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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.

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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     Anime And Manga  

     Card Games 

  • Though Dark Is Not Evil, and the protagonists to Kamigawa, Zendikar, and Innistrad are black, in Magic: The Gathering, black mana is associated with death and parasitism, and one black creature type is insect, specifically carrion eaters.

     Comic Books 

  • In Swamp Thing a possessed man has a halo of flies.
    • This is the calling card of The Rot in general, and Arcane in particular. Despite technically being part of The Red, flies are so close to the rot that they're infamously untrustworthy.
  • In the Blackest Night, billions of Black Lantern Rings travel together through the universe. They're described by characters as sounding like swarming buzzing flies.
  • 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.


     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.
  • Zippoorwhill's nightmares at the beginning of chapter 8 of Sleepless.


  • The Ring. One is plucked out of a television image.
  • In Constantine, 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.
  • Poltergeist. The titular ghosts cause a steak to be suddenly covered with maggots.
  • Drag Me to Hell had a fly following the protagonist around for much of the film. It both entered and exited her mouth and nose, as well as landing on the camera.
  • 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.
  • Another similar Coen brothers example: In Barton Fink, the title character has a mosquito problem, in spite of everyone informing him this is impossible, as Los Angeles is a desert.
  • In Australian horror film 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.
  • The flies in See No Evil have made a nest inside the main antagonist's head and one always appears before he attacks.
  • In the film Grace, flies are attracted to the baby. So much that the mother puts netting over the crib and hangs fly paper all over the nursery.
  • Averted in the film version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. There are flies everywhere in this movie, but it seems to be some kind of visual running gag, rather than to have any metaphorical meaning.
  • Scary Movie 2 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.
  • Downplayed in Mister Frost. 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.)
  • Candyman does something similiar, though it substitutes bees for flies. Wherever bees swarm, the Candyman is nearby.
  • Utilized in Phenomena, where 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.
  • 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.
  • Lord of the Flies, of course. It's a reference to Ba'alzevuv, or Beelzebub.
  • The Man with the Scarlet Eye in Swan Song sends flies out to search for Sister and the glass ring and report back to him. They do.
  • In the short story "Father Hugh and the Deadly Scythe" by Mary Monica Pulver, 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.
  • Subverted in the Cthulhu Mythos short story The Disciple by David Karr Kirtley. The Obviously Evil professor running the 'special class' has the ability to 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.
  • In the Isaac Asimov short story "Flies", one character is always being followed by flies. Another investigates why, and discovers he's essentially Beelzebub in human form.
  • E.F. Benson's short story "The Sanctuary" has flies show up as a manifestation of Satanic influences, with particularly grotesque results for Satanists who attempt to recant.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In Supernatural, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, is surrounded by flies. Justified, since flies are often vectors of disease (pestilence).
  • In the Doctor Who episode "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.
  • Played with in American Gods (2017) 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.
  • The team investigates an alleged haunted house in the Painkiller Jane episode "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.


  • The music video to 'I Stay Away' by Alice in Chains, shows the gory chaos caused at a travelling carnival by a malicious boy who frees flies he has trapped in a jar.
  • Flies are a big theme within the Triptych, Marilyn Manson'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 

  • 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 that acts like an over-excited and love-filled puppy, becomes the horrible Rot Fly when it grow disillusioned, saddened, spiteful, and all around bitchy 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.
  • In the official Champions setting, one of the symbols of the Pulp-era Satanic conspiracy group the Order of the Seven is a scarlet housefly.
  • In 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 Pathfinder the archdevil Baalzebul demanded Asmodeus that he should rule multitudes, and 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.


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

     Video Games 

  • In The Binding of Isaac, flies are a very common enemy, and several other monsters vomit flies or otherwise summon them.
  • Bug Fables: The Wasp King is a fly in the guise of a wasp, making him an example of this trope.
    • There are also the Mothfly enemies as well as the False Monarch Mini-Boss.
  • Dungeon Keeper lets you recruit giant flies and fireflies as evil minions to add to your Evil Overlord dungeon.
  • A sound akin to the buzzing of a swarm of flies is used to represent great evil/madness in the soundtrack for Eternal Darkness.
  • In Fable, if the player-character falls to the evil end of the Karma Meter, he'll be followed by a swarm of flies, in addition to sprouting horns.
  • In God Hand, Belze transforms into a huge fly-like being with his face situated between the eyes for his boss fight.
  • Recurring Shin Megami Tensei character 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 text-based game 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.
  • Averted by Brittle in Best Fiends, she's one of the heroes.
  • Morgai Flies from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and a tiny part of the original novels) 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/Uruks, where they go all "Bee Afraid" on them.
  • 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 Evil Makes You Monstrous features. 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.
  • 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.

     Real Life 

  • 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 (ie, 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.

Alternative Title(s): Parasite Infested Evil


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