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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, maggots, and other creepy crawlies. Bonus points are earned if they are seen entering or emerging from a sleeping protagonist's mouth, nose, and 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.

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, and Evil Smells Bad.

Examples of Flies Equals Evil include:

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

  • Shows up in Hellblazer #1 ("Hunger") and #2 ("Feast of Friends"). Mmemoth, a demon of hunger, manifests as a swarm of flies when it is unwittingly unleashed onto New York City.
  • Marvel Comics has a supervillain called The Swarm. He's a villain whose body is made of swarming bees.
  • In Swamp Thing a possessed man has a halo of flies.


  • 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 The Sorcerers Apprentice, evil sorceror Hovrath turn into a swarm of flies as a means of transportation.
  • 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.
  • In Men in Black, the enemy alien is not only a cockroach himself, but he has hundreds of them (his offspring) living inside his clothes. Every minute or so, one of them comes out, to the disgust of any human who sees it.


  • 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.
    • Further 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.

Tabletop Games

  • In Warhammer 40000 and Warhammer Fantasy flies are associated with the Chaos God Nurgle. In fact, the symbol of Nurgle is actually a stylized fly, the three spheres representing its head and wings. 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.
  • 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.


  • Bionicle: Nui-Rama, especially under the influence of Infected Kanohi.

Video Games

  • 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.

Web Original

  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe has a supervillain named Swarm who can turn herself into a horde of cockroaches. The sheer horror of the transformation has driven her insane and turned her into a cannibalistic serial killer.

Western Animation

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