The Baddest and Raddest Moms of Horror

From Mama to mother! to the oft-forgotten Mom, no two horror movie matriarchs are born alike. Some may be cannibalistic like in Bob Balaban’s cult masterpiece Parents or classically psycho like Kathleen Turner in John Waters’ Serial Mom, but we love them all the same. For this list curated by your very own Boo Crew, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Kieran Fisher, Anna Swanson, Chris Coffel, Valerie Ettenhofer, Brad Gullickson and myself are bringing you a selection of not just the baddest but the raddest movie moms that genre cinema has blessed us with. And if we can take this opportunity to remind you: did you remember to call your mother?

Grace (The Others)

The Others is an elegant mindfuck of a movie, a haunted house psychodrama set at an isolated coastal mansion during the tail end of World War II. Nicole Kidman is perfectly cast as Grace, a strictly devout mother whose overprotection of her apparently sun-sensitive children is, in turn, frustrating and, as horrors begin to unfold, warranted. Grace is more than a little bit crazed, anxiety-riddled, and always on edge, yet she’s also incredibly strong. She’s a mama bear, always ready to protect her children with a prayer or a gun or a fierce word. Impervious to feeling gaslit, Grace also has the best response to someone telling her to stay calm: “For five full years during the occupation, I managed to avoid a single Nazi ever stepping foot in this house, and now there’s someone here!” Take note, ghosts, she’s bested Nazis! – Valerie


Karen Barclay (Childs Play)

Chucky aside, Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) absolutely deserves to drink hot coffee from a mug that says “Worlds Greatest Mom.” After losing her husband, Bob, in a car accident prior to the events of Child’s Play, Karen is raising her son Andy in the urban jungle of Chicago all on her own and pretty much crushing it. Sure, Andy seems a bit detached, but despite her low-paying retail gig, Karen still makes sure that her son has presents to open on his birthday — even if that present is a doll possessed with the spirit of a serial killer. How was she to know!? Karen doesn’t give up on Andy — even after he is temporarily committed — and pounds the pavement hunting for answers when the police prove incapable, imbuing her with a remarkable amount of agency that is typically reserved for final girls. She fights, shoots, and burns Chucky and while Karen is unfortunately robbed of the killing blow, we have no doubt in our mind who the real hero of Child’s Play is: The Final Mom. – Jacob


Annie (Hereditary)

Toni Collette’s performance as a grieving mother is nothing short of extraordinary. She deserved the Oscar. That said, her character is also one of the more complex matriarchs out there thanks to her desire to keep her family together while simultaneously pushing them away. Of course, her behavior can be blamed on the curse that affects her, but the most interesting parts of Hereditary involve her mutually resentful relationship with her son and the mutual pain it causes them both. She’s not evil enough to be called a villain, but she’s far from the most positive parent either. At times you’ll despise her, at others you’ll be sympathetic to her plight. Either way, you can’t deny that she’s one compelling character. – Kieran


Vera Cosgrove (Braindead)

Because you can’t spell “smothered” without “holy shit please kill it for the love of God where is that lawnmower!?” Truth be told, Vera (Elizabeth Moody) was out for blood long before she got bit by that devilish little rat-monkey; a puritanical, husband murdering, old-money grotesque hell-bent on controlling the life of her majorly domineered son Lionel. Suffice it to say, being turned into a monstrously goopy (and chatty!) Venus of Willendorf didn’t harsh her overbearing mellow. ‘Cause look, as we all know it was not the FX on The Frighteners that won Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings, it was that one part in Braindead (aka Dead Alive) where Vera reabsorbs her son into her icky, maw of a zombie womb. Whether goopy and ravenous or sneering and psychologically abusive, Vera is a terrible mother, dead or alive. – Meg


Lynn Peltzer (Gremlins)

Female supporting characters in horror films typically fall into two categories — they’re most likely victims, but when they survive the terror it’s typically because they’re incidental and have zero impact on anything that matters. Lynn Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) is an exception. A badass exception. It’s Billy’s father who brings the Mogwai into their lives, but it’s his mom who finds herself face to face with several of the little bastards. She scrambles one in an electric mixing bowl, she brutally stabs another, and she forces a third into the microwave where she proceeds to explode the ferocious little fucker. A fourth attacks her from the pine needle-scented darkness of a Christmas tree, and she puts up a hell of a fight before Billy arrives to knock the prick’s head into the fireplace. Mrs. Peltzer is a loving mom, a wisecracker, an absolute scrapper when faced with monsters making a mess in her kitchen, and not for nothing, but she’s also almost single-handedly responsible (along with Indiana Jones) for the creation of the PG-13 rating. – Rob


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Jacob Trussell: @JE_TRUSSELL Actor. Writer. Available to host your next public access show. Find more of my writing at Rue Morgue, Ghastly Grinning, Diabolique Magazine, and Grim Magazine.