Happy Mother’s Day! As Norman Bates famously said in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, ‘a boy’s best friend is his mother’. All boys are ‘mama’s boys’ at heart. Regardless of your age, when you’re sick, you probably still call out for your mother. And horror movie mothers are no less devoted to their children. Even casual moviegoers are familiar with the close bond between mother and son in Psycho. Brian DePalma’s Carrie adaptation remains a classic depiction of a mother unhinged. And who can forget horror’s best ‘momma bears’, Pamela Voorhees and the Alien Queen from Aliens? But for this Mother’s Day we celebrate the forgotten mothers of horror.
You’ll Like My Mother (1972)
Here’s an obscure entry to open our list. You’ll Like My Mother tells the story of a pregnant woman who travels to the Minnesota countryside to meet her late husband’s mother. Given it’s a horror-thriller, the mother-in-law obviously has bad intentions. While it’s by no means a blockbuster, You’ll Like My Mother is an effective little thriller. To some extent, it feels a lot like a made-for-television movie from the time period. But it has some claustrophobic atmosphere and manages a few chills along the way. It’s also notable for its ‘against type’ casting of television stars Patty Duke and Richard Thomas.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
NO WIRE HANGERS! And with that infamous line, Mommie Dearest earned multiple Razzie awards including Worst Picture and a Worst Actress nod for Faye Dunaway. No, Mommie Dearest isn’t a horror movie. Based on actress Christina Crawford’s autobiography detailing her life as Hollywood starlet Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter, it’s a serious Oscar-bait biopic. Or more accurately, it was an attempt at a serous biopic. What director Frank Perry created was a strange, unintentionally funny trainwreck. Today, Mommie Dearest is best known for her scene-chewing performance as the abusive and cruel Joan Crawford.
Mother’s Day (1980)
Ultra-cheap, ultra-violent early 80s splatter flick Mother’s Day is pretty tasteless stuff. Not surprisingly, writer and director Charles Kaufman is the brother of Troma Entertainment founder, Lloyd Kaufman. Its story is pure exploitation movie trash – two deranged, childlike men abduct three women camping to bring home to their equally deranged mother. What follows is roughly 90 minutes of extreme sexual violence, torture, and general nastiness. Buried somewhere in the movie is an attempt at satirizing consumerism and TV pop culture.
Serial Mom (1994)
From Hairspray to Cry-Baby, John Waters is the ultimate cult film director. Though Serial Mom fared poorly at the box office and isn’t in the upper echelon of Waters’ work, it’s still fun cutting dark comedy. Kathleen Turner’s Beverly Sutphin is a suburban mom who’s also a serial killer murdering anyone who offends her middle-class sensibilities. Like much of Waters’ work, Serial Mom revels in poking fun at the pettiness and superficial nature of our suburban lifestyles. In many ways, Serial Mom anticipated our social media fascination with posting picture-perfect images that in no way reflect our real lives. At the time of its release, critics and audiences were underwhelmed. Today, Serial Mom has earned a cult following.
Thought it’s often forgotten amongst some of the other big horror movies of the last decade, Mama was actually a box office hit. Based on his own short film, director Andy Muschietti’s (It, It Chapter Two) Mama is a somewhat generic but still effective little horror movie. It’s story of two young girls adopted by their father’s twin brother after being found in an abandoned cabin has a lot of familiar beats to it. In addition, some of the special effects have already aged poorly. But it’s also got several good jolts in it. Moreover, the ending is surprisingly emotional. Add another fantastic Jessica Chastain performance to the mix and Mama makes for a decent little hidden gem.