Mommie Dearest: The Role of Mother in Horror

There is no way for a mom to play it safe in a horror movie.

If she is a featured character, she is either going to be a fierce warrior or the root of all evil. In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s take a brief look at some of our favorite horror mommas and see which category they fall into.

First up, we have the evil mommies! Many horror movies and franchises introduce a psychotic mom to us as a way of explaining the behavior of the lead antagonist. Most famously in this category we have Mrs. Voorhees from Friday the 13th. As the Friday sequels marched on, we learned that Jason never really drowned as a child in Crystal Lake. Instead, he secretly grew up watching his mom slaughter the sinful campers that she blamed for his death! Therefore, Jason is simply copying a learned behavior and is quite literally killing FOR mother now that she’s gone. So you see, its not Jason’s fault at all!

This of course is decidedly different from another franchise icon — Norman Bates — who kills AS mother. A strained relationship was always implied between Norman and Norma Bates, but it is fleshed out in Psycho IV: The Beginning. It is here we see the mental, physical and emotional abuse Norman was subjected to as a kid.

It is also heavily implied that Norma was either schizophrenic or suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, adding a biologic component to Norman’s own illness. As a result, anyone that stirs his lust is fair game to kill, just as Mother would want it. Similarly, Scream 2 (a direct descendent of Psycho) shows us yet another example of how psychotic behavior is passed down by dear old mom. This time we have the delightfully unhinged ‘Debbie Salt’, (Billy Loomis’ mom) that comes to exact her revenge on Sidney in this famed sequel.

Its not just the sons that inherit all of mom’s crazy in horror. There are several examples of killer mother/ daughter teams. Frightmare (1974) explores the murderous and cannibalistic tendencies of Dorothy and Debbie Yates in this unsung British gem. Mother Firefly and Baby in House of 1000 Corpses are another great tag team.

A less obvious example is Margaret White in Carrie. She unintentionally laid the groundwork for Carrie’s catastrophic meltdown at the prom. The years of psychological torture she endured being brainwashed and locked in that prayer closet already had Carrie in a vulnerable state. Add to that toxic home environment the merciless bullying of her peers and it’s a recipe for one of the most satisfying final acts of a horror film I’ve ever seen!

Moms in horror are not all bad of course. Some of our favorite moms in the genre are warriors; fierce mother lionesses trying to protect their babies. This is where Laurie Strode enters the picture. I would argue that she has become the definitive ‘mom as horror warrior’ character. The entire plotline of Halloween (2018) examines how the events of Halloween (1978) irrevocably altered Laurie’s life.

Instead of the mild-mannered teenager we met she is now a hardened, paranoid ‘Doomsday Prepper’ whose entire focus is being ready for Michael Myers. She converted her home to a virtual survivalist camp and taught herself and her daughter Karen how to defend themselves through combat and gun training against any would-be assailant. The intensity and toxicity of growing up in this environment eventually led to Karen being taken out of the home as a young child.

The film catches up with the estranged mother/daughter pairing on the eve of Halloween 2018 and Michael Myers’ inevitable escape from the asylum. Karen in the interim had given birth to Allyson, and so we have three generations of Strode women who face off against Michael. It becomes clear in the final showdown that Laurie’s paranoia and preparation was well worth the fallout with Karen who fell back on the skills her mom gave her to help defeat Michael as Laurie more than held her own to defend her family against The Shape.

Another celebrated warrior mom is Diane Freeling from Poltergeist. She unforgettably stood up to the entity trying to harm her kids and even crossed into another dimension to save her daughter. Pretty bad ass if you ask me!

Amanda Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series is another, albeit unconventional, example. As the mother of Freddy Krueger, she does everything in her power to thwart him and protect the teens of Springwood. Since she is a nun, the argument can be made that she is a mother figure for all of ‘God’s Children’ but that distinction is not super important. If you were the mother of Freddy Krueger you’d try to stop him too!

I’m also going to be controversial and throw The Queen from Aliens into this category. She quite literally was fighting for the life of her children. In her mind she is completely justified in her actions and I can definitely see it from her perspective. Most mothers would! And the list could go on and on from here…

At the end of it all one thing is for certain; whether good or bad, the impact of these horror mommas cannot be overstated. Just as in real life, your mom or the mother figure in your life will always be one of your greatest influences. Treat her well, show her love and celebrate her every day of the year, not just on Mother’s Day — even if she is a Pamela Voorhees.

Stan The Mechanic Season 1 is now available on HereTV – to keep up with all of Stan’s news head to www.stanthemechanic.com

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Stan The Mechanic

Stan is a Mechanic for the Horror Community as well as being a TV Horror Host at @HereTV and soon other channels! He often stops by BearWorldMag.com to share some spooky content. Find out more at his website!