Top 10 Horror Movie Parents!

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

To quote Big Willy the Smith, Parents just don’t understand. Jordan Peele’s new critical darling of a horror movie, GET OUT, seems to plumb this premise to the point of sheer terror. How many of you are gonna check the flick out when it drops this weekend?

Well, before you do, we’ve got a sizable chore for you to handle. See, we’re calling out some of the most sinister horror movie parents to ever grace the big-screen. Not quite De Niro in THIS BOY’S LIFE or Dunaway in MOMMY DEAREST, but not too far off either, as we’re fixing to highlight some of the most frightening mothers and fathers featuring prominently in an out and out horror flick. You’ll recognize old faithfuls, meet a few newbies, but one thing remains a constant: Parents just don’t understand! Enjoy our Top 10 Horror Movie Parents below!


Oh! but damn Norma, what a terrible big mouth you have! Yup, as little red lying head bleeds off in the shower, big bad wolf of a son in Norman goes balefully berserk at the Bates Motel. Forgive the literary crossover, but there’s only so many ways you can sincerely fete the classic Hitchcock masterpiece without sounding redundant. What’s so damning about Norma though is that, even in desiccated death, we get a sense of what a horrible mother she must have been – evilly influential, abusive, domineering and totally controlling of her twisted son’s every thought. Much of this is alluded to early in the film, prior to the big reveal, as mother’s ominous presence is felt looming high-up in the decrepit mansion. Just waiting!


The fervid fanaticism, blind piety and histrionic horror of the great Piper Laurie’s performance in CARRIE is, without a doubt, my favorite genre movie parent of all time. She’s so scary, so febrile, so over the top yet still gravely convincing that you get the notion she truly believes the things she says and does on behalf of her daughter’s salvation. Of course, to hear Laurie talk about the role, she was convinced the part was way too extreme as to be a comedy. Yet, somehow, she took a part that is one degree away from abject silliness and she turns in one of the most disturbing examples of parental abuse – physical, psychological – that we’ve ever seen. Her Oscar nomination for her role was more than deserving!


If your reading of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING is as off the beaten path as my own – if you believe this film becomes, at a certain point, merely the novel Jack Torrance is writing, or adapting, from the horror story he was told by Ullman in the beginning – then we have no real reason to believe the father is as violently unhinged as he’s shown in the film. But then again, there are some legit hints that Jack Torrance was not only an abusive alcoholic forced to quit drinking after striking his son Danny too hard one night, but even subtler clues he may have sexually abused the young boy. Either way, Jaaaaack is an axe-swinging psychotic loon by films end, and a definite how-to guide not to treat a child!


Never before has a periwinkle Cosby sweater and a set of pearly white chompers been so mortifying. Real shite, Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees is not only one of the most memorable of murderous mothers, she’s one of the key reasons the original FRIDAY THE 13TH works so well. Not just in terms of the surprise reveal, but because of her maniacal outburst itself. Not only did she prove herself a negligent parent by letting her son drown, her shizoid whispering while wielding a large hunting knife is truly a hair-raising moment. Just look at that f*cking face! The grand irony of course is what a lark Palmer took the role as, and how convinced she was the movie would be unforgettably bad. We forgive you Betsy, RIP!


Bob Balaban’s pitch-black comedy of horrors is one of the most entertaining around, one we highly suggest digging into if you’ve never before. In fact, do wise and check out PARENTS as a double-feature with Paul Bartel’s EATING RAOUL for a splendid stint of comedic cannibalism. Get your fill! Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt play a pair of geeky 50s suburbanites in PARENTS, who start collecting human corpses from the former’s work and begin cooking them on the grill. When the son Michael finds out, he tries to put a stop to the madness, or at least turn his folks into the cops, but Nick and Lily have other plans for their suspicious son.


Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT lenses its scary parents from a totally different perspective: from that of of killers! Once violated and victimized through their daughter’s near fatal gang-rape, John and Estelle Collingwood go on a vengefully violent killing spree that instilled the very terror in the assailants that the assailants did in their daughter. Never mind an eye for an eye leaving us all blind, the Collingwoods opted for their own twisted brand of vigilante justice. And can you blame them? Props to the late great Craven for etching some fascinating shade work here, as the parents go from the innocent victims of rape to the deliberate deliverers of death!


I really love Bill Paxton’s movie FRAILTY. Everything about it. The story, Paxton’s deft direction and doggedly determined performance of a man so wracked with inner-voices of divinity that he goes around murdering people as a measure of “god’s work.” He’s so convincing that he makes a faithful follower out of his young son, but not his eldest, and the movie slowly yanks the rug out from under us with a head-spinning shock of a finale. But it’s Paxton’s turn here, a man so intent on believing he’s doing the right thing, the moral thing, that he myopically waltzes into his own downfall. The murders he exacts are brutal and unforgiving, but it’s that he wholeheartedly thinks it’s done on behalf of good that’s so scary! (And perhaps he was? The movie’s ending is up for debate.)


No, not the schmaltzy Gary Marshall movie from last year (RIP, sir), nor the nasty 1980 Troma predecessor on which the 2010 remake was based (shout out to og mother Beatrice Pons), but when all is tabulated, it’s the maniacally MILFy Rebecca De Mornay in MOTHER’S DAY that earns a medal of abject evil. Shoot, you don’t know whether to pop a boner or run away from her in sheer terror…likely both. The story, which melds the 1980 movie template with a real life crime story about two midwestern brothers who plan a home burglary, only to be met with ill intent by the awaiting tenants, is perhaps Darren Lynn Bousman’s best movie since his early SAW work. De Mornay owns the day!


Oh boy, poor unassuming little Lionel gets a whole heap of motherly love in DEAD ALIVE, does he not? Indeed, Peter Jackson’s whirlwind of splattering vomitus features one of the nastiest, gnarliest, most overbearing cinematic mothers ever imagined. I mean, just cop a look at that odious beast! When bitten by a virus-carrying monkey, or infected by proxy of, Lionel’s overbearing mother becomes even more burdensome when morphing into a mutated, flesh-melting zombie with insatiable appetite for human blood. Speaking of, with over 300 liters of fake blood used, DEAD ALIVE is often referred to as the bloodiest film of all time.


Look at this grinning yuppie sumbitch! Dude makes SERIAL MOM (who just missed the cut) look like Debbie f*cking Downer! Oh but as we know, when his reign of terror extends through two chapters, Terry O’Quinn’s STEPFATHER proves to be nothing shy of a homicidally deranged lunatic. You know, the kind of guy who slaughters his entire family, relocated and assumes a new identity, remarries a single mother and has designs to do it all over again. Typical stepfather, no? Fun fact: the story was based on the real life case of John List, who killed is family in 1971 and remained on the lam until 1989, where he was apprehended as a result of a profile on the TV show America’s Most Wanted.

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