Well kids, it’s that time of year again where we spend Sunday morning rushing around to pick up sweets and flowers and a gift that makes us look like we know anything about the woman who birthed and/or raised us. Oh please, don’t act like this isn’t you...
...Anyway, with COVID-19 and social distancing robbing mothers everywhere of their special day, some of us might find ourselves with a little extra time on our hands this Mother’s Day. If that’s the case and you’ve got a hankering for horror, I’ve curated a little list for all you ingrates who never call your mothers.
Jaws 3 (1983)
Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch but you know what, sharks can be moms too. And if you’re a 30-foot Great White raising a child by yourself in Southern Florida you deserve some recognition. Jaws 3 follows Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), son of Sheriff Brody, as he and an endlessly watchable Bess Armstrong battle an enormous mother and son shark duo that have taken to squatting at a Sea World-esque water park. The pair contend with both marine life and an aggravated Louis Gossett Jr. who is desperate to keep the imminent danger under wraps. Features some unforgettably bad 3-D moments and was interestingly enough penned by Stir of Echoes and I Am Legend novelist Richard Matheson.
(Available to stream now on HBO Max
This unfortunately overlooked 2009 gem was a surprise that sat in my queue for WAY too long. Imagine Netflix’s Russian Doll or Groundhog Day but without the big red hair, Bill Murray, or humor. But it does involve an emotionally overtaxed single mother (Melissa George) who is seemingly punished by the universe for attempting to take one afternoon for herself. God forbid, right? Single mothers will relate. Single mothers might also appreciate an early appearance from Liam Hemsworth, you know, the other Hemsworth. Gale not Thor. Anyway, I’ll leave it at that because to say any more would be to do this film a great disservice.
(Available to stream now on Tubi)
A classic of both film and the written word, Brian DePalma’s stylish and simmering adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel is a welcome addition to the list. Sissy Spacek gives a haunting performance as the titular Carrie, a meek teenaged girl with tremendous telekinetic powers. Bullied at school and abused by her fanatically religious mother Margaret, played to perfection by Piper Laurie, Carrie’s emotional state begins to erode just as her abilities begin to peak. I find Carrie’s relationship with her mother as disturbing today as I did at 13 years-old when I first saw it. And has anyone ever been able to successfully excise the term “dirty pillows” from their brain? Doubtful.
(Available to stream on Hulu or Amazon Prime with a Showtime subscription)
Child’s Play (1988)
More single moms! In Chicago this time and fighting anthropomorphic dolls. For single moms on the go I’ll give the abbreviated version: a serial killer inserts himself (hehe) into the body of a doll given to a young boy by his mother. Inevitably the doll begins to kill people and it’s up to her and her son to stop it. Sound familiar? Well with six sequels and a 2019 reboot it ought to. Chucky is an easily recognizable villain in the pantheon of cinematic horror and our single mother Karen (Catherine Hicks) kicks more than a little ass. Ha, little ass.
(Available to stream on Prime or Vudu)
The Babadook (2014)
Amelia (Essie Davis) is left to raise her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) when her husband is killed in a car accident en route to the hospital for the birth. Rightfully bitter and utterly taxed by the needs of her high strung child, Amelia’s mental and emotional state becomes frayed. To make things worse, a strange picture book manifests in the house warning of a strange entity called The Babadook. Despite several attempts to rid the house of the tome, it continues to reappear...alongside some genuinely disturbing sounds and apparitions. Sharp, spooky, and timely in its look at depression and trauma as it relates to the family unit, The Babadook is an instant modern classic.
(Available to stream on Prime with IFC Films Unlimited subscription)
M.O.M. or Mothers of Monsters (2020)
An unconventional found footage style movie, M.O.M. confronts single mothers dealing with violent sons. It’s a timely topic given the number of mass and school shootings we’ve seen over the last decade at the hands of young men. In particular young, white, suburban men. Young men like Jacob (Bailey Edwards). He’s got gas masks, nazi paraphernalia, and other disturbing artifacts in his room. He’s an angry loner and prone to violent outbursts and his mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) is convinced that he’s a school shooter waiting to happen. Abbey uses security cameras around her house as a means to document his behavior in order to help other mothers experiencing similar things. But her own role and mental health come into question when certain revelations are made. It’s bizarre and unsettling from beginning to end and another addition to our theme of single mothers.
(Available to stream on Prime and Tubi)
Inside or Á l’intérieur (2007)
Infamously brutal and bloody, Inside tells the story of Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a recently-widowed and pregnant woman on the eve of both her delivery and Christmas. As she mourns and prepares for the impending hospital stay a mysterious woman known only as La Femme (Beatrice Dalle) comes to her door asking to be let in to use the phone. After refusing, the woman tries unsuccessfully to force her way in. Sarah calls the police to inspect her house whereupon they find nothing, but promise to keep an eye out. The woman returns, hell-bent on carving the baby from Sarah’s belly and killing any who might try to stop her. Not for the faint of heart.
(Available to stream on Hulu)
The Ring (2003)
Probably stands as the best English-language remake of an Asian horror film to date. Director Gore Verbinski absolutely knocked it out of the park with the pacing, dread-heavy tone, and cool, gloomy aesthetic. Following the death of her niece, newspaper reporter Rachel (Naomi Watts) sets out to discover exactly how and why the 15 year-old met her demise and what a mysterious video tape has to do with it. What follows is part urban legend, part ghost story. But it’s also a story about a mother and the drive that relationship creates to protect one’s children. On a personal note it also ranks in my top ten movies of all time for its near-flawless execution and for holding the title of being the first movie to ever make me scream out loud in a movie theater. Also, Hans Zimmer’s score is phenomenal. Absolutely among my favorite horror scores of all time and criminally underrecognized.
(Available to stream on Netflix and Tubi)
It’s mom vs mom in James Cameron’s bombastic sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror/sci-fi game changer Alien. Aliens picks up 57 years after the events of its predecessor. Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in an Oscar-nominated performance) is awakened from hypersleep only to find out that her former employers, intergalactic asshole outfit Weyland-Yutani, have begun to colonize the planet on which her former crew discovered the parasitic alien creature. When contact is lost with the colony, Ripley is offered a chance to go in with an outfit of colonial marines to assess the situation. Needless to say, shit goes sideways and per usual, Ripley is the one who has to step up. Only this time stepping up includes acting as a surrogate mother for the only found survivor, a young girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). It’s a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end and probably one of the best the genre has to offer. Plus it’s chock-full of timeless one-liners and packs a surprising emotional punch (I cry every time Ripley goes back for that rescue in the last third.)
(Available to stream on HBO Max)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
I think this is the only one on the list that doesn’t technically feature a “single” mother or maternal figure, but those of us who’ve seen it might argue otherwise. *cough* John Cassavetes *cough* Guy (Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) are a newlywed couple who move into a posh Manhattan apartment building where they meet Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castavet (Sidney Blackmer), a seemingly harmless and eccentric older pair. After learning that Guy and Rosemary are expecting their first child Minnie and Roman invite the couple over for a fateful evening of celebration. Rosemary’s pregnancy is beset by troubles and mysterious events cause Rosemary’s paranoia to mount. Divulging any more would sour your experience. Rosemary’s Baby is a master class in tension, pacing, and paranoia.
(Available to stream on Prime)
Already seen these? Well aren’t you cultured. If you’re looking for something new be sure to check out Hulu’s May addition to it’s Into the Dark anthology, Delivered, a pregnancy horror entry.
By Paul Bauer