The relationship between mothers and their children is something that frequently appears in horror movies. Whether the mother is the protagonist, the antagonist, or an unseen character that sets off a certain chain of events, the maternal bond (or lack of) is a key storytelling element that the scarier side of cinema chooses to utilise frequently.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, we’re taking a deeper look at the different roles mothers and maternal figures play in horror films, and how they’ve shaped some of our favourite horrors to date.
Grief takes many shapes and leads people to react in different ways, and it’s no different when it comes to mothers in horror movies. While grief-stricken mothers are typically our main characters as we follow how they deal with their loss, grief can also push mothers over the edge and have them come out on the more murderous side of the spectrum.
The perfect example of this, and a mother which we’ll probably touch on a few times in this post is Mrs Pamela Voorhees, mother of Jason Voorhees, and as all good Scream (1996) fans will know, the original killer in the Friday the 13th (1980) series. After Jason presumably drowns as a child at Camp Crystal Lake, Pamela blames the negligence of the staff and takes her revenge on anyone who tries to work at the camp.
Her murder spree doesn’t spill into the outside world, however, and is fully focussed on any camp staff who turn up whenever the camp tries to reopen, with her final spree taking place 21 years after she killed the two staff members she believed were directly responsible for her son’s death.
Her rage is very focussed, and she has a very specific reason for her murderous tendencies, with her grief being so strong that she spends most of a 21 year period living a normal life, almost laying in wait for something to set her off again so she can get an outlet for her grief.
In a full circle moment, Jason’s grief over his mother’s death sets off a whole other murder spree and creates one of the most iconic horror characters of all time.
The grief over losing a child is the worst grief a mother could imagine, but characters like Sarah from The Descent (2005) show us how grief and pain can push us to do things we wouldn’t have thought we were capable of. A year after her husband and young daughter are killed in a car accident which she survived, Sarah heads to America for a caving trip with her friends. The shit hits the fan pretty quickly when the group discover they are sharing the cave with a group of horrible creatures with a taste for human flesh, and a trip that was designed to keep Sarah’s mind off her past quickly has the opposite effect when her dying friend Beth reveals that her other friend Juno was having an affair with Sarah’s husband before he died.
Sarah has a lot of new information to process, and with Juno and herself being the only surviving members of the group, Sarah chooses to pickaxe Juno through the leg, not only leaving her to die but also distracting the creatures long enough for Sarah to escape (depending on which ending you’ve seen). It would be incredibly easy for Sarah to completely give her, especially in the claustrophobic setting of the caves, but the grief for her family channels into her rage at Juno after the reveal of her betrayal, leading her to make a difficult decision in order to ensure her survival and get a bit of a release for her emotions.
In the case of The Babadook (2014), a mother’s grief manifests itself into a particularly creepy, if well-dressed, demon that plagues Amelia and her young son Samuel. After her husband was killed driving her to the hospital to give birth to Samuel, her relationship with her son is more than a little strained, and when he starts blaming his erratic behaviour on the Babadook, it only makes things worse.
Things start to escalate quite quickly, with Amelia believing in the Babadook herself before it eventually begins to possess her, threatening to kill both Samuel and herself. Amelia eventually learns that when it comes to beating your demons, you don’t have to get rid of them completely, but simply learn to live with them while getting on with your life. Instead of letting the Babadook and her grief ruin her relationship with her son, the pair choose to trap the Babadook in their basement, continuing to feed it and check on it, but not allowing it to rule their entire life.
- Christine in Don’t Look Now (1973)
- Nora in Final Destination 2 (2003)
- Laura in The Orphanage (2007)
The Root of the Problem
A lot of horror films have a mother at the root of the problem without them necessarily playing the role of the central villain.
The character of Maureen Prescott in Scream is a perfect example of this, and even though she is dead by the time the first movie starts, her story continues through all four of the Scream movies, causing her daughter and her friends to be pulled into a bloody fight for their lives.
Billy originally conceived the plan to murder Maureen after he found out she was having an affair with his father, and he then follows up the original crime with a murder spree to celebrate the anniversary. Scream 2 (1998) sees Billy’s mother return for revenge on the girl who killed her son, and presumably, it’s a bonus that she would get to kill the daughter of the woman who tore her marriage apart. Scream 3 (2001) places Sidney’s half-brother Roman in the Ghostface mask, and he is determined to get revenge on the child who had the upbringing he feels he deserved after his mother refused anything to do with him. Roman even reveals that he was the one who told Billy about Maureen’s affair and therefore set the original murders in motion. Even Scream 4 (2011) follows Jill, Sidney’s cousin, who wants to find her own fame and stand out from a family that is already full of people who have been involved in terrible tragedies.
Everything that happens to Sidney in these movies can be traced back to Maureen, right back to when she was a teenager herself, which is impressive for someone who only appears in the series in videos, photographs, or a ghost.
While Maureen was the cause of a lot of hassle for Sidney, other horror mothers can be the reason their children turn to violence and murder. Cherry Falls (2000) follows a killer terrorising the small town of Cherry Falls and killing all its teenage virgins. The killer turns out to be the high school English teacher Mr Leonard Marliston, whose mother Lora Lee was raped by a group of high school jocks when she was a teenager, though the charges were later dropped due to the boys having rich parents and promising futures. Lora Lee fell pregnant with Leonard and retreated into isolation, where all the anger at what happened to her, and her son’s likeness to his rapist father, lead her to abuse him.
Mr Marliston dresses up as his mother and takes his revenge on the parents of the town who betrayed his mother, channelling her anger at the situation as well as his own for the upbringing he had to endure. While it’s unclear if Lora Lee would have taken her revenge on the town herself, as we do see her skulking in the shadows at a couple of points during the film, it is clear that she ended up having such a massively negative impact on her son that he felt the need to return to her hometown and start carving up some virgins.
Childhood abuse is a common theme in horror films that pushes unbalanced characters that last little bit into murder town, and another great example of this is the remake Black X-Mas (2006), which decided, as a lot of remakes do, that what the killer really needed was a lengthy backstory to try and explain why they do these horrible things. In Black X-Mas Billy’s mother hates him from the moment he is born because he is severely jaundice. Not only is Billy’s mother actively hateful towards him, but she also murders his father with the help of her lover, and then gets herself pregnant with Billy’s baby, while she forces him to live in the attic. Billy eventually snaps, ripping out one of his sister/daughter’s eyes, before murdering his mother and her lover, and finally making Christmas cookies out of his mother’s flesh.
After all that Billy has been through, it’s perhaps understandable why he flipped and killed his whole family, but 15 years later he heads back to his old family home to also murder anyone that gets in his way, though is it his sister Anges who actually kills most of the sorority sisters by ripping out a lot of eyes.
Another mother who isn’t inherently a bad person, but does cause a lot of problems for her daughter is Marge Thompson from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Marge is amongst the ring leaders of the group who decide to burn Freddy Krueger to death when he gets off on a technicality after murdering some local children. While her questionable brand of vigilante justice is somewhat understandable, Marge then refuses to help Nancy and her friends when they start getting murdered in their sleep, even though it’s very clear from the off that Freddy may have something to do with it. She even locks Nancy in the house, complete with bars on the windows, and only when she’s drunk does she reveal why Freddy is terrorising the teenagers of Springwood.
While Freddy is slightly hypocritical in being raging at the parents for murdering him when in turn he was murdering children left, right, and centre, it was still Marge’s decision to take justice into her own hands that lead to the murders starting up again years later. In a bid to protect her daughter from the alive Freddy, she unwittingly opened Nancy up to the threat of an unkillable Freddy who could prey on his victims as they slept and were pretty much defenceless.
Desperate for Children
The desperation to have children in the first place can take characters to a very different place, but in horror, it’s usually a pretty dark place.
One of my favourite examples of this type of mother is Mommy from The People Under the Stairs (1991). Mommy and Daddy don’t have any children of their own (probably because they are brother and sister) and instead opt to steal children from the local neighbourhood in a bid to build their family. Unfortunately, if any of the children disobey Mommy or Daddy, they end up being punished, like having their tongue cut out, and all the bad children have been thrown in the basement to fend for themselves. This has made them resort to cannibalism, and only Alice has managed to avoid this fate by following all of the rules without question.
Well, filling your basement and walls with cannibal children who hate you was never going to end well, and Mommy ends up dead at the hands of her weird band of offspring, with Daddy not far behind, as the children are finally able to make their escape.
Perhaps not a straight-up horror, but Coraline (2009) also sees a mother’s need for a child taking over, and making her act a little less than friendly. Coraline has a real mother and father but makes frequent trips to the Other World, where the Other Mother and Other Father are far more attentive than their real-world variants. There’s just one problem – the Other Mother wants Coraline to stay with her forever, and for that to happen, she’s going to have to sew some buttons over Coraline’s eyes. You can see why Coraline is perhaps against the idea.
When Coraline discovers that the Other Mother likes consuming the souls of people and trapping them in her world forever, the Other Mother’s caring appearance soon melts away until she’s a hideous part-spider creature that blocks all the entrances back to the real world in a bid to make Coraline stay with her.
There’s nothing like a mother’s love, but a little too much love can actually be a bad thing and have a delightful effect on the children who are on the receiving end of it.
When we think of overbearing mothers in horror, there’s probably no one more iconic that Norma Bates from Psycho (1960). While Norma is dead by the time the movie starts, the audience doesn’t find that out until the closing moments, and we get a pretty good impression of her character thanks to Norman’s descriptions of her. Norma doesn’t like any women being involved in Norman’s life apart from her and doesn’t like the idea of him having a life away from her. Even after Norman has murdered his mother, her opinions and influence on him live on, leading Norman to assume her personality and murder people to protect their strong mother-son bond.
In Carrie (1976), the film version of Stephen King’s first published novel, our titular character Carrie has a quite strained relationship with her overly-religious mother, Margaret. Not only does Carrie have to deal with her mother judging her oncoming puberty because she believes it has been caused by sinful thoughts, but Carrie’s growing telekinetic abilities lead her mother to believe she’s been messing with Satan as well. Carrie’s whole relationship with her mother is based on how she was conceived, and Margaret’s conflicting feelings about what happened to her, which leads her to stab Carrie, with Carrie eventually killing her mother with her powers.
In another Stephen King movie, Sleepwalkers (1992), we follow Charles and his mother/lover Mary, who are strange, part-cat creatures who need to drain the life of virgins to stay alive. The responsibility of attracting young virgins falls solely on Charles, and he then has to pass the energy to his mother by having a closer connection than a mother and son really should have. Because of this Mary has a complete over-reliance on Charles, barely giving him a moment to himself, and constantly encouraging him to get his virgin munch on.
One of the most recent additions to the world of overbearing mothers is Ellen from Hereditary (2018). Ellen is the grandmother of the Graham family, and even though she too is dead when the events of the movie start, the things she has set in motion before her death has a lasting effect on her family. Annie’s relationship with her mother was severely strained, and even though she tried to cut her out of her life when she had her first child Peter, she let her mother back in when her daughter Charlie was born. Ellen’s relationship with Charlie was also overbearing, with Ellen even insisting that she breastfeed Charlie. It turns out that everything Ellen did was to find the perfect host for a demon named Paimon so he may rule over her fellow cult members, and her manipulation, even from beyond the grave, leads to the death of her daughter and granddaughter.
- Dr Martha Thomas in Sleepaway Camp (1983)
We’ve already touched on Mrs Voorhees, but there are plenty more mothers out there who can add murder to their list of special skills.
Mrs Loomis (aka Debbie Salt) from Scream 2 takes the mantle of Ghostface in the second instalment of the Scream franchise to take revenge on Sidney for murdering her son, totally ignoring the fact that Billy killed quite a number of Sidney’s friends and her mother. Not only does she hatch a pretty impressive plan to round up all the survivors of the first Scream movie, but she also enlists the help of a young apprentice to help her complete her vision. It’s interesting that the reason Billy Loomis started his murder spree in Scream was due to Maureen and his father’s affair, which lead to Mrs Loomis fleeing town in the first place. In fact, Randy gets a particularly violent death in Scream 2 due to him badmouthing Billy while on the phone to Mrs Loomis. It turns out a mother’s love really can bypass everything, including the fact you’re a serial killer.
When it comes to horror movies, killer mothers don’t have to be alive themselves; such is the case with The Woman in Black (2012). Jennet kills herself after her son drowns in the marsh, and blames her sister Alice for saving herself and not attempting to save her son when their carriage crashes. As a result, her vengeful spirit returns to the town, claiming the lives of many local children as revenge for the pain of her own loss. Though Arthur tries to pacify Jennet by finding her son’s remains and burying them with her body, hell really hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she continues to lure children to their death to join her in the spirit realm.
- Mum in Mum & Dad (2008)
- Kayako in The Grudge (2004)
A key role that mothers play in the horror genre is that of the protector. Children are typically more scared of things that go bump in the night as it is, and mothers have to face off against their worst nightmares to save their children from the boogeyman. Having to try and rescue yourself from a situation is bad enough, but when the threat is also attacking your children, it seems to bring out a whole other level of fight to our maternal characters.
In The Shining (1980), the horror than Wendy and Danny must face comes in the form of their husband and father respectively, Jack. Driven mad by the cursed hotel, Jack is encouraged to kill his family to prevent them from leaving. Wendy is fucking terrified of Jack, to say the least, as is quite evident in the scene where he is pursuing her up the hotel staircase, but she still manages to bash his face in with a baseball bat, and then drag him into the hotel’s giant freezer. Jack manages to escape (thanks, evil ghosts) and Wendy locks herself in their bathroom. The window is too small for her to fit through, so she sends Danny off to freedom and stays behind to try and fend Jack off with a kitchen knife, hopefully giving her son time to get some help, or at least hide from his father.
In another case of Stephen King loving putting mothers and children in danger, we have another one of his novels turned into a film – Cujo (1983). Unlike The Shining where we can pretty much sense things are off from the beginning, Cujo sees our main mother and son placed in terrible danger through a series of bad luck and bad decisions. When Donna and her son Tad head out to a remote farmhouse to get their car repaired, a mixture of the car breaking down for good, a rabid St. Bernard and a ridiculously warm day means they are trapped between a rock and a hard place. They can’t stay where they are or they will overheat, and leaving the car means certain death by dog, which is never an appealing option. With Tad more likely to succumb to the effects of the car overheating before Donna, she has to try several methods to escape in order to save her son. Rather than worrying about her own safety, Donna is more concerned that Cujo will maul her to death and then Tad with be left to fend for himself.
In the seventh instalment of the Halloween series, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) we follow a slightly skewed timeline compared to the rest of the series, where Laurie Strode faked her death in order to escape her past Halloween-based horrors, and now lives as Keri Tate. As the headmistress of a prestigious private school, her son’s seventeenth birthday seems to trigger Michael Myers out of hiding, and he’s back terrorising Haddonfield’s favourite babysitter. Laurie is pretty skilled at running away from Michael at this point, and looks set to do the same again when she has a revelation, which is mainly thanks to a staple in horror movies set in high schools, where students in class are discussing a theme eerily similar to what is happening to our central characters. In this case, it’s a discussion of Frankenstein (1818) and Victor’s unwillingness to confront the monster. This revelation means she realises Michael will never stop coming for her or her son until they are both dead, so she must confront the thing she has been running from for 20 years in order to save her son’s life.
Not only do mums have to protect their kids from what is happening to them, but they are typically placed in a role where they must figure out what is going on in order to save their children from whatever foul creature as taken a liking to them. In The Ring (2002), our main character Rachel is very aware there is something wrong with the cursed videotape she has uncovered and viewed herself, but it’s not until her son watches it as well that she fully realises the importance of solving the mystery of the tape before it’s too late. When it is revealed that the only way to survive the curse is to make a copy of the cursed tape and show it to someone else, Rachel helps her son do just this, even though it will mean someone else meeting a gruesome end in a week.
Poltergeist (1982) sees our mother Diane placed in a similar situation when her youngest child Carol Anne is sucked into an alternate dimension through her bedroom closet by the presence that is haunting their house. Diane has to make the terrifying decision to enter the other dimension herself, while she remains tethered in the real world, in order to try and bring Carol Anne back, which is something she does with little hesitation in order to protect her daughter.
However, sometimes a protector is not always one of the good guys, and in the case of characters like those in Leatherface (2017), a mother’s misdirected attempts to protect her family can actually be what sets them off on the path to true evil. Verna Sawyer is the mother of the Sawyer children, who despite being in their pre-The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) days, are still a bunch of horrible murderers. When young Jedidiah Sawyer is sent to a mental institute as revenge for the Sawyer family killing the Sheriff’s daughter, Verna is obviously less than happy. In an attempt to get to see him after he has been locked up for ten years, Verna causes a security riot at the hospital. While this allows Jedidiah to escape, it ends with him being shot in the face by police, leading to a facial disfigurement and brain damage (I’m not saying it’s a good backstory for Leatherface okay). When Verna encourages Jedidiah to kill the only friend he’s made along the way, a young nurse called Elizabeth, he’s hesitant, but Elizabeth makes the fatal mistake of insulting his mother and gets herself decapitated for her troubles. Never try and come between a boy and his mother, especially if their family have always been in meat.
Finally, there may come a time when a mother needs to protect a child from herself, which is true in Triangle (2009), which follows Jess and her adventures of being trapped on a boat that not only appears to be stuck in a time loop, but also houses a murderer sporting a fetching sack mask. We see Jess with her son at the start of the movie, but after Jess apparently drops him off at school, we don’t see him again till much later. Jess soon discovers that the time loop restarts when she kills all her fellow passengers and ends up getting thrown overboard by a newer version of herself. Washed ashore she returns to her house and finds an earlier version of herself abusing her son, so in a vow to change her ways she kills her earlier incarnation and drives off with her son. Sadly, she’s still stuck in the time loop, and when a car crash kills her son, she heads back to the boat to start the whole experience over again and try and save her son for real this time around.
- Evelyn in A Quiet Place (2018)
- Rose in Silent Hill (2006)
- Carolyn in The Conjuring (2013)
- Stevie in The Fog (1980)
- Adelaide in Us (2018)
- Heather Langenkamp in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Mother to a Monster
As a mother, there’s always a slight fear that you’re going to have a kid that’s hard to deal with or badly behaved, but in horror films, this can be taken to the complete extreme, and you can end up sharing your house with a literal monster.
In some cases, the children can start normal and end up being taken over by something far darker, as is the case The Exorcist (1973) and The Children (2008). The Exorcist sees Regan possessed by a demon after she plays with a spirit board, while her mother Chris tries to discover the root of what is wrong with her. Having to bear witness to her daughter committing some truly horrific acts in front of her is enough to convince Chris that an exorcism is the only course of action left to try and save her daughter’s soul.
Meanwhile, in The Children, a New Year’s holiday goes terribly wrong when all the children in the party seem to contract some sort of virus which gives them a taste for murder and leads to them attempting to kill all the adults in the group. The fact that their children are attacking them is especially brutal for the adults, with one mother choosing to be murdered rather than harm her children in a bid to save herself.
As a monster mother, there is also the horror of being pregnant and not being quite sure what you’re actually going to give birth to. In The Fly (1986), one of the effects of Seth accidentally splicing himself with a housefly is an increased libido and stamina, which means him and Veronica have a lot of sex before he start melting things with his barf and his ears start falling off. Unfortunately for Veronica, she falls pregnant with Seth’s baby, and while we don’t see what the baby looks like in this film (though we do follow his story in The Fly II (1989)), Veronica’s nightmare about giving birth to a baby-sized maggot is almost enough to put me off the thought of having it off with Jeff Goldblum. Almost.
In fact, while their son Martin does come out as a regular-looking baby, even though it transpires later there are some genetic differences going on, the fact that he is born in a larval sac is enough to cause Veronica to die of shock shortly after giving birth to him.
In Prometheus (2012), Shaw is disgusted enough at the thought of being pregnant to a potentially alien creature after having sex with her very infected husband that she decides the only way to get out of the situation is to perform a cesarean on herself using a handy medical pod. It’s literally a race to cut the creature out of her before it bursts its way out, probably killing her in the process.
If we’re talking about giving birth to actual monsters, then we need to take some time to talk about The Brood (1979). Our central character Nora is in the middle of a custody battle with her husband over their daughter Candice. When people start getting attacked by strange-faced little children, it’s clear there is some connection to Nora, though we’re not sure what it is at first. It turns out that she’s parthenogenetically giving birth to a brood of children due to the rage she feels at being abused as a child. The brood is connected to Nora and itself, and respond to her anger, usually by murdering the person she’s angry at. Hey, if you’re going to have that many children, might as well put them to good use, like murdering your enemies for you.
Of course, sometimes the monsters that mothers end up with aren’t children they give birth to, but instead, are children they welcome into their family in the hopes of giving them a better life. When Kate and John experience a stillbirth with their third child, they decide to look at adoption to grow their family in Orphan (2009) and opt for a young Russian girl called Esther. There’s something off about Esther from the start. She likes killing animals and fakes injuries in order to turn John against Kate. When it turns out that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman with a rare form of dwarfism who is intent on seducing John, Kate has to fight for her life and the lives of her children in order to rid her family of the intruder.
Another classic example of adopting the wrong child is The Omen (1976). In fact, Katerine isn’t even aware that the child she is taking home isn’t hers after her husband arranges to adopt an orphaned baby Damien after it appears that his own son died in childbirth, though it later transpired the baby was murdered in order to set the whole plan in motion. Katherine tries to distance herself from Damien, probably because he is creepy as fuck, but when she falls pregnant again, Damien shoves her over the stair railing, causing her to miscarry, before she’s eventually murdered by Damien’s weird nanny. Not only does Damien rob her of two children of her own, but he leads to her eventual death and that of her husband. Rough times.
- All the mothers in Village of the Damned (1995)
- Eve in Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991)
- Serafine’s Mother in An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
There seems to be no bigger influence on horror movies characters, whether they are our main characters or our villains, than a dead mother. Much like Disney, horror movies love a dead mother, in addition to exploring the effects this can have on people as they come to terms with their grief.
House of Wax (2005) sees two brothers choosing a very unique way to cope with the death of their mother, as they choose to honour her memory in a warped version of what she probably would have wanted. Vincent and Bo’s mother Trudy was a talented wax artist who ran the House of Wax in the small town of Ambrose, but when she died and her husband killed himself due to the guilt of not being able to save her, the brothers were left to fend for themselves. With Bo a bit on the deranged side, and Vincent inheriting his mother’s talent for wax art, they decided to team up by murdering anyone who comes across the town and then turning them into permanent wax fixtures.
A dead mother can also spur our main characters on to fight to the very end to ensure the bad guys get defeated. In Teeth (2007), Dawn has a close relationship with her sick mother. Her mother dies right when Dawn is trying to come to terms with the fact she has teeth in her vagina, and it turns out her mother may well have survived if her half-brother Brad had stopped shagging his girlfriend long enough to help her. Dawn has been battling her perverted, uncaring, downright spiteful brother for most of her life, and the death of her mother is the thing which pushes her over the edge and convinces her to finally get her revenge on Brad. Her toothy, vagina-based revenge.
When it comes to The Final Girls (2015), Max’s mother dies in the opening of the film, but when Max is sucked into the movie Camp Bloodbath in which her mother started in her younger years, she comes face to face with a fictionalised version of her mother. While she intersperses terrifying encounters with a masked killer with sentimental moments of trying to bond with her mother again, Max finally realises that her mother’s character in the film needs to die for Max to harness the final girl power and defeat the killer for good. Max has to be strong enough to say goodbye to her mother a second time (albeit a fictional version of her) in order to save herself and her friends from the movie world she has been sucked into.
Dead mothers can also be used to manipulate characters, which happens in Freddy vs Jason (2003) when Freddy appears to Jason as his dead mother, Mrs Voorhees. As Freddy is trapped in hell and can’t murder any helpless teens, he decides to pop up in Jason’s dream/death state and manipulate him into waking up and killing the teenagers of Springwood. Chances are Jason would not listen to Freddy simply asking him for a favour, so dipping into his psyche and taking on the appearance of the one person who can tell Jason what to do ensures that’s Freddy gets what he wants.
- Lori’s mother in Freddy vs Jason
- Mom in The Uninvited (2009)
- Mrs Fuller in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
- Tree’s Mom in Happy Death Day (2017)
- Jean Kriticos (The Withered Lover) in Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
- Ethel Carter and Lynn Carter-Bukowski in The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
- Sarah’s Mother in The Craft (1996)
The Reluctant Mother
Being a mother in a horror movie doesn’t always mean looking after your own children, as situations of danger and peril can mean you end up caring for a child that has been orphaned or abandoned by the events of the film.
Probably one of the most famous examples of this is the relationship between Ripley and Newt in Aliens (1986). Newt’s entire family have been wiped out by the aliens before Ripley and her shipmates turn up, and Ripley takes it upon herself to care for the girl. In the extended version of Aliens, we learn that Ripley’s daughter has grown old and died on earth during the time Ripley was in stasis, so this gives a further motive for Ripley to want to protect Newt. It’s Ripley’s refusal to leave Newt behind that leads to one of the most iconic scenes in the film when Ripley faces off against the queen alien in a cargo-loader suit.
While Mama (2013) seems like an obvious film to discuss given the title, we’re actually going to look at Annabel and her relationship with the two little girls in the film. After Lucas finds his two nieces abandoned in the woods after his twin brother tried to kill them five years previously, it’s up to Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel to raise the girls, as well as protecting them from the menacing spirit of Mama who has tagged along with the girls, even though Annabel doesn’t see herself as much of a maternal figure. In fact, Mama puts Lucas in a coma pretty early in the film, and it’s up to Annabel to work out what’s going on a bid to save the girls. In the end, it’s the bond that Annabel and Victoria build that saves Victoria from being another one of Mama’s victims, though her little sister Lilly isn’t so lucky.
Sometimes the burden of being a mother is passed on from woman to woman, as is the case in Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). Verna pops up again in this movie and she has been caring for Leatherface ever since the rest of the Sawyer family was wiped out by an angry mob by keeping him locked in her cellar and feeding him. However, when she dies, she must pass the mantle on to her only other living family member, her granddaughter Heather, who doesn’t even realise she’s a Sawyer descendant after being stolen and raised by a local couple when she was a baby. The group of teens accidentally lets Leatherface out of his confines, and he murders everyone apart from Heather (though not for lack of trying), but once he realises Heather is family, the two of them form a bond against the hateful hicks of the town. Heather takes on the responsibility to take care of Leatherface (and get a pretty sweet house out of it for free), but it also means she has to deal with the responsibility of potentially covering up any murders he might decide to commit along the way.
- Greta in The Boy (2016)
- Ellie in Cursed (2005)
Being pregnant is no picnic, let me tell you, but I cannot imagine having to deal with being pregnant while also handling being in the midst of a horror movie. Probably one of the worst horror situations to bring a baby into is a zombie apocalypse, and that’s just what Luda has to put up with in Dawn of the Dead (2014). After hiding the fact she’s been infected from the rest of the survivors, she is tied up by her husband so she can give birth in private but dies before she is able. She then reanimates and still has to give birth to a zombie baby before being killed by another one of the survivors, with her child following not long after.
Sometimes the very fact that a character is pregnant can be enough to draw bad fortune to them, like Lena from the ‘Safe Haven’ segment of V/H/S/2 (2013). When the cult Lena and her fellow filmmakers are investigating kick off their day of reckoning activities, Lena is promptly kidnapped and ends up giving birth to a giant demon, which kills her in the process, mainly due to the fact it’s larger than a grown man.
This is also true in The Unborn (2009) where Casey spends the entire film battling a dybbuk who has a long history of targeting twins in her family in order to try and be born into the world of the living. After the events of the film are over, it seems the dybbuk has been defeated, and only after her boyfriend has died does Casey learn she is pregnant with twins which explains why the dybbuk had chosen this time in her life to start harassing her.
- Tracy in S7VEN (1995)
- Mia in Annabelle (2014)
- Paige (potentially) in House of Wax (2005)
Killed by Their Children
The last category of mothers is not a particularly fun one, and it’s those unfortunate characters who end up getting killed by their own children.
In Pet Sematary (1989) Rachel and her husband Louis have to deal with a tremendous loss when their infant son Gage is run over in the busy road outside their house. Because Louis has previous knowledge of the Pet Sematary and the power it possesses, he decides to bury Gage’s body there in the hopes it will bring him back to life. Well, it works quite well, apart from the fact Gage is tad murderous now, and when Rachel returns to town to make sure her husband is okay she finds herself face-to-face with her dead son and on the wrong end of a scalpel.
In another entry in the Scream franchise, Scream 4 sees Maureen’s sister Kate taken out by yet another incarnation of the Ghostface. However, it turns out the killer is her daughter Jill, who feels she needs to kill her mother so she can be on a level playing field with Sidney when it comes to family tragedy.
Finally, let’s take a look at the kids of the movie Sinister (2012) because it features multiple cases of children murdering their entire family, including their mothers, in very creative and disgusting ways. Ellison moves his wife Tracy and their two children Trevor and Ashley into a house where the previous family was murdered by an unknown entity, apart from one of the children who disappeared without a trace. As a true-crime writer, Ellison is keen to crack the case, and when he finds gruesome home movies in the attic of a bunch of previous incidents that also feature a murdered family and a missing child, he thinks he’s starting to figure it all out. However, all too late Ellison discovers the unknown killers are actually the missing children themselves, after being forced to do so by a demon called Bughuul, and his entire family is quickly dispatched by their young daughter Ashley before Bughuul claims her for his own.
- Mrs DeFeo in The Amityville Horror (2005)