The upcoming release of Guillermo Del Toro’s Mama had me thinking about movie moms in general and horror movie moms in particular. The mothers in horror movies seem to fall in either of two extremes—the self-sacrificial mom who’d risk everything she has to save her offspring, and the other kind, the fun kind, the kind that made this list.
These mothers made their marks (sometimes literally) in a variety of movies that run the gamut from the pathologically uncaring to the psychotically obsessed. Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
Madeline Matheson (Grace)
The most sympathetic mother on this list, all Madeline Matheson wants is to have a baby. She finally succeeds in getting pregnant, only to lose her unborn child in a car accident. Insane with grief, Madeline insists on carrying her dead baby to term.
She delivers the baby in a birthing tub with her midwife friend assisting. Madeline cradles the dead baby, begging it to live, and the infant miraculously comes to life. This miracle doesn’t happen without paying a terrible price, but nothing’s going to separate Madeline from her baby. Jordan Ladd gives a wonderful performance in making us pity this desperately disturbed mother, and the movie poster depicting a blood-filled baby bottle is chilling. Two words: fly strips.
Mom (Baby Blues)
Mom lives in a shabby farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Her identity is lost in her children; we know her only as “Mom.” Dad is a long-distance truck driver who returns to the road only one day after his wife gives birth. Completely isolated, with three children and a newborn, Mom experiences a psychotic break. She walks upstairs and kills her infant child, then turns to her other children to take care of them as well.
The remainder of the film depicts 10-year-old Jimmy trying to protect his little brother and sister and himself from the killer who used to be their mother. Based on the true story of Andrea Yates who, suffering from postpartum psychosis, killed her five children, this is a good movie with a chilling ending that should have received more attention.
Mrs. Voorhees (Friday the 13th)
Here we have a mother who would say that her only crime was in loving her son. The teenagers she brutally murdered, however, might see it differently. Her maternal obsession with her drowned son led to multiple deaths, the creation of an unstoppable serial killer, and endless sequels of diminishing quality. Mrs. Voorhees has much to answer for.
Vera Cosgrove (Dead Alive)
Determined to keep her son Lionel under her thumb, Vera attempts to sabotage his rare date at the zoo and is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey (presumably “a story for which the world is not yet prepared”).
Vera wasn’t the best mother to begin with, and turning into one of the ravenous undead doesn’t seem to improve her relationship with her son. And yet, Vera nearly redeems herself, in our eyes if not Lionel’s, by her role in one of the funniest/goriest fight scenes ever put on film.
Margaret White (Carrie)
Poor Margaret. All she wants is to be a good mother and keep her teenaged daughter from sin, but little Carrie seems to be getting a will of her own. First, her body seems to be changing, obviously due to sinful thoughts. Then there’s this ridiculous notion of going to the prom like a common tramp. Now it appears that Carrie is possessed by the devil.
How else to explain her throwing projectiles through the air at her own mother without touching them? Of course it was Margaret’s duty to kill her daughter! She was only trying to save her soul.
Ruth Chandler (The Girl Next Door)
Though not technically their mom, Aunt Ruth is caregiver to two sisters, 16-year-old Megan and 10-year-old Susan, besides having three sons of her own. Ruth likes being popular with the adolescent neighborhood boys, giving them cigarettes and alcohol to lure them to her house. She craves their attention and is jealous of Megan’s youth and innocence.
Ruth belittles the sisters whenever possible, but the younger isn’t the competition to Ruth that her older sister is and so escapes the very worst of the brutality. Ruth not only imprisons Megan in her basement but invites her young friends to join in the torture. The humiliation, torture, and rape inflicted on Megan by Ruth and seemingly normal neighborhood boys make this true story a difficult film to watch. Movies just can’t compete with the horror that is the evening news.
Mrs. Bates (Psycho)
The mother of all mothers. Mrs. Bates so dominated her son Norman that their personalities became as one. Robert Bloch, the author of the novel upon which the film was based, modeled Mrs. Bates on real-life psycho mom Augusta Gein, whose son Ed murdered two women and skinned or dismembered at least eight more.
Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Gein could have written an instruction manual on How to Raise Your Own Serial Killer, using their tried-and-true methods of isolation from society and psychological abuse and domination, instructing their sons that all women (except themselves, of course) were instruments of the devil. In the end, Mrs. Bates got exactly what she wanted: she and Norman would be together forever.
Hope you enjoyed our little visit with some of the most horrifically memorable movie moms. We still owe a shout-out to those who sadly weren’t included this time: Mrs. Li from Three . . .Extremes, Mrs. Robeson from The People Under the Stairs, The Woman from Inside, the stepmother from A Tale of Two Sisters, et al. After all, we have to save SOMEBODY for Mother’s Day, don’t we?