Movies offer a great excuse to ruminate on your deepest fears, and they’re definitely cheaper than therapy. So if you’re looking for something to do this Mother’s Day — with or without your mother figure in tow — why not make up a matriarchal tale of terror and resolve some of that trauma in style?
The authors have been working out their mommy issues on the big screen for decades with varying degrees of success. Consider mother-centric horror a subgenre of its own, and you’ll notice that there’s a tendency among filmmakers to take more than a stab at the thorny subject matter. Alfred Hitchcock used serial killer Ed Gein’s true crimes and added a deeply morbid murder of a mother in a motel to brilliantly make Norma and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) for his exquisite “Psycho” in 1960, of course. But he had concocted something equally insidiously spectacular with Leopoldine Konstantin for his earlier “Notorious”: a 1945 espionage thriller set against the wreckage of WWII and centering on the dual relationship between an aristocratic mother and son (Claude Rains).
Most recently, Ari Aster burst onto the independent film scene with 2018’s “Hereditary”: a mind-boggling Toni Collette triumph on reckless driving, generational pain, and pagan cults. It’s a maternal nightmare so disturbing that it accidentally kickstarted the so-called “elevated” horror movement and seemed destined to become Aster’s definitive stand on mother-child dynamics. That was before he delivered this spring’s crazed Jewish epic “Beau Is Afraid” with Joaquin Phoenix and Patti LuPone portraying the archetypal Oedipal struggle at its most extreme and cinematic.
From a terrifying Deadite mom in the bloody new ‘Evil Dead Rise’, to the historical part of Pamela Voorhees in the original ‘Friday the 13th’ and, yes, even Mother Gothel is ghostly, sinister and singsong in ‘Tangled, The Following Mom Movies they represent some of the most effective and entertaining attempts at unraveling difficult mother-son relationships ever.These movies sure won’t make you cookies, but they’re perfect for when you don’t want to pick up the phone.
Listed in no particular order, here are 17 of the most traumatic mom movies. You’ll notice that titles that are sad but not scary (think 1998’s “Stepmom”) were left out, as were horror films with maternal elements that are ultimately not about specific parent-child relationships (think “Mother!”)
With editorial contributions by Christian Blauvelt.