It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and no one sacrifices their heads and literally goes to hell more for you than your mother. Within the horror genre of the 2010s, we’ve witnessed brave moms, nurturing moms, witchy moms, mentally ill moms, grief-stricken moms, and everything in between, creating one of the most unforgettable decades for motherly horror than ever before. Here are the 10 Most Memorable Mother Figures within the Horror Genre of the 2010s. (Spoilers Below)
10) Mrs. Reyes, Pyewacket (played by Laurie Holden)
Mother and teenage daughter relationships are one of the most complicated dynamics that few films get right. But in this 2018 gem, when Leah (Nicole Munoz) and her mother take out their grievances and pain onto each other during an emotional argument, Mrs. Reyes has some stinging words to her daughter that can never be taken back— making for one of the most shocking interpersonal scenes in recent horror history. Anchored by a truly memorable performance from Laurie Holden, Mrs. Reyes is falling apart in front of our eyes, and before she can regret her cold words and begins to change her behavior towards Leah so they can bond again, demon Pyewacket has other plans in mind— making for one hell of an unsettling ending to this remorseful mother and daughter relationship.
9) The Mother, Goodnight Mommy (played by Susanne Wuest)
The single, widowed mother trope is something we see a ton of within the horror genre, but when you have a mother who has also lost a child as well as her husband, and her living child is toxically problematic, you get a far more interesting character arc. When nameless The Mother comes home from her surgery in bandages, blood-shot eyes, and a despondent demeanor, she understandably loses her patience when her sons accuse her of being an imposter instead of their real mother. We initially fear her, just as her sons do, but as we realize what is actually going on in this story, our fear of her transforms into empathy— and we begin to actually be afraid for her when things get increasingly violent. And who could ever forget that chilling shot of her reunited with her sons in the film’s final moments…
8) Evelyn Abbott, A Quiet Place (played by Emily Blunt)
Unlike several of the other mothers on this list, we will remember Evelyn Abbott fondly for her loving nature, as well as her internal and external strength. When Evelyn and her husband Lee (John Krasinski) find themselves in a silent, post-apocalyptic world with their two children, Evelyn finds herself pregnant yet again.
In a task that so few of us could achieve, she successfully gives birth in a bathtub within walking distance of hunting monsters, and still manages to protect her other two children by the film’s end. In between her near-death experiences, Evelyn graciously teaches her son literature and cooks meals for her family, while not even managing to scream bloody murder when stepping on a nail. Evelyn Abbott is not only the definition of a survivor but also a true embodiment of a Supermom.
7) Carolyn Perron, The Conjuring (played by Lily Taylor)
After Carolyn Perron and her family move into a haunted farmhouse in Rhode Island, she begins to feel something attempting to threaten not only her family but imposing on her own body as well. A nurturing mother of five daughters, she wants to do whatever she can to protect them, so she seeks outside help from the Warrens— and even Lorraine Warren can sense Carolyn’s love for her family just from a moving photograph they have from a day at the beach. Because of her genuinely loving nature, it’s all the more impactful when entity Bathsheba begins to invade Carolyn’s body and tries to force her to kill her own daughters. One of the sincerest scares in recent memory comes from Carolyn’s possession- with her demonic laugh, her milky white eyes, and her “She’s already gone, and now you’re all gonna die” whispering sneer, Carolyn went from the mother we all wanted to the mother we’d run like hell from. Luckily, Bathsheba leaves her body and goes back to hell, and Carolyn returns to glowing mom status.
6) Missy Armitage, Get Out (played by Catherine Keener)
Oh, Missy. Not only do you shame your daughter’s boyfriend right down into the Sunken Place to allegedly stop his smoking, but you have been training your daughter and son to lure multiple Black persons into you and your husband’s neo-Nazi Coagula cult, under the disguise of being a loving (albeit highly inquisitive) mother who bakes carrot cake for dessert and makes an absurd amount of tea for hypnosis. This matriarch of the Armitage family is such a master manipulator. But satisfyingly, Missy meets her demise when Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) stabs her to death in the film’s third act. Boy did she have that grisly death coming to her. Now you’re in the Sunken Place, Missy.
5) Fiona Goode, American Horror Story: Coven (played by Jessica Lange)
The only TV horror mom to make the list, Jessica Lange’s iconic Fiona Goode was an abhorrent Supreme witch and human being. With the exception of a few instances, she made her daughter Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) feel like garbage, as she chose her own selfish desires and vanity over being there for her and the rest of the coven, while fellow witch Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) acted way more motherly to Cordelia than Fiona ever did. Though Fiona did make amends throughout the season with Cordelia as well as the other witches and enemies she acquired over the years, she still would take a knife to your throat if you got in her way. Lange may no longer be an AHS mainstay, but her performance as this Supreme witch bitch mother will never be forgotten.
4) Mother, mother! (played by Jennifer Lawrence)
Whether you loved its audacity or hated its pretention, 2017’s challenging mother! was a devastating, metaphorical perspective on femininity and motherhood that we take for granted in auteur filmmaking. While Mother in this narrative does indeed birth a child (that is savagely killed and eaten by the hands of careless fiends) more importantly, Mother is the representation of all forms of life— she represents Mother Earth herself. While humanity and her husband (who represents God) destroys the home she has built, she gives and gives until she has nothing left of herself to give— before deteriorating into dust by the film’s finale. What better representation of motherhood, in all of its respective forms, than to depict how much mothers give to us that we take for granted? Not to mention, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in this role is arresting.
3) Mother Suspiriorum aka Susie Bannion, Suspiria (played by Dakota Johnson)
When we first meet doll-faced Susie Bannion in this 2018 reimagining of a classic, she is the epitome of innocence. Not until the film’s end do we succumb to the realization that she is actually Mother Suspiriorum reincarnated, aka the “Mother of Sighs”— one of the three mothers in the original Suspiria folklore, and the most powerful of the three. However, she is not a mother who is literally giving birth per se— she is something much scarier. Not only is Mother Suspiriorum always seemingly connected to the opposite of birth, (death), her presence is thematic to the film’s overarching commentary that fascism takes many forms, and she is yet another figure within this coven that is abusing her power and leaving dead girls in her wake. That’s not very motherly, Mother Suspiriorum.
2) Amelia Vanek, The Babadook (played by Essie Davis)
Where other films often portray motherhood as challenging, but ultimately rewarding, The Babadook provides a raw lens, showing just how much some mothers can feel that their children are more of a burden to their lives than anything else. On one hand, Amelia does love her son Samuel: she reads to him every night, and she shows genuine concern and support for his erratic behavior. But on the other hand, she slowly starts to lose her patience with him, as his behavior worsens, and she feels objectified by his neediness— as well as secretly, indirectly blaming him for her husband’s death. (Her husband died on the way to the hospital before Amelia gave birth.) Additionally, Amelia grows more resentful towards Samuel, as she sees aspects of herself within him. Her grief and (likely) mental illness she suffers from comes to a climax when she chokes Samuel and nearly kills him in the film’s third act. Rarely do we see a film depict such a dour look at motherhood, while still earning our sympathy for a nearly abusive mother figure, and Essie Davis’s performance is excellent.
1) Annie Graham, Hereditary (played by Toni Collette)
The ultimate mother of all mother figures within this last decade is undoubtedly Annie Graham of the tumultuous Graham family in Hereditary. In Toni Collette’s performance of a lifetime, she embodied the fearful (and feared) mother of two, whom is led into a slaughterous betrayal after decades of being manipulated and lied to by an emotionally abusive mother— while doing her best to protect her children and her husband from forces she never fully comprehends, until it is too late. As Annie attempts to make sense of her life through macabre miniature dioramas, she loses her daughter, her husband, and her sanity, and, as if that wasn’t enough, she gets possessed by one of the eight kings of Hell. And when possessed by said king, Annie can even fly and levitate in the air— head attached or not. That’s probably more than you can say about your mother. Whether you judged her, cried with her, or saw visions of her in the corners of your ceiling in your dreams, Annie Graham is the horror mother icon that we will still be discussing for decades to come.
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