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In Praise of Horror Movie Moms

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Blogger Stacie Ponder’s horror columns appear every Wednesday.

As you may recall, this past Sunday was Mother’s Day, a holiday in which we buy cards, make phone calls, and go out to eat to celebrate the women who brought us into the world. My mom did much more than simply, you know, have me: She’s the one who got me into horror movies when I was young, and it’s still something we share today.

So as a horror fan and writer, how could I let Mother’s Day pass without mentioning…uh… Mother’s Day ? Or Pamela Voorhees of Friday the 13th ? Or the Mommy of… Mommy ? But in my never-ending quest to be different and to stand out, I’ve decided to shine the spotlight on the other moms of horror, the ones who are all about saving rather than killing. These women are all about their kids. And as this concerns horror movies — and not movies where Julia Roberts is the second wife who loves her stepkids and tries so hard to be loved back — not all good-intentioned moms meet happy endings.

Rachel Keller: The Ring (2002)
One of the things I like about Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) in Gore Verbinski’s The Ring is that she wasn’t the best mom in the world. She didn’t neglect her weirdo kid, Aidan (David Dorfman), but she was concerned first and foremost with her own life and her own career. This self-centeredness, of course, led her to the evil videotape, the wet-haired dead girl in the well, a horse that flips out and commits suicide, and a questionable sequel. If only she’d joined the PTA or stayed home to make cookies for that weirdo son!

Amanda Shepard: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
In order to help her daughter Tina (Lar Park Lincoln) overcome some extreme psychic-power-induced emotional trauma, Mrs Shepard (Susan Blu) enlists the help of Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser). Little does she know that Dr Crews doesn’t want to help Tina — he wants to exploit her telekinetic abilities in a mad quest for fame and fortune! If you think that alone makes him a jerk, then, honey, you don’t know Dr. Crews. Not satisfied with simply manipulating the Shepards and bilking them of money, Crews actually pulls Tina’s mom between himself and the pointy end of a garden implement wielded by Jason Voorhees. Dr. Crews is bad news!

Laura Baxter: Don’t Look Now (1973)
The fact that Laura (Julie Christie) just couldn’t get over the death of her daughter Christine (Sharon Williams) led the remaining Baxters on a nightmarish trip through Venice. Creepy psychic sisters, a serial killer on the loose, Donald Sutherland’s butt… and one of the most shocking endings in horror film history are but a few highlights of Nicolas Roeg’s cerebral exercise in terrifying atmosphere.

Chris MacNeil: The Exorcist (1973)
Man, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) really has it all: A fabulous career as a famous actress, spiffy sunglasses, an obscenity-and-pea-soup-spewing daughter who’s been possessed by Pazuzu… wait, that last thing sucks. But Chris is a great mom who soldiers on, seeking help and answers in both science and religion in her quest to help her daughter Regan (Linda Blair) overcome her demon-flavored difficulties. And in the end, she bears no grudge against Regan for all the bad behavior — not for the swearing, the punching, the killing of her friend and director, not even for peeing on the floor during a party. Moms rule!

Stevie Wayne: The Fog (1980)
Stevie
Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) has to be one of the coolest moms in horror.
Not only is she a late-night DJ, she owns the radio station — a radio
station that’s in a lighthouse. And she’s Adrienne freakin’ Barbeau!
Whilst trapped in said lighthouse, Stevie keeps an eye on the fog as it
rolls into Antonio Bay, warning citizens in its path and battling
gooey, ghostly leprous sailors. Above all else, however, she’s
concerned for her son, Andy, whom she can’t reach… even though, quite
frankly, the kid is a bit of a dweeb.

Wendy Torrance: The Shining (1980)
I
know some people hate on poor old Wendy (Shelley Duvall). Maybe it’s
because she is “poor old Wendy.” She’s a bit wishy-washy, a bit wimpy,
a bit confused and haggard, sure, but come on! If you were snowbound in
a haunted hotel for months and your husband was slowly going insane and
he told you that one of his great desires was to bash in your head with
a baseball bat, wouldn’t you be a bit confused and haggard as well? Say
what you will, Wendy gets things done. She gets her son, Danny (Danny
Lloyd), outside and en route to freedom, while she remains behind to
square off against her totally cuckoo-nutso husband (Jack Nicholson).

Sarah: The Descent (2005)
Sarah
(Shauna MacDonald) is one of those moms like the aforementioned Laura
Baxter: She can’t stop grieving over the death of her daughter. Trapped
in a pitch black cave battling monsters, Sarah hears and sees her
daughter everywhere; these hallucinations ultimately lead her down a
road to ruin. (Or slightly less ruin, depending on which ending to the
film you prefer.) Then again, she’s coming back for the sequel, so I
guess she was only on the road to temporary ruin. Anyone else confused?

Laura: The Orphanage (2007)
Months
after her adopted son has gone missing, Laura (Belen Rueda) refuses to
give up the search. Her unceasing determination lands her smack-dab in
the middle of the mystery surrounding the sordid history of the former
orphanage she now calls home. She’s undaunted by ghosts and things that
go bump in the night, though, and Laura stays true to her quest to find
her son. I’d like to think I’d have cojones like hers when push comes
to shove, but… ghosts are scary!

Alien Queen: Aliens (1986)
I’m
sure most folks would like to see this giant, deadly lady on a “bad
mommy” list, but really now — her only crime is loving too much! Yes,
of course, we all root for Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in her battle
against the xenomorphs, but dammit, the Alien Queen is a good mommy! If
someone blow-torched all your kids, wouldn’t you be just a tad upset?
Wouldn’t you clamp onto the outside of a spaceship and follow the perps
in your quest for revenge? Don’t lie! Add to that, the fact that the
Alien Queen was surely more than a little tired and sore — did you see
how many eggs she was pumping out? You’d be a “bitch,” too.

So
where does your mom fall on the Spectrum of Horror Movie Mothers? I
certainly hope she’s a little more Wendy Torrance and a little less
Pamela Voorhees (though her heart was in the right place, to be sure).
If your mom most closely resembles the Alien Queen, well, I’ll get back
to you as to whether that’s too cool or too bad.

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A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules.  She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.


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