The Family That Slays Together
"She had a corpse under her bed
She had her fun but now he's dead
Her momma said 'come feed desire
Her brother said, 'hey, throw him on the fire!"
— Rob Zombie, "House Of 1000 Corpses"
Aren't they sweet?
While it's not uncommon for some people skilled in a trade to pass it on to their children, sometimes the only thing a parent is skilled at that he can teach to his kids is murder, cold-blooded torture
, and any other heartless criminal deeds you can think of. This will usually result in raising an evil clan, and when the kids are old enough, the family collectively and regularly adds to a rising body count and a growing criminal file.
This is basically Siblings in Crime
but with the parents (and maybe a few other extended relatives) having a hand in the villainy, as well.
Usually, The Family That Slays Together consists of at least one parent (if it is only one parent, it's usually the father), and at least two children of blood relation to the parent. If a mother and father are both present in the story, it's possible for the family to have only one child join them on crime sprees. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins may be among the ranks as well from time to time, especially when family inbreeding is suggested.
One common variation involves an Outlaw Couple
kidnapping a child or a group of children for the duo to raise as they would their own kids (typically, this either results in Stockholm Syndrome
, which is rare, to betraying or outright killing their own kidnappers
, which would be more common).
Very often, this trope might overlap with Cannibal Clan
, especially in the horror genre. Sometimes, they are also Professional Killers
Compare: Overlord Jr.
. / Daddy's Little Villain
where a single descendant of a Big Bad
seeks to follow in his footsteps. In the Blood
is related if the kids pick up on their parents' evil habits without having been directly exposed to any of their criminal behaviors and/or it's a persistent trend throughout the generations. May also be a Badass Family
, though your mileage may vary, depending on how "badass" you think violent crime and other felonies are.
Contrast Mama Didn't Raise No Criminal
contrast: All forms of the Generic Ethnic Crime Gang
, particularly The Mafia
and The Irish Mob
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Anime and Manga
- The Mizuchi family from Sukeban Deka.
- The Zabi family from Mobile Suit Gundam are a family of militaristic fascist politicians, with father Degwin as Sovereign and Big Bad, eldest son Gihren as Dragon-in-Chief and CINC of the war effort, daughter Kycilia and son Dozle as fleet commanders, and youngest child Garma as the leader of the Earth Invasion Force. Since they are also a Big Screwed-Up Family, the situation turns very messy for all of them, especially once Gihren makes his play for power.
- ...with Kycilia having intended to do the exact same thing (minus patricide); Gihren only moved first.
- If one subscribes to the school of thought that Glemy Toto is Gihren's clone/bastard, it only serves to reinforce this trope.
- Dozle's daughter Mineva, on the other hand, is very much the odd one out among the Zabis. While she can be every bit as cunning and manipulative as her elders, she's also a Badass Pacifist with no ambitions for personal gain.
- The Hückebein Family from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are the adopted variant. Apparently all of them are not blood-related since they adopt other Eclipse Drivers into the family. As infectees of the Eclipse, a virus that turns you into a crazy killing machine (or zombie), they have to kill people to survive or the Eclipse will kill them.
- In Hunter × Hunter, the Zoldyeck Family are a family of assassins. Even though they have some issues, they usually don't kill innocent or other people unrelated to their jobs. At one point, the Ten Mafia Dons hired Zeno (the grandfather) and Silva (the father) to kill Chrollo Lucilfer, but Chrollo was Dangerously Genre Savvy enough to hire the eldest son, Illumi, to kill the dons. Illumi killed them when Zeno and Silva were in the middle of the fight against Chrollo, and after Illumi informed his father, both of them went back to home without any regrets.
- Dragon Ball Z:
- Frieza's family. The father (King Cold) has been implicated to be a tyrant, probably responsible for multiple genocides throughout the universe, his son (Frieza) is a sadist who enjoys torturing his victims, and his brother (Cooler) and predecessor (Chilled) are very similar to him.
- Babidi's family as well. He and his father Bibidi are sociopathic Omnicidal Maniac that sowed destruction in planets, and probably entire galaxies, and the Bibidi's creation (Kid Buu) is a Psycho for Hire creature whose only skill is killing and destroying.
- Pa, Link, Fink, Mean Machine, and Junior Angel (a.k.a. The Angel Gang) from Judge Dredd. Pa Angel was apparently so committed to making sure that he raised his kids to be nothing short of monsters that when his son Mean turned out to actually be extremely gentle and nice, he got him surgically modified with cybernetic enhancements to give him a more bloodthirsty disposition. After the deaths of Pa, Link, and Junior, Fink and Mean Machine sought vengeance as Siblings in Crime. The movie adaptation with Sylvester Stallone saw The Angel Gang adapted as a Cannibal Clan.
- In X-Men, when The Brood attack New Orleans, they target the children of the local thief and assassin clans for assimilation, giving this trope as their reasoning: Since they are preparing an invasion they need soldiers, so hosts with the right instincts are very desirable.
- Mad Scientist Doctor Sivana and his children, Georgia and Thaddeus Jr., from Captain Marvel.
- The Kravinoffs in Spider-Man: The Gauntlet.
- The Roarks from Sin City.
- Evan Dorkin's The Murder Family. A not-so-wholesome sitcom family who do Exactly What It Says on the Tin. To a sitcom audience soundtrack, no less.
- The Daltons from Lucky Luke, with the family matriarch Ma Dalton who occasionally helps her sons escaping the Cardboard Prison du jour and planning some of their crimes. Given that they're in a very family-friendly title, nobody's really at risk of getting killed.
- Franco Belgian Comic Les Cranibales is about a Cannibal Clan living in a modern french city. It's actually an all-ages series where the situation is Played for Laughs.
- The Inheritors, of which Morlun is the eldest sibling, is this in Spider-Verse.
- Frailty has this. However, two of the family members were legitimately called by God to destroy demons (seriously) while the other one becomes a straight-up Serial Killer, and his first victim is his own father (who was one of the ones called by God).
- The Fratellis from The Goonies are never actually seen killing anybody, but have stuffed a corpse in the freezer at their hideout, and Ma Fratelli has no qualms with forcing the kids to walk the plank.
- The Firefly family from House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel The Devils Rejects is a strong contender. Also a Cannibal Clan.
- Subverted in Natural Born Killers where it's hinted that Micky and Mallory end their killing spree after they decide to settle down and have kids.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is built on this; they're also a Cannibal Clan.
- Wedding Slashers involves a daughter trying to escape one of these and start her own life. Suffice to say, her relatives aren't pleased.
- Timber Falls had a family of backwoods religious fanatics who abduct couples and force them to concieve, due to the only female member of the group being infertile.
- Mother, and her sons Ike and Addley, from Mother's Day. There's also Queenie, Mother's woods dwelling sister who is just as murderously insane as the rest, but hates her relatives. The loose remake drops Queenie, adds a daughter, and upgrades the number of sons to three.
- The murderous family from Frontier(s) was headed by an insane Nazi war criminal. They are also cannibals, for some reason.
- Seed of Chucky, though Glen(da) isn't really into it like his/her parents are.
- The cannibals in Wrong Turn films.
- The premise of the horror film The Hamiltons, and its sequel, The Thompsons.
- The Angel Family in Judge Dredd.
Dredd: Cursed Earth pirates, murderers, scavengers. And, of course, scumbags.
Dredd: [Later, to Fergie] l forgot to mention it. Your new friends, they're cannibals.
- The Redneck Zombie Torture Family from The Cabin in the Woods.
- The aptly named The Family which is about a mafia don and his family, who have the same violent tendencies that he does.
Legends And Mythology
- While it turns out that Real Life Kate "Ma" Barker wasn't actually the leader of her sons' criminal gang, she still carries reputation in a lot of (fictional) stories about her life and serves as the popular inspiration for nearly every fictional portrayal of family gangs lead by the maternal figure. You can find more information about her at That Other Wiki.
- Sawny Bean, the leader of the Scottish Cannibal Clan of legend, who is believed by some to have been executed for the mass murder and cannibalization of over 1,000 people sometime around the 14/1500's.
- Loki's family in Norse Mythology, which includes Loki, god of mischief, chaos, and destruction; Fenrir and harbinger of the apocalypse; Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent; Hel; and Fenrir's sons, Skoll and Hati.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes a two Feuding Families who routinely kill members of the other family and teach their children to do so too.
- Invoked in the Discworld series in regard to the Agatean Empire royalty - one has to be a murderous bastard to survive the court intrigues and as a result, some features get reinforced every generation.
- In Hogfather, Medium Dave and Banjo were apparently brought up to be criminals by their mother, who is fondly remembered for her ruthlessness by other criminals.
- Although a bit more civilized about it than most examples, the Selachii noble family of Ankh-Morpork have a long-standing tradition as Assassins. The Boggis family is equally well-embedded in the Thieves' Guild, though Ankh-Morpork thieves generally avoid killing their victims (because the Assassins' Guild considers that to be trespassing on their bailiwick, and because it's hard to rob someone again in the future once they're dead).
- The Grissoms from Friday the 13th: Carnival Of Maniacs killed for fun, and sometimes food.
- The book series has Dexter training Cody and Astor in the ways of serial killer killing.
- An instance of this shows up in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with Gottfried and Martin Vanger.
- Tigerstar and his son Hawkfrost in Warrior Cats. For a while it looked like Tigerstar's other son Brambleclaw was going to join them, but he decided against it.
Live Action TV
- The Family of Blood and the Family Slitheen from Doctor Who.
- In one episode of Supernatural Sam and Dean are investigating a murder, and they discover that it's a crazy redneck family that has been hunting people for the ultimate hunting experience. This extends to the little girl, and once the dead wife is mentioned there is a distinct note of 'this is you guys if you were evil cannibal rednecks who didn't know there were real monsters to hunt.'
- Also true for the Winchesters, and other hunter families, although less with the homicide. SA Henriksen, who spends a season and a half on a quest to catch Dean, thinks they are this, straight-out. A hunter mentions this phrase in episode 3x01, just before kissing his wife.
- Averted in Scoundrels, which is about a family of criminals who decide to go clean after the father gets a long prison sentence.
- The Criminal Minds episode "Bloodline" is about a family (a mother, father, and young son) who kill a family to abduct their daughter as a future mate for the son. Gets very creepy when it turns out that this is how the family continues; they've been doing this for generations. And then at the very end of the episode, it turns out that the family has other branches, and the last shot of the episode is another similar set (mother, father and young son) preparing to kill some other people.
- "Open Season" had brothers who hunted people for sport, having been taught to so by their uncle, a paranoid psychotic who had died some time before the events of the episode, leaving them continuing as Siblings in Crime.
- Another episode had an elderly father and former serial killer come out of retirement over 20 years later. His son assisted him by bringing home women for him to brutally torture and murder. Later in the episode, it's revealed that the first victim he helped his father kill was his mother, though he never realized it until this episode. Another episode has a young boy pretend to be lost in order to lure women into his home as victims for his father.
- In yet another, a couple facilitate their paraplegic war-veteran son's crimes, bringing him women to murder out of frustration that his injuries make sex impossible for him.
- The Torchwood episode "Countrycide" has an entire rural Welsh clan of vicious cannibals.
- The infamous The X-Files episode "Home".
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Rita Repulsa, her brother Rito Revolto, and their father Master Vile during part of the third season. Much campier than most examples on this page.
- The Luthors of Smallville. Patriarch Lionel Luthor is a Corrupt Corporate Executive version of the Rags to Riches story, and tries to raise his son, Lex, to be every bit as devious, cunning, and unethical. Lex in turn mentors his illegitimate sister, Tess Mercer, who he successfully transforms into The Baroness. And that's without taking into account their bastard brother, Lucas, who managed to become a sociopath even without daddy's involvement, or Lex's numerous clones, who cover the board from Enfante Terrible (Lx-15) to Axe Crazy Evil Old Folks (Lx-3). In the Alternate Universe of Earth-2, the family stayed together, and by adding adoptive son Clark "Ultraman" Luthor to the family, transformed LuthorCorp into a Mega Corp. version of The Empire.
- In one episode of The Unusuals, an extended family (all the way to third cousins) go on a crime spree together. It turns out they're raising money for the patriarch of the family to get a kidney transplant.
- The Argents in Teen Wolf are a large family of werewolf hunters. It's strongly implied that werewolf hunting is often a family trade, so there are probably many other hunter families out there as well.
- The Dershewitz family in iCarly
- Justified runs on this trope. The series sports several crime families, including the Crowders, Bennetts, Tonins, Reyes, Truths. and Crowes.
- An episode of the original Hawaii 5-0 had a killer family coming to Hawaii. They are generally presented as dumb, inbred Southern hillbilly types (Slim Pickens was the patriarch). When they are caught, the old lady of the group calmly explains they weren't thieves because they only took money and valuables from people they already killed, who didn't need it any more. It also wasn't murder because their victims "weren't kin".
- The White Sheep of the Family, by L. du Garde Peach and Ian Hay, is a comic play about a family of master thieves (father, mother, daughter and son) whose life of crime is threatened when the son falls for a police chief's daughter and decides to reform his ways.
- In Grand Theft Auto games, the leadership structure for a number of the Generic Ethnic Crime Gangs are rooted in family ties, especially in GTA IV. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them murder people. The most notable example being the McReary Family, the backbone of Liberty City's Irish Mob. Both the family matriarch and patriarch have had ties in running the gangs criminal activities, and their sons Derrick, Gerry, and Packie are all violent criminals. It seems the only people serving as an exception to the family violence are Kate and Francis, and yet Francis is a Dirty Cop and asks the player to kill Derrick. Kate is the only one in the family without a criminal record.
- Ace Attorney came painfully close to having an unwilling version. Morgan Fey asks her daughter Pearl to channel a certain spirit at a certain time, trusting Pearl to obey without asking. The spirit was Dahlia Hawthorne, another of Morgan's daughters, who would have used Pearl's body to murder her cousin Maya Fey. Dahlia would be at fault...but legally, Pearl would still be a murderer. Did we mention Pearl is nine?
- The Ax-Crazy Hall clan from Dead Rising are a trio of zealous survivalist snipers, a father and two sons.
- The Fallout series contains a wide variety of examples. In the third installment, the Lone Wanderer can discover an inbred Cannibal Clan as well as the an example of the Outlaw Couple variation, called "The Family" that gets their nourishment from human blood; they can be convinced to drink it only from blood packs and cease killing other people, if so desired.
- While Mr. Zurkon of the Ratchet & Clank has been around since Tools of Destruction, he plays this trope straight in Into the Nexus when his wife and son get to join him in battle.
- Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw comes from a family of zombie hunters.
- The titular family in Strange Little Band are the protagonists of the story, but being very much antiheros this trope applies. Especially in the climax.
- The Bloody Benders were a family of serial killers who murdered at least 11 people between 1872 and 1873 before going into hiding and never being seen again.
- While the Benders became subjects of legend, The McVees may never have existed at all.
- Gordon Stewart Northcott, his mother Sarah Louise Northcott, and his heavily abused nephew Sanford Clark, perpetrators of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. These murders were dramatized in the Clint Eastwood film Changeling.
- In medieval times of war, particularly bad ass families not only slay and stay together, they often manage to climb up the social ladder all the way to becoming Kings/Queens over the bodies of their fallen enemies and establishing empires. Empires they keep within their family's possession by slaying and staying together...
- The Loomis Gang was formed around the family unit of George Washington Loomis and his children, and managed to keep most of Central New York State in a state of fear for much of the first half of the nineteenth century.
- From August 1971 until February 1972, the McCrary family was responsible of several abductions, robberies, rapes and murders from Florida to California.