Annie” puts on a stunning performance as the overstressed, overworked mother of a well-off suburban family. It deals with the issues of emotional support where a death in the family has occurred, the stress and frustration of balancing work obligations with raising/managing a family, and loosely but importantly, what could be called “intestate possession” – this is a bad lawyer pun, please don’t let it prevent you from watching this movie.