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Flies Equals Evil

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"You got flies."
Leonard Smalls, Raising Arizona

In many works, especially horror movies, the first thing that indicates something going nasty is the arrival of flies, mosquitoes, wasps, and other flying creepy crawlies. Bonus points are earned if they are seen entering or emerging from a sleeping protagonist's mouth, nose, or ears. Generally linked to demons and ghosts, but might just be a symptom of something more natural like decomposition.

This trope has its roots in Beelzebub being "Lord of the Flies", and other Satanic connotations. Alternatively, it may be linked to the Ten Plagues, or simply to decay and death.

Subtrope of Bugs Herald Evil. See also The Swarm and The Worm That Walks, when the bugs are not only an indicator of evil, but are actually used as a monster directly, Beelzebub, Uncleanliness Is Next to Ungodliness, Evil Smells Bad, and Smells of Death.


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  • Louie the Fly from Mortein pesticide commercials brags about how unpleasant, mean, and unclean he is, all while relishing about spreading filth and diseases through houses.

    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: While hunting for the Bug-Eaten Rat, Josuke sees a bundle of flies around a foul smell, and quickly discovers rats that were dissolved and melted together into a blob of flesh.
    • Stone Ocean: D an G's Yo-Yo Ma utilizes Mosquito Miscreants to inject melting acid into his targets.
    • Steel Ball Run: Just as Johnny is noticing Diego's off behavior, Gyro tells him to shut the window as hundreds of flies are pouring in from outside. Upon stepping out, Johnny and Gyro discover the flies were attracted to the mangled body of a bear that Diego had killed in his dinosaur form.
  • In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the Specter Nasu Veronica is heavily associated to flies, controlling a horde of them to attack his enemies. He claims that the flies that descend upon a corpse do it in order to devour its soul before it can pass on to the afterlife.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In "Litefoot and Sanders", a swarm of creepy crawlies gathers—including flies, cockroaches, bugs, millipedes and spiders—gathers around Sanders if he stays too long in one spot. He eventually says it is because they can sense his true nature as bringer of death.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: Although Dark Is Not Evil, Black mana is associated with death and parasitism, and insects — especially carrion eaters, such as flies — are strongly tied to Black.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Batman: When written by Scott Snyder, the Joker is often associated with flies to the point of almost being an Animal Motif. He's always got flies buzzing around him, tying into his habit of spreading disease and misery.
    • Blackest Night: Billions of Black Lantern Rings travel together through the universe. They're described by characters as sounding like swarming buzzing flies.
    • Swamp Thing: Flies are commonly associates with the Rot in general, and with Arcane in particular. Despite technically being part of the Red, flies are so close to the rot that they're infamously untrustworthy.
    • Tim Drake: Robin: A close up of a fly crawling on a body's mouth is shown as Tim determines the victim was murdered rather than dying in an accident as those first on scene had assumed.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dungeon Keeper Ami, one of the most basic creatures of Keeper Mercury's dungeon are giant flies. Although they're usually discarded by most other Keepers for their low combat capabilities, Ami uses them as mounts for her goblins and as occasional scouts instead; getting a better use of their abilities.
  • OSMU: Fanfiction Friction: When Todd visits Basil Valentine and his two minions in an abandoned house, one of the walls is covered in flies.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Barton Fink: The titular character has a mosquito problem, in spite of everyone informing him this is impossible, as Los Angeles is a desert. Mosquitoes do, in fact, live in Southern California.
  • Candyman does something similar, though it substitutes bees for flies. Wherever bees swarm, the Candyman is nearby.
  • In Constantine (2005), Beeman has a fly crawl out from under his eyelid as a sign of demonic attack upon him. He's later found dead with flies covering him and crawling out of his mouth.
  • Drag Me to Hell has a fly following the protagonist around for much of the film. It both enters and exits her mouth and nose, as well as landing on the camera.
  • Grace: Flies are attracted to the Undead Child so much that the mother puts netting over the crib and hangs fly paper all over the nursery.
  • In Mirror Mirror (1990), one of the first signs of the the mirror's evil nature is a large number of flies congregating on its surface when Megan is upset about her mother flirting wit Mr. Veze. One of the flies lands in Veze's food, causing him to choke.
  • Mister Frost: Downplayed. The titular character is Satan in a human guise and the odd fly seems attracted to him; one can be seen on his chair as his conversation with Detweiller comes to an end, and he later uses one crawling upon a window as a Literal Surveillance Bug to overhear a conversation in the courtyard below (and once he gets the information he needs, crushes it). A later scene has him actually being annoyed by a buzzing fly and trying to catch it. (This is also, likely, an Actor Allusion: Frost is played by Jeff Goldblum, and when the film was made at the turn of The '90s his highest profile role had been in The Fly (1986), which is not an example of this trope.)
  • Phenomena: The Pest Controller heroine Jennifer uses a sarcophagus fly with a particularly strong sense of smell to find the Serial Killer who is terrorizing her school. The fly leads her to the evil and its festering handiwork and that exactly makes it clearly more useful to the side of good. The thousands of flies that can be found there and contribute to the ambience are unconventionally in larval form.
  • Poltergeist (1982): The titular ghosts cause a steak to be suddenly covered with maggots.
  • Primal: A tiny bug lands on a protagonist early on, and a swarm of them is found in a broken bottle near the campsite. The night before the real menace appears, another character gets sick and the group prepares to take her to a hospital, but it turns out more swarms have managed to eat the wheels of their minivan.
  • In Raising Arizona, Leonard Smalls informs Nathan Arizona he has flies, but Nathan insists this is impossible, due to his office being climate controlled. Still, Leonard catches one between his fingers. They seem to be following him around.
  • Scary Movie: The second movie subverts this for laughs in its parody of The Exorcist. The priest who's been summoned to perform a Hollywood Exorcism is seen in torment, praying for God's help while a growing cloud of flies buzz around him; then the camera zooms out to show that he's straining on the toilet.
  • See No Evil: Flies have made a nest inside the main antagonist's head and one always appears before he attacks.
  • The Terminator: As the Terminator's synthetic human guise starts to rot due to repeated damage and gunshot wounds, its skin has a noticeably waxy, corpse-like pale color, and flies are buzzing around and sitting on its face. This even draws an inquiry from a janitor, wondering if the foul odor is coming from a dead animal's corpse. The robot responds rudely and resumes its chase against Sarah and Kyle.

  • In The Amityville Horror, flies swarming around during the height of winter was a sign of paranormal activities taking place.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Subverted in "The Disciple" by David Karr Kirtley. The Obviously Evil professor running the "special class" can make flies buzz in formation around him, which the students regard as a sign of his formidable occult powers. When Cthulhu himself turns up, the protagonist realizes that they are the flies to this Eldritch Abomination. The professor, it turns out, doesn't have formidable powers. The whole thing is a sting operation so that Miskatonic University can get rid of potentially dangerous people.
  • "Father Hugh and the Deadly Scythe": The eponymous priest decides which of three suspects killed a man with a scythe by observing which scythe a group of flies, described by Father Hugh as the creatures of Beelzebub, choose to settle upon. The murderer confesses in terror before he remembers that flies are attracted to fresh blood, which they would find on a murder weapon.
  • "Flies": One character is always being followed by flies. Another investigates why and discovers that the first is essentially Beelzebub in human form.
  • Lord of the Flies: The title itself is a reference to Ba'alzevuv, or Beelzebub; a swarm of them show up during Simon's symbolic showdown with the pig's head.
  • "The Sanctuary" has flies show up as a manifestation of Satanic influences, with particularly grotesque results for Satanists who attempt to recant.
  • Swan Song: The Man with the Scarlet Eye sends flies out to search for Sister and the glass ring and report back to him. They do.
  • In the second book of The Wheel of Time, there's a... memorable scene in an empty village, where the main character is nearly overwhelmed by a multiplying swarm of flies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Gods (2017): Played with with Laura Moon, who is persistently accompanied by flies due to her being a reanimated corpse (although the show also uses the motif in flashbacks to when she was alive, which serves to foreshadow her fate and also indicate that during life she was more or less dead inside — after being reanimated she finds a sense of purpose). She's not evil, exactly, but she's not especially good, either.
  • Breaking Bad: In "Sunset", a tribal police officer is sent to do a welfare check on a woman who isn't answering her daughter's calls. When he gets there, no one answers, but then he hears the buzzing of flies, follows the sound, and finds said woman dead under a tarp, covered in flies. The Cousins are revealed to have killed her and taken over her house. The police officer gets back to his truck to call for backup, but the Cousins proceed to kill him before it can arrive.
  • Doctor Who: In "Heaven Sent", the Doctor is stalked through a shifting castle by "the Veil" — what appears to be a walking corpse swathed in rags and surrounded by flies. It reflects one of his earliest nightmares: when he was young, he was at the funeral of an old woman. They covered her up but couldn't keep the flies away.
  • Painkiller Jane: The team investigates an alleged haunted house in "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself". Jane finds a room that is inexplicably swarming with flies right before having visions of a corpse in a mirror, and of her dead mother in a recreation of her old bedroom.
  • Supernatural: One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, is surrounded by flies.

  • Alice in Chains: The music video to "I Stay Away" shows the gory chaos caused at a traveling carnival by a malicious boy who frees flies he has trapped in a jar.
  • Marilyn Manson: Flies are a big theme within the Triptych, the band's three biggest albums, which are concept albums linked together to form a single story. In Holy Wood, flies are used to symbolize those who profit off of death (particularly sensationalist journalists), while in Antichrist Superstar, the resident tortured, self-destructive antihero undergoes a metamorphosis similar to that of a fly, with his first form being a bloated, featureless humanoid worm and his following form having what appear to be insectoid wings.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Beelzebub in demonology is called Lord of the Flies and gets depicted as a fly sometimes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions: One of the symbols of the Pulp-era Satanic conspiracy group the Order of the Seven is a scarlet housefly.
  • Middle-Earth Role Playing: Mordor is home to large, biting insects known as Morgai Flies or Orcflies, which swarm throughout the dark land, sucking blood and spreading disease.
  • Pathfinder: When the archdevil Baalzebul demanded of Asmodeus that he should rule multitudes, his arrogance was shattered, and he was remade out of millions of biting flies. His worship involves covering yourself with a mix of rotting fruit, spoiled meat, and anything else that will attract flies and staying perfectly still as they swarm over you. Successfully performing this ritual grants abilities like summoning swarms of bloodsucking flies and forcing foes to hallucinate swarms of flies and maggots eating them alive. Baalzebul himself is just as bad as you'd expect an archdevil to be, but his most horrific feat was maiming a god of healing before stringing their near-lifeless body up in his throne room to feast on for eternity.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: The Baali clan of demonologists had a specific sect called the Avatars of the Swarm. These are especially notable for breeding thousands of ghouled flies within them and using living humans as farms. They embrace by force feeding humans handfuls of flies, bloated with their blood. Nasty.
  • In Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, flies are associated with the Chaos God Nurgle. In fact, one of the symbols of Nurgle is actually a stylized fly. When the Plague Marines of Nurgle invade a world, the interior of their ships gets filled with millions of flies that are released when they land. Even when they use teleportation, enough flies are carried with them to blot out the sun. The Beast of Nurgle, a disgusting aberration that looks like a monstrous slug and acts like an over-excited and love-filled puppy, becomes the horrible Rot Fly when it grows disillusioned, saddened, spiteful, and all around bitchy, after which it is returned to Nurgle's Gardens and lies in the muck to mope. Nurgle's fattest flies cocoon it, and it metamorphoses into the embodiment of hatred against life's unfairness. The Plaguebearers that ride them push them into greater heights of revenge.

  • BIONICLE: The Nui-Rama are huge flies with claws and stings. The influence of Infected Kanohi turns them into deadly foes.

    Video Games 
  • Anchorhead opens with "a fly buzzing around here somewhere." This is also how it ends, and the ending implies that it isn't really over at all.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, flies are a very common enemy, and several other monsters vomit flies or otherwise summon them. However, with certain items you can spawn your own allied flies which can be very powerful in the right circumstances.
  • Black & White: A God Is You, and if your totem animal falls to the bottom of the Karma Meter, it gains a cloud of flies that follow it around along with other physical deformities. In the sequel, flies also start showing up in your territory if you go Evil, in contrast to fireflies and butterflies if you become Good.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Castlevania: Harmony of Despair has Beelzebub, a zombie giant sealed inside Dracula's castle that become the host of dog-sized flies.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho: The enemies killed dissolve into swarms of flies and in the endgame you have to beat a Dual Boss by destroying hives of flies to turn off their shields.
  • Dungeon Keeper lets you recruit giant flies and fireflies as evil minions to add to your Evil Overlord dungeon.
  • Eternal Darkness: A sound akin to the buzzing of a swarm of flies is used to represent great evil or madness in the soundtrack.
  • Fable: If the player-character falls to the evil end of the Karma Meter, he'll be surrounded by a swarm of flies, in addition to gaining horns and red eyes.
  • God Hand: Belze transforms into a huge fly-like being with his face situated between the eyes for his boss fight.
  • Lakeview Valley: As the player commits more and more murders, the number of flies around the town also goes up. The reason for this isn't clear until later: the villain is a giant fly-monster who you may or may not have been unwittingly helping all week. The flies are his Soul Jars, and the only way to stop him for good is to kill all of them.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: Morgai Flies are a strain of carrion fly tainted by Sauron's evil. They are horrendously voracious and have the sigil of the flaming eye on their backs. You use their nests as booby traps by shooting them down on Orcs, which they then viciously attack.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Drahmin of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance fame was once a human conqueror, but his life of evil caused him to end up in the Netherrealm upon death, where he became an eternally rotting Oni. This explains the constant swarm of flies around him. He can even weaponize them as a special move.
    • Mortal Kombat X introduces D'Vorah, member of the Kytinn, a race of Bee People. Appropriately enough, she speaks with a buzz that adds reverb to her voice and makes her come across as raspy.
  • Shin Megami Tensei Beelzebub is a demonic fly the size of a tank wearing a skull necklace and holding a skull scepter, just in case the evil part was too subtle. In some games he has the Signature Move Death Flies: guaranteed instant death against anything not immune to death, massive Non-Elemental damage otherwise.
  • The Sims uses flies as an indicator that something is dirty. They're actually hard to see, but when you're trying to figure out exactly what needs to be cleaned, you can hear their buzz.
  • Super Paper Mario: Inverted with the "That's My Merlee" quiz show, where the real Merlee has flies buzzing around her (like when you first meet her in person) while Mimi has none. Justified since Merlee was hiding in the toilet.
  • One of the antagonists of Wick (2020) are demonic flies called Legions, who can be found buzzing around some parts of the cathedral. They will chase and attack Wick if they spot his flame, causing him to lose wax with each hit.

    Western Animation 
  • Primal: In Episode 9, the morning after the Night Feeder's rampages, the torn remains are covered in swarms of flies.

    Real Life 
  • Actually has a reasonable justification IRL- human corpses are a massive breeding ground for flies, especially when not buried or preserved. As such, serial killers and the like have been caught by people noticing the suspicious increase in flies in a short time. Flies might not herald demons, but they can easily herald murder.
  • Although never done with malevolent intent, some flies' tendency to burrow both in the bodies of living creatures (warning, massive amounts of Squick) as well as dead ones, especially in third-world countries, as well as their ability to spread disease, makes their association with evil by human cultures justified. Subverted by specially bred (i.e., laboratory-bred, thus sterile) maggots, which are often used as a last line of defense against wounds infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, they would only eat dead flesh but leave healthy tissue alone. Do Not Try This at Home: this only applies to the maggots of some species; others are much less discriminate in their dining habits and will happily snack on either living or dead tissue, and there are even some that only eat living tissue.
  • There is a type of cheese called casu marzu that contains maggots on purpose, made in the Sardinia region of Italy. It is produced by leaving ordinary pecorino (a type of sheep's milk cheese) outdoors once it's fully matured, in hopes of attracting a specific type of fly to lay eggs in the cheese. The larvae are then allowed to hatch, and to feast on the cheese, breaking down some of its fats and proteins. Sometimes the larvae are eaten along with the cheese, and sometimes they are removed immediately before consumption.note  Because of the dangers inherent in eating cheese so far gone that maggots are nesting in it, the cheese is illegal in most of the EU, including the region where it is produced. Some traditional cheesemakers in Sardinia are trying to get an exception made for it, on the grounds that it is a traditional food of the region, but thus far, they have not been successful.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Parasite Infested Evil


Buddy, You Got A Dead Cat?

As it takes on more damage, the T-800's synthetic skin starts rotting to the point a janitor asks if it had "a dead cat in there or something." The robot responds rudely and resumes its chase against Sarah Connor.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SmellsOfDeath

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