WHAT IS A MONSTER MOTHER?
My personal criterion for the ‘monster Mother’ is that they must be:
b) always a monster and not transformed (aka vampires and werewolves are nixed for now)
c) they must actively raise or show a modicum of maternal feelings towards their child(ren)
d) spirits/demons will be included because they fall into the non-human category
The formation of the ‘monster Mother’ as a horror concept ebbs and flows in popularity within the genre due to its precariousness in storytelling and the imagination required for a compelling design. Many horror films instead explore human mothers that revel in their monstrousness or monstrosity as serial killers or abusive figures, i.e., Pamela Vorhees (Friday the 13th 1980) and Margaret White (Carrie 1974) respectively.
We, as fellow humans are more apt to understand, empathize, or visually identify with the human monster, but the ‘monster Mother’ is a tad trickier due to their positioning as the unknown or the supernatural.
THE ANCIENT MOTHER
The Bedlam or ‘other Mother’ from Laika Studios Coraline (2009) represents an entity that is perhaps as old as time itself. She preys upon the souls and vitality of children and opts to lure them from their human families with the promise of love and whatever their heart desires. She is a cunning and careful figure that exists only to the children that are susceptible to her charms.
Her powers of transformation are innumerable which makes her an even deadlier predator. When in their true form, they resemble a spider made from the various baubles inside a sewing kit, complete with a needle-like body and web made from sewing thread. The ‘other Mother’ loves to imprison her children as keepsakes, specifically dolls.
THE DEMON MOTHER
The Demon Mother may also be ancient but primarily is summoned from another dimension for the purposes of protection or antagonism. She may take the form of whatever the child desires or is specifically linked to the spell from which she is summoned. The horror short by Crypt TV entitled The Birch (2016) explores the violence and the terror one can experience from other children, especially bullies.
The young boy that summons The Birch shows no fear of her and gladly welcomes her thickety embrace. Those that crossed the young boy face a grisly fate and the relationship between mother–and–child becomes beautifully intertwined as protector and protected. Aside: This horror short also boasts incredible creature-design, jaw-dropping makeup, and phenomenal prosthetics.
THE GHOST OR SPIRIT MOTHER
Now, this was a tricky category and ultimately what made me think of these other Mothers in the first place. The ghost or spirit Mother could be a supernatural being, a human that has been long deceased, or an admixture of the two. In particular, the film Mama (2013) Directed by Andres Muschietti, explores childhood trauma and the refuge that two girls find in their ‘mama’ figure when the outside world becomes a forgotten memory.
Their seclusion from others and their young ages make them completely susceptible to their spirit Mother’s thrall. She doesn’t mean to actively harm them or place them in danger, but her existence as a ghost means that they cannot live in complete peace and harmony with her while they’re still alive. Spoilers: one of the children chooses to live with and the other chooses to die without their Mama. Whether the manifestation of death is an emotional and/or physical one is still open to interpretation.
HAPPY (BELATED) MOTHER’S DAY!
In reality and fiction, our individual relationships with our Mothers, motherhood, and the concept of mothering is fraught and never easy to compartmentalize. Like all interactions with our caregivers or those that purport to do so, we can exist in a place of peril or protectiveness from those that by our societal definitions of Mother are presumed to be everything good but oftentimes fall short of our expectations.
The human Mother can be just as flawed as the ‘monster Mother’, but the beauty of the horror genre lies in the possibilities of new shapes, sizes, and bodies to house our childhood horrors in. Well, I suppose this is another reason why children are described as little monsters…
The Colossal Societal Angst of the 50 Foot Woman
When women embrace their “monstrous” qualities.
Director Issa López’s Horror Debut: Tigers Are Not Afraid
A story of childhood undercut by violence.
Rose the Hat vs Abra Stone: A Battle for the Ages
A fascinating sequel to Stephen King’s: The Shining.