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Horror Movie Moms: The Worst Of All Time

Horror Movie Moms

Not Your Mother’s Movie Guide

A mother’s wrath is unlike anything else in the world. A lot of the time, disdain and abhorrence in an unhappy relationship leach into the extended family, exacerbating generations of resentment. Women are pressured to bear most of this burden, raising children they may not feel particularly connected to.

Over the years, film has captured matriarchs as overprotective, indifferent, and even vindictive. Horror offers a remarkably vast range of possibilities to express the complicated issues that surround these dynamics. With that, here are some of the worst mothers in horror films.

Thicker Than Water

Horror Movie MomsDeviant maternal instincts innately contradict our social wiring, fueling nightmarish films like Psycho and Hereditary. The idea of evil is framed as a product of nature and nurture, manifesting as a curse, haunting, or mental illness. 

As we all know, Cole Sears (Haley Joel Osment) can see dead people in The Sixth Sense. Cole is constantly surrounded by ghosts who don’t know they’ve died. His encounters with the dead are fantastically nostalgic. He meets most of them in a stretching hallway between the bathroom and the kitchen at his house. He prefers to sleep in a tent in his bedroom. One night, the clothespins keeping the door closed are ripped off, and a young girl (Mischa Barton) appears. She gives him a box with a VHS tape inside at her funeral. The tape shows her stepmother poisoning her. Cole shows the tape to her father, and the young girl is released from her stepmother’s loathing.

A Parent’s Love Never Changes

Horror Movie MomsThe Witch follows a family exiled from a remote village in Puritan New England. After baby Samuel disappears under Thomasin’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) watch, the family’s crops, livestock, and children are tormented by an unseen force from the woods that border their property. Her mother Katherine (Kate Dickie), blames Thomasin for their misfortune, arguing that she be sent away. When Thomasin loses sight of another brother in the forest, her own siblings accuse her of witchcraft on account of their conversations with the demonic family goat, Black Phillip. Katherine convinces the entire family to turn against Thomasin, which seems to warrant their demise by some savage force of nature sulking in the wilderness. By the end of it, this fairy tale gone wrong reverses the roles between mother and monster. Thomasin’s father is brutally gored by 210-pound Black Phillip and a delirious Katherine starts strangling her daughter to be stabbed in self-defense. Thomasin is welcomed into a coven of witches in the forest, which seems to be a much healthier environment for her anyway.

Silent Hill coincides with two parallel realities in rural West Virginia. Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) has cryptic visions of somewhere she calls Silent Hill while sleepwalking. One episode nearly sends her off a cliff. Medication proves to have no affect on her daughter’s condition, so Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides to bring Sharon to the abandoned mining town to get to the bottom of her nightmares. She crashes on the way there and wakes up alone in an evanescent world shrouded in fog. 

The alternate dimension is crawling with gruesome monstrosities championed by Masahiro Ito’s notorious Pyramid Head. Rose meets Dahlia (Deborah Kara Unger) while searching for Sharon, a bedraggled woman cast out by the group of religious fanatics that control Silent Hill. Dahlia tells Rose she mothered an illegitimate child eerily similar to Sharon named Alessia. Dahlia allowed leaders of the cult to burn Alessia at the stake to cleanse her of supposed impurities after she was assaulted. It’s later revealed that Sharon is a fragment of Alessia’s essence, which fabricated the darker version of Silent Hill from the anger and fear she felt restrained in an intensive burn care facility for the rest of her life. Figments of the mirage are merely memories of the pain she had to endure and those who carried it out. Finally in charge, Alessia subjects her mother to the most anguish of all.

Postpartum Alter Ego

Horror Movie MomsThe disparity between who someone is with and was without children can fracture a woman’s identity. This gap has been set on the silver screen across a wide range of circumstances, from outlandish conspiracies to multiple planes of existence.

Hypnotherapist Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) buries sinister intentions behind a visage of concern in Get Out. In a quintessentially feminine power move, she corners Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and ushers their conversation toward a probe into the residual guilt he feels about his own mother. Missy seems harmless as she stirs a porcelain cup of tea that lulls Chris into a trance. Frozen in his seat, he falls into a mental pit, where Missy tries to indoctrinate a white power scheme into his subconscious. A loyal wife and committed member of the “Order of Coagula”, Missy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing willing to do anything for her bloodline.

You’re Not My Mother

Horror Movie MomsHenry Selick’s Coraline has lived on as a classic gateway horror movie with delightfully whimsical infusions of magical realism. The stop-motion story has a recipe for adventure: a gloomy old house, absentminded parents, and a secret door. Only child Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) follows a kangaroo rat through a lustrous portal to discover a universe almost too good to be true. Copies of her parents with buttons for eyes and much more time to spoil her live there, who say just about anything to convince her to stay with them.

Her ‘Other Mother’ (Teri Hatcher) is attentive, accommodating, and affectionate – or at least appears that way until Coraline defies her. The Other Mother’s love comes with conditions, which include sewing buttons over her eyes to see things her way. She imprisons Coraline for refusing her offer and abducts her real parents. The angsty heroine outsmarts her Other Mother and rescues her family. Her real parents may be painfully one-dimensional but are definitely the lesser of two evils.

In Us, young Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) takes a vow of silence after seeing something she can’t explain in a hall of mirrors. Never mentioning it again, she grows into a distant mother. Adelaide revisits the roadside attraction with her husband and kids and notices a number of synchronicities that quickly catch up to her. A family of four identical to her own invades their home that night without saying a word. Armed with a pair of shears, Adelaide’s doppelganger Red leads an underground colony of ‘the tethered’, a settlement of forgotten clones who each share a soul with an aboveground counterpart. They’ve resurfaced in hordes to cut ties for good. Adelaide and Red face off for a final battle deep in the subterranean network of tunnels in a mind-bending dance between what is and what could have been. Us adds a subtle complexity to its happy ending: on that fateful night in the funhouse, the two lookalikes actually switched places, condemning the real Adelaide to grow up in the dark and transplanting Red into Adelaide’s life. Adelaide’s double in Us calls attention to a part of herself that she’d neglected since childhood, preventing her from ever fully connecting with her family.  

Surrogate Apathy

Horror Movie MomsThere’s a fine line between perpetrators and victims on the more sentient end of the horror spectrum. The two personas aren’t always mutually exclusive. Female characters that fall into this category often adopt some kind of conduit to act out feelings held in restraint.

What Ju On: The Grudge may lack in augmented effects is made up for with drawn-out suspense built by crawling onryō Kayako and her famous death rattle. The non-chronological plot traces the undying ramifications of jealousy and rage in a house with a horribly violent past. Neither detectives, social workers, nor school girls are safe from the vengeful Kayako (Takako Fuji) and her ghostly son Toshio (Yuya Ozeki), who were both murdered by Kayako’s husband Taeko (Takashi Matsuyama). Kayako appears on television, in mirrors, and under bed covers, whose paralyzing stare and disjointed movements petrify everyone who witnesses her. Anyone who steps foot in the house becomes implicated in a timeless bloodbath with no real victors.

Daniel Radcliffe plays grief-stricken lawyer Arthur Kipps in twentieth-century gothic The Woman In Black. He’s sent across the English moorland to collect all remaining documents of the deceased owner of the Eel Marsh House, which is cut off from the rest of the town twice a day with the tides. As he pours over the late Alice Drablow’s files, he finds her son Nathaniel’s death certificate, who drowned in a carriage accident at age 7. He discovers that Alice’s sister Jennet was actually his biological mother but was deemed unfit to take care of him. Jennet blamed Alice for his death and hung herself. Ever since the tragedy, local children have been haunted by a veiled woman who lures anyone who sees her to an untimely demise. No litigator, superstitious Kipps digs up Nathaniel’s body and buries it over Jennet’s grave in hopes of resolving the conflict, sealing his and his son’s fate. They are both hit by a train. 

Retroactive Fury

Horror Movie MomsBarbarian provides a fresh perspective on how deep-seated cycles of unchecked egos have affected men’s and women’s attitudes in our country. Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) arrives at an Airbnb that is already occupied by Keith Toshko (Bill Skarsgård) one rainy evening in a suburb of Detroit. Ignoring every red flag, she spends the night. Barbarian abruptly splices three separate plotlines for an unexpected journey into the dark recesses of American family values, infested with cruelty and incest. Tess finds herself in an underground chamber beneath the rental being coddled by an inbred inhabitant who has never seen the light of day. The mother (Matthew Patrick Davis) is a disfigured product of the years of abuse that occurred in a snuff studio in the basement. She brutally kills any hostage who refuses to breastfeed. The mother takes a liking to Tess, who plays along to stay alive. The recently Me Too-ed property owner AJ (Justin Long) gets his eyes gouged out by the mother after he pushes Tess off of a water tower to save himself. The mother jumps off of the water tower to cushion Tess from the impact, saving her life. In a courageous act of self-preservation, Tess shoots the mother and flees.

In film, the paranormal serves as a suitable parable for the potency of a mother’s love gone sour. Although it may be difficult to relate to extrasensory perception and apparitions, the ambivalent nature of the antagonists in these movies hit close to home. In the last three cases, the mothers’ displaced emotions, albeit twisted, are at the very least recognizable vestiges of human feeling. It’s hard to say if any of them are innocent, but anyone can pity the monsters they’ve become. 

If you didn’t catch The Barbarian last year, you can find it on HBO and Hulu. 

Barbarian (2022) Official 20th Century Studios Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Avery Pearson

Avery Pearson has written long-form print pieces, thought leadership articles, and web copy for startups and nonprofits. Her work has been featured in Ocean News & Technology.