The 5 Best and Worst Mothers in Horror

Horror movies often explore familial relationships in the most unique way, perhaps often focusing on the ever so important maternal relationship.  Who has the most profound impact on our lives, but mothers?  Whether good or bad, motherhood has been examined extensively in the genre, from Mrs. Voorhees enacting revenge on the camp counselors that wronged her son, or the timid Rosemary that took up her role as mother despite knowing who fathered her child.  Even in the absence of mothers are the lives of their children shaped, as discovered by viewers with Norman Bates in Psycho. In celebration of mothers everywhere, below is our list of the best and worst horror movie mommies.

The Worst

1. Sarah Scarangelo and La Femme – Inside (2007)


Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo know how to craft a very taut thriller, and in their 2007 film they depict the fear of a soon to be mother.  Very pregnant Sarah is making delivery arrangements on Christmas Eve, months after a car crash that she was involved in took the life of her husband.  Very depressed over his loss, her evening alone is interrupted by the arrival of La Femme.  Despite trying everything, even calling the police, nothing will get La Femme to leave.  After stabbing Sarah in the stomach with scissors, La Femme makes it clear that she’s there to take her baby for herself.  Thus begins the chilling cat and mouse chase between La Femme and Sarah, and anyone that gets in the way becomes a casualty of war.  Sarah’s desperate actions in attempt to thwart La Femme, and La Femme’s brutality make these two unfit mommies.

2. “Mommy” – The People Under the Stairs (1991)


It’s not always blood that makes a mother. In this Wes Craven directed film, Fool and his group of thieves discover they picked the wrong house to rob when they find the hoard of cannibal children in the basement of the Robesons’ house.  All Mr. and Mrs. Robeson want is a loving child to call their own. But they’re a bit strict as parents and emphatically believe in their children should speak no evil, hear no evil, and see no evil.  So when a child inevitable breaks one of those rules, they cut out the offending body part, dump them under the stairs, and begin again with a new child resulting in a large group of discards in their basement.  It’s “Mommy” Robeson that’s the more terrifying of the two, and her interactions with latest child rearing attempt, Alice, proves she’s more vindictive and deranged than “Daddy.”

3. Nola Carveth – The Brood (1979)

the brood

In this David Cronenberg classic, there are not one but two horrible mothers.  The first is Nola’s alcoholic mother, who abused Nola verbally and physically during childhood.  Dad was so ashamed and in denial he never bothered to step in to protect Nola.  Of course, this laid the foundation of the entire premise of the film.  Now, Nola is a bit warped herself, and her doctor’s treatment seems to be making it worse.  Unwittingly, psychotherapist Raglan’s treatment has resulted in Nola psychically birthing a bunch of creepy, murderous child-like creatures that kill anyone too close to her daughter.  That doesn’t necessarily make her worst mother of the year, though, right?  Maybe not, but she instantly wins that title when she decides she’d rather kill her daughter than lose her in the custody battle.  That’s not very maternal of you, Nola.

4. Amelia Vannick – The Babadook (2014)


Actress Essie Davis does an amazing job showing the plight of single motherhood as Amelia.  Amelia’s husband died tragically while she was in labor with their son, Sam, leaving her alone to make ends meet.  Six years later, Sam has grown into the most unruly of children with behavioral problems.  Between being unable to control her son, and her long lingering depression over the loss of her husband, Amelia often comes across as a mother who checked out.  When a mysterious and creepy pop-up book appears, ushering in the arrival of the ominous Mr. Babadook, the last thread of Amelia’s sanity stretches to its breaking point.  What’s worse? A mother who is emotionally distant or a mother completely unhinged.  Both heartbreaking and terrifying, single mothers have never been scarier.

5. Vera Cosgrove- Dead Alive (1992)

dead alive

To say that Vera is domineering would be an understatement.  None knows better than her only son, Lionel.  Fully grown, yet still living in his mother’s house, Lionel waits on his mother hand and foot.  Unappreciative and overbearing, Vera is content with this arrangement.  So when Lionel falls for the shopkeeper’s daughter, Vera will have none of it, even going so far as to follow him on their first date.  Vera is so unpleasant, it’s hard to summon an ounce of empathy when she’s bitten by the Sumatran Rat-Monkey and slowly rots to death.  Even in her death, she won’t give her son the freedom to live and love on his own.  Vera is terrifying and unpleasant in life, but in death she’s grotesque and ten times scarier.

The Best

1. Susan Reilly- Castle Freak (1995)


Barbara Crampton shines as protective mama Susan in this Stuart Gordon directed tale about a creature inhabited castle.  Susan travels to Italy with her husband John, played by Jeffrey Combs, and their blind daughter to live in a castle he inherited from family. She can barely veil her contempt toward him, still bitter over his drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of their five year old son and blinded their daughter.  To add to the couple’s tension, this castle had a disfigured beast locked away in the basement, and that beast fixated on Susan’s daughter once it broke free.  Susan’s grief over her lost child causes her to be a bit overprotective of her remaining child.  Her love for her children remain clear throughout, but never more so than what she’s willing to do to protect her daughter against the Castle Freak.

2. Mary Brady- Sleepwalkers (1992)


All vampiric shapeshifter Mary has in the world is her beloved son, Charles.  Together, they move from town to town in search of virgins on which to feed.  With the powers of supernatural strength, telekinesis, and the ability to create illusions, the pair is nearly indestructible.  Except for their severe weakness to cats. Which makes Mary a very worrisome mother over Charles when he goes out to lure their meals.  Mary and Charles relationship is a bit too close, actually stepping boldly into incestuous, but there’s no denying how protective this mama vamp is over her baby. Though Mary and Charles are clearly the villains of the story, the mother and son relationship between them propels the entire story.

3. Yoshimi Matsubara- Dark Water (2002)

Dark Water

In the midst of a custody battle, Yoshimi begins work as a proofreader, enrolls her daughter in kindergarten, and moves them into a rundown apartment all for the sake of trying to win custody.  Yoshimi has already proven she’s willing to do what it takes to care for her daughter.  This rundown apartment, however, isn’t the most ideal location for raising a child.  It has a strange leak in the ceiling that gets worse daily, a red bag keeps reappearing, and long black hair keeps finding its way into their tap water.  Yoshimi discovers that the leak is coming from the upstairs apartment, where a little girl vanished after her mother disappeared.  That little girl, however, still haunts the building and longs for what Yoshimi’s daughter has: a mother.  Dark Water examines how far a mother will go to keep her child safe, and Yoshimi proves she has the mettle.

4. Laura- The Orphanage (2007)


As a child, Laura grew up in an orphanage until she was adopted out to a family.  Years later, she returns to reopen the orphanage with her husband and adopted son, Simon.  Almost right away, Simon begins playing with new imaginary friend, Tomas.  Through Tomas, Simon discovers that not only is he adopted but is HIV positive, leading him to run away from Laura during an open house party.  After police search parties have come and gone, six months later Laura is still desperately searching for her son.  All the while mysterious noises and happenings are occurring within the orphanage.  Though not biological, Laura proves that blood is irrelevant to her maternal nature, and she’s even a willing mother beyond the grave.

5. Diane Freeling- Poltergeist (1982)


Diane is a stay at home mom to children Dana, Robbie, and precocious Carol Anne.  Everything seems perfect in their new planned community home and dad is a successful real estate developer.  That is, until Carol Anne starts talking to the static on the t.v. and furniture starts moving.  Things get really serious, though, when Carol Anne is sucked through a portal in her closet while everyone else is outside rescuing her brother, Robbie.  While the levels of haunting reach maximum freak out levels, and the Freelings call in outside help from parapsychologists, Diana handles everything with calm focus.  She wants her daughter back, and nothing will distract her from that. She’s willing to cross over to the other side without a second thought of consequence, and face her fears head on to get her children to safety.  It’s the final climax of the film that proves Diane is the toughest mother around.

Who is your favorite and least favorite horror movie mom?

Happy Mother’s Day from Rare Horror!


About the Author

Meagan Navarro is a blogger from Houston, TX. She fell in love with monsters at age four after being exposed to them via Ghostbusters, and her passion grew into an obsession for all things horror and Halloween (which is the entire month of October, as far as she’s concerned). Meagan also loves traveling and chocolate.


19 thoughts on “The 5 Best and Worst Mothers in Horror

  1. Anna Jarvis, pioneer of Mothers Day was a creepy lady with a mother in a sanatorium, living in seclusion with her blind sister and harassing those who didn’t treat the day with enough reverence.

    My scariest mother movie has to be in Coraline. Sewing buttons in your eye sockets? Shudder…

  2. A mother from hell in a comedy was Ethel Merman as Dorothy Provine’s mom in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World”.

    And on sitcoms, there’s Agnes Skinner on “The Simpsons” and Debbie Wolowitz on “The Big Bang Theory”.

    No scene from “Poltergeist” sticks in my mind like JoBeth Williams getting attacked by the skeletons in the mud.

  3. For some reason I think of Mrs. Kaspbrak from IT when I think of horror mothers (I know it’s a novel, but still, it works). It’s interesting. She convinced her son that he was sick so that she could control him and get him to care for her. Yet at the same time she made him a perfect candidate to be an agent of good and even gave him the power to fight back against It.

    1. I would say this applies far more in the novel (it’s barely touched upon in the film adaptation. Very interesting point on her unwittingly setting him up for success in his future battles!

      1. Too bad it became a chronic problem for him later in life, and he basically married his mother when he got older. His death at the end of the book may have been his only way to truly escape his mother and the problems she put on him. If he’d lived, he would’ve just gone back to his wife and lived the same way forever. Death was kind of the merciful way to go for him.

  4. I’m somewhat surprised that Mrs. Bates didn’t make the list… I mean, she did twist her son into the nutter that he eventually became, thus unknowingly birthing generations of slasher films. And what about Mrs. Vorhees? Now that’s a mother’s love, right there. 😉

    Still, great list, and extremely entertaining reading… just the thing I needed this Mother’s Day. XD

  5. I personally think Amelia is both a good and terrible mother, as the character is rooted in duality. But great list either way. I haven’t seen a couple of those listed here (The Brood/Castle Freak) but I look for them due to your list.

    1. I agree with you on the duality of her character, and just how very layered Amelia is. But for the sake of avoiding spoilers, she spends quite a bit of the film as a nasty mom.

  6. Don’t forget Halloween’s Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her breakout role. Yes, she’s only a babysitter, but her care for her two young charges is very real, and her actions to protect them from escaped mental patient Michael Myers in the film’s final act make her one of horror’s best mothers.

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