Oh, the holidays. That beautiful time of year where you gather around a table of 20 of your closest family members and try to explain your job, hobbies, or newest tattoo. It already sounds like a horror movie, which is why so many horror films have used the dinner table as a centerpiece of terror. Sure, the dinner table is supposed to be a gathering place, where everyone puts aside their differences, and come together to break bread. However, in these 10 horror movies, you’ll want nothing more than to run in the other direction.
10. We Are What We Are, 2013
Gather around the Parkers’ table and take a slice of human meat. This film follows a family of cannibals trying to pick up the pieces after the matriarch dies. But sometimes eating human flesh isn’t the best for you. The film’s tensest moments take place around the dinner table as they serve up a dish that may or may not contain human meat to their latest guest. Think Hannibal, but in the countryside.
9. Coherence, 2013
A dinner party with friends sounds ideal: drinks flowing, delicious food, great memories, and no pesky family members. But in Coherence, that dinner party happens when a comet is passing over and some strange things start to happen. Different dimensions begin to intersect and no, it’s not because of that third glass of wine. Coherence is a cerebral, mind-bending experience that shows what happens when human beings are thrown into such an unreal and incomprehensible situation.
8. Await Further Instructions, 2018
Bringing your partner home for the holidays is always a gamble. Sure, you’re used to your grandpa’s lightly-veiled racism, but your partner sure isn’t. Await Further Instructions uses the hell that is introducing your partner to your family at the holidays and twists it into something sinister. Nick (Sam Gittins) brings his girlfriend, Annji (Neerja Naik) home for Christmas, which doesn’t go over so well. As if tensions around the dinner table weren’t high enough, they discover a strange black substance surrounding the house and their TV says “Await further instructions.” Nothing will ruin family dinner like being forced to all stay in one place together.
7. Calvaire, 2004
This scene is very reminiscent of the dinner table scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A group of rednecks, this time in France, have captured Marc (Laurent Lucas) and have sat him at their dinner table. They laugh as he screams, like Leatherface and family do with Nancy. However, this is a long take that spins and spins as their laughter gets louder and louder. The spinning is literally nauseating and amps up the dread of the scene, no matter how similar it is to Tobe Hooper’s classic.
6. Dumplings, 2004
Sometimes you go to a dinner party and bite into something so delectable, you just have to ask for the recipe. Then you find out the key ingredient is a human fetus. This is a pretty accurate plot summary of Fruit Chan’s Dumplings. Aunt Mei is known for her rejuvenation dumplings that are supposed to provide the eater with youth and beauty. They just don’t know that the key ingredient is human babies. Naturally you throw a dinner party to impart this gift to your friends. Just don’t ask how she procures the meat.
5. The Invitation, 2015
In The Invitation, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) receives an invite to his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband’s (Michiel Huisman) home for a dinner party. While it’s a strange request, Will obliges, bringing his new girlfriend along. However, something feels wrong from the party’s beginning. Despite the usual toasts, small talk, and awkward exchanges between exes, Eden and her husband are acting strange. Why gather everyone here now? While Will’s suspicions are brushed off and seen as jealousy, it is revealed that the couple are actually in a cult. What better way to lure people into your cult than with free dinner and free-flowing booze?
4. You’re Next, 2013
The Davisons looks like they have it all: a beautiful home, beautiful children, beautiful money. But as most of us know, there’s usually something sinister lurking underneath this “perfect” facade. The Davisons invite their whole family to celebrate their anniversary in an attempt to mend their broken relationships. However, as they sit down at the dinner table to celebrate being reunited, all hell breaks loose. Arrows begin to fly through the windows as masked assailants ruin what was supposed to be the perfect family dinner. And that’s only the beginning of the family dysfunction.
3. Beetlejuice, 1988
“Day-o, daaaaay-o.” You know the rest from the iconic Beetlejuice dinner table scene. That song has forever changed me. Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara) and her husband hold an extravagant dinner party in their newly-renovated home with their fancy art friends. But recently-deceased Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) are not OK with these changes in THEIR house. So, they decide to play around with some possession. The scene seems like some innocuous fun with possession, until the shrimp hands made an appearance. That was perhaps one of the scariest moments of my young life, especially when the shrimp hands made that ungodly screeching sound, then started cackling. I also always wanted to try to give myself Catherine O’Hara’s hair style, but that’s unrelated to the scene’s horror.
2. Alien, 1979
An intergalactic dinner table is the setting for the iconic chest-bursting scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien. Kane (John Hurt) has just awoken from a coma due to a mysterious injury, so the crew decides to celebrate with a meal. They gather, laugh, and enjoy a rare moment of levity on board the Nostromo. But that moment swiftly comes to end as a small xenomorph literally bursts onto the scene, right out of Kane’s chest. Nothing ruins an appetite more than watching a friend die on top of your dinner due to an alien fetus bursting from his chest cavity.
1. Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974
This may be the most disturbing scene in horror for me. The film’s final girl, Sally (Marilyn Burns), has gone through hell, watching her friends and brother die, while trying to escape the hands of Leatherface. After being captured, Sally wakes up to see Leatherface and his family staring at her and laughing. She shrieks and pleads only to be met with guffaws and gawking. Then, she’s tortured by their corpse-like grandfather, who is apparently “the best killer.” It’s a nauseating scene that displays Tobe Hooper’s talent for the macabre and disturbing.