A Boy’s Best Friend is His Mother: Horror’s Worst Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day! Every year we take one day to honour those special women that raised and molded us into the people we are today. Horror films, however, thrive by letting fear and darkness into corners where we normally feel safe. Here, in the world of horror films, you’ll find mothers for which not even Hallmark makes card. Below is a brief list of the worst and most terrifying mothers in the halls of horror.

Xenomorph Queen from Aliens

Don’t think the Xenomorph Queen from Aliens should be on a Mother’s Day list? Think again. She’s a single mother with A LOT of kids. Like any mother, she’s also fiercely protective of her children.

The confrontation between Ellen Ripley and the Xenomorph Queen is iconic. Director James Cameron builds this confrontation over the course of the entire film, dropping occasional hints. The reveal of the Queen – an astonishing special effects achievement – is drawn out slowly, ratcheting up the film’s tension. Of course, the emotional heart of the confrontation is the battle of wills between two mothers. Ripley’s maternal bond with Newt is one of the elements that elevates Aliens above other genre films, making it a classic.

Debbie Salt from Scream 2

Billy Loomis, one of the two antagonists from Scream, was a ‘Momma’s boy’. He’s not quite Norman Bates, but becoming a serial killer because your mom abandoned you in your adolescent years seems like a bit of an overreaction.

While Scream 2’s ending is a little convoluted, the identity of the second killer is a nice, logical callback to the original film. Small-time reporter Debbie Salt’s reveal that she is in fact Billy’s mother is a nice twist. Sadly, the twist doesn’t change the fact that Mrs. Loomis is a terrible mother. First, she skipped town on her family and left her son to go on a murderous rampage. Then Mrs. Loomis goes on her own killing spree to avenge him. Inevitably, she completely fails to kill Sydney – or anyone actually directly involved with her son’s death. Disappointing.

Margaret White from Carrie

“They’re all going to laugh at you.”

“They’re all going to laugh at you!” These aren’t exactly the kind of encouraging words one expects to hear from their mother. Margaret White may be the scariest mother on this list. A strict religious fundamentalist, Mrs. White rules her daughter’s life through sin and punishment. There’s no ‘time out’s’ in the White household; only confinement in the scariest closet in horror film history. Played to over-the-top perfection by Piper Laurier, Margaret White is an image of terror, from her facial expressions to her mannerisms. Ironically, it’s the self-doubt that Mrs. White instils into Carrie that ultimately leads to her own downfall.

Pamela Voorhees from Friday the 13th

To date, she is probably the best horror trivia question for casual fans. Yet any real horror fan knows that Pamela Voorhees, not her son Jason, was the killer in the original Friday the 13th. Perhaps the most dedicated mother in horror history, Mrs. Voorhees spends years of her life ensuring that Camp Crystal Lake never re-opens after the tragic death of her son. When Steve Christie gives it another shot, Mrs. Voorhees shows up to punish more horny teenagers. Her own death inspires Jason to take his own revenge from a watery grave. Most kids will be giving their mothers shitty finger paintings on Mother’s Day. Jason keeps his mother’s severed head on a makeshift altar. Put that into perspective.

Norma Bates from Psycho

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

“A boy’s best friend is his mother.” Could there have been any other mother at the top of this list? Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece inspired three sequels, a television series, and countless imitators. Despite never actually meeting Mrs. Bates “in the flesh” in Psycho, her legacy of control and guilt is all over poor Norman. The film’s conclusion suffers a bit from the expository dialogue, but Hitchcock largely only hints at the neuroses that Norma Bates instils into Norman over his lifetime. Even death itself can’t loosen Norma’s grip on her son.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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