Oh, mother. The woman who held us in her womb for nine long months. The woman who fed us and rocked us when we cried. The woman who…locked us in a closet for the supposed sin of sexual intercourse? Well, no, unless you’re poor Carrie White. Horror films and TV shows have given us a look at the dark side of motherhood over the years. Here are ten notable horror mothers—good, bad, and really ugly.
Margaret White – Carrie
They’re all going to laugh at you if you don’t think Piper Laurie’s Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou mother isn’t one of the most frightening parents in horror history. Abusing her daughter Carrie while under the impression that her very existence is coated in wretched sin, Margaret White forces her to recite selective passages from the Bible, locks her in the closet, and endlessly torments her until she finally fights back with her telekinetic powers.
Pamela Voorhees – Friday the 13th
Even the most casual of horror fans know that Jason is not the killer in the first entry of the legendary splatter series that painted the 80s red. The real slasher behind the brutal slayings was Jason’s grievous, vengeful mother, furious about the oversexed teens who neglected her son as he drowned in the lake. Betsy Palmer’s wild-eyed ferociousness as she dispatches this year’s batch of unlucky camp counselors is just as frightening as any hockey mask.
Amanda Krueger – A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise
Yes, the other big horror icon of the 80s also had a mother, although the relationship between Freddy Krueger and his mother, Amanda, did not include any of the twisted tenderness of the Voorhees family. During her time as a nun, she is accidentally locked inside Westin Hills Asylum with dozens of inmates, where she is raped, resulting in her pregnancy. She gives Freddy up for adoption and follows him from afar. To her credit, she tries to stop him, but trying to defeat a boogeyman that haunts your dreams is a nearly impossible task, even for a woman with divine connections.
Rachel Keller – The Ring
“Seven days.” That’s how long Naomi Watts’ investigative journalist has to dig up the mystery at the heart of a creepy videotape that promises a gruesome death to the viewer in one week’s time. Her motherly instincts kick into high gear when she catches her son viewing the dangerous tape, dooming himself to the same impending fate. She also wants to fight for the girl she discovers is responsible for the tape, Samara, thinking that she must solve the mystery of her murder and set her spirit free. Unfortunately, her motherly instincts about Samara prove to be horrifyingly inaccurate.
Amelia – The Babadook
Imagine the horror of losing your husband in a car accident while on the way to give birth to your son. Now imagine that your son turned out to be a lot tougher to handle than the average child, and the two of you find yourselves being haunted by a character from a creepy book that mysteriously arrives in your home. This is the struggle Amelia faces as she copes with life as a single mother to a troubled boy. Amelia fights to reclaim her home (and mind) from the clutches of the Babadook, and it’s a battle that shakes her to the depths of her soul.
Mother Firefly – House of 1000 Corpses & The Devil’s Rejects
The matriarch of a brutal, murderous clan of wackos, Mother Firefly is on another level of crazy. She flirts with her victims, plays with them, like a predator taunting its prey. She’d rather blow her own brains out than let the police take her, and her revelry and delight while she peruses photos of her family’s victims is chilling.
Mum – Dead Alive
What’s worse than an overbearing, murderous mother? An overbearing, murderous, zombie monster mother, of course! Lionel has been at his mother’s side all his life, oblivious to the lies and deceit she has fed him since he was a boy. Her actions result in a gory zombie outbreak, climaxing in a final battle between Lionel and the grotesque mother zombie beast, where she attempts to welcome him back to her womb in one of horror’s finest moments of goop.
Beverly Sutphin – Serial Mom
Have you wronged Beverly Sutphin’s family in any way? Forgotten to rewind your videotapes? Worn white after Labor Day? These and other trivial abominations will land you on the hitlist of Kathleen Turner’s demented June Cleaver in this outrageous horror-comedy. She’ll stop at nothing to ensure the safety and happiness of her family, even if it means bludgeoning an old lady to death with a leg of lamb while singing along to Annie.
Rosemary Woodhouse – Rosemary’s Baby
Watch out for those neighbors. Living in a questionable apartment building where questionable events occur and questionable people give questionable explanations for those events, Rosemary and her husband become pawns in the plans of a Satanic cult. Through persuasive manipulation (and drugging), Rosemary has what she believes to be a dream of being raped by a demonic being. Sadly for her, the dream was all too real, and after a bizarre pregnancy, she gives birth to nothing less than the spawn of Satan. Still, she is a mother, after all, spawn of Satan or no spawn of Satan, and soon enough she is rocking her baby to sleep.
Norma Bates – Psycho & Bates Motel
Originally portrayed in 1960 as a voice in Norman Bates’ head, manifested by Norman’s psychotic cross dressing episodes, and horrifyingly revealed as a skeletal corpse stashed away in the cellar, Mrs. Bates has found new life in the TV series Bates Motel. Played by Vera Farmiga, this Norma Bates is a more sympathetic figure, having spent much of her life getting a raw deal at every turn. Despite this new angle, however, her relationship with her mentally unstable son truly puts the mother in smother, and teases of incestuous intentions within their relationship add a fresh layer of ick.