We’ve all seen them. They’re inescapable. Their headlines draw us like a moth to flame with their promise of economic, streamlined order. “They” are The Listicle. A collection of items in article form, listed, that serve a purpose of unifying themselves within a specific category. On this site, we feature plenty of cool, thought-provoking “Top 10” and “Best Of” lists. But, what about you hardcore junkies out there who need a serious fix of the overly specific, “no one asked for this” type of information? I got the hit that you seek here on “Listicle of Death.” I’ll be drilling down to find out the best “Deaths by Ice Cream,” or the “Best ‘Oh, No! I’ve Discovered the Killer’s Lair!’ Slasher Film Moments.” Yep…specific.
On today’s special “Deathicle,” we wanted to take a moment in honor of Mother’s Day to celebrate those who have, are, and will continue to take care and watch over us. They wake up at 5 am to drag us out of bed and prepare us for school. They console us when we’ve had a bad day. They work grueling hours at jobs they hate, come home, and cook us dinner. There’s always food on the table. Mothers don’t necessarily get a day off, even when we set aside an entire holiday for just that. A mother’s work is never done. Some mothers take their love a little too far, however.
For some, the maternal instinct is so strong that they’re driven to do the unthinkable – kill! Yes, for those matrons of murder, there is no such thing as going “too far.” They will do anything to protect their kin. Let’s celebrate with a list of some of the best Murderous Mamas! Spoilers and whatnot –
Jude – Mother’s Boys (1994)
Jamie Lee Curtis is horror royalty and one of the most famous “Scream Queens” to ever be chased by a knife wielding psychopath. That’s why it’s so delightful to see her pulling off her best Mommy Dearest as a mentally unhinged mother who returns after a mysterious three year absence to find her family has moved on without her. Well, that just won’t do as Jude needs the affection of her three boys and hunky ex (Peter Gallagher) to feel complete. Mother’s Boys is SO 90’s thriller (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female), but Curtis is delightful in the role – alternating between high camp and genuine menace on the toss of a dime.
Lucy Harbin – Straight-Jacket (1964)
Speaking of “Mommy Dearest,” the OG – Joan Crawford, stars in this William Castle Psycho riff, Straight-Jacket. Fans of the first season of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” may already be familiar with the advertising gimmick, “This Film Depicts Axe Murders!” In the film, Crawford plays a crazed mother, Lucy, who returns home after a stint at a mental institution where she served time for chopping up her cheating husband along with his side chick. Now, more bodies are piling up, and the obvious suspect is Lucy. This is actually one of Castle’s more cohesive films. It doesn’t rely on 3D glasses or hidden buzzers in the theater seats. The only gimmick Castle really needed was Crawford, and she does more than her fair share to carry the picture.
Tiffany – Seed of Chucky (2004)
I’ve spoken of my love for Seed of Chucky many times. It’s such an off-the-wall classic in my eyes, and Jennifer Tilly’s dual role as Tiffany and a heightened version of herself is one of the film’s highlights. Trying to kick her murderous habit, Tiffany is concerned with the path her and Chucky’s child may take. Chucky is determined to turn their offspring, Glen/da, into a psycho killer. Tiffany wants a better life for the kid. Of course, what Tif says and what she does are two different things. The urge to kill, it seems, is difficult to ignore.
Debbie Salt (Mrs. Loomis) – Scream 2 (1997)
Another one of my favorite films is Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s Scream. That film’s sequel, Scream 2 (natch), might not be as good overall, but there are several unforgettable moments. For starters, who can forget Sidney and Hallie trapped in the back of a cop car with a seemingly unconscious killer? Or what about Gale’s chase through the recording studio? As Randy informs us early on, everything is bigger in the sequel. In that regard, Scream 2 does not disappoint. Introduced early on, the amazing Laurie Metcalf appears as Debbie Salt, a low-rent Gale Weathers wannabe. Sure, they wouldn’t get such a notable actress for an almost nothing role, right? Ms. Salt actually turns out to be Mrs. Loomis, seeking revenge against Sidney for striking down his schizoid son, Billy, in the previous installment.
Mrs. Voorhees – Friday the 13th (1980)
A list about killer moms most certainly wouldn’t be complete without cinema’s most famous vengeful mother, Pamela Voorhees. After her poor, deformed son, Jason, drowns while camp counselors of Camp Crystal Lake are off getting busy, Mrs. Voorhees returns years later to ensure NOBODY ever tries to reopen the place. Even better, she hears this tiny voice inside her head that says “Kill her, mommy! Kill her!” It’s sweet to think even in his [supposed] death, Pamela still carries his spirit with her…until her head gets lopped off.
Frau Brückner – Phenomena (1985)
Daria Nicolodi was a close muse to The Maestro, Dario Argento. Even after the couple’s divorce, she still remains an active part in the director’s filmography to this day. Though, at one point she feared her death scene from Opera was part of an elaborate plot to kill her in real life. It’s her role as Frau Brückner in Argento’s Phenomena, however, that provided the actress with a bit more meat than the slim pickings of her typical victim-to-be parts in other Italian horror (though, she is great in Bava’s final film, Shock). A young Jennifer Connelly plays Jennifer Corvino, a strong willed young woman with a unexplained telekinetic connection to insects. Together with a wheelchair bound doctor (Donald Pleasence) and his helpful chimp (yes, the movie is weird), Jennifer attempts to solve the mystery of who is killing random girls at her school. Well, the answer is kind of complicated. To boil it down, Brückner is merely trying to cover up the deeds of her monstrous son (the result of a brutal rape from an insane asylum patient). If she has to go all “throw you in my grody corpse pit” and kill a few people to do it, so be it.
Madeline Matheson – Grace (2009)
Produced by Adam Green (Hatchet series) and written and directed by Paul Solet, Grace is a vastly underrated tale of the lengths a loving mother will go to protect their child. After losing her unborn in a car accident that also claimed her husband, Madeline decides to bring her stillborn child to term. Yep…she chooses to give birth to a corpse. It’s not the easiest subject matter to sit through, but things appear to be looking up for Madeline when the baby miraculously comes back to life. While the word “zombie” is never used, baby Grace doesn’t seem capable of enjoying the types of things a normal infant would. No milk or formula will do. This little tyke needs fresh blood, and mommy is more than willing to do what she can to provide.
Beverly Sutphin – Serial Mom (1994)
John Waters is unquestionably a filmmaking icon. From Pink Flamingos to Hairspray, the “King of Trash” is always game to take a subversive approach to classic narratives. In Serial Mom, Waters presented the amazing Kathleen Turner with the role of a lifetime (and an actual studio budget). Turner plays the overly familiar archetype of suburban housewife, that is, on the surface. She’s actually a cunning serial murderer who can’t control herself from seeking vengeance against those who cross her strict moral code for reasons such as wearing white after labor day, or more to our point – stand her daughter up for a date. Serial Mom is a classic for a multitude of reasons, but “pussy willows” is definitely high up there.
Mother – Mother’s Day (1980/2010)
Ah, Mother’s Day. It wouldn’t be a list for the holiday without mentioning the two very different incarnations of the brutal, murderous “Mother.”
In 1980, Charles Kaufman co-wrote and directed this ultra trashy, backwoods killers torturing pretty women thriller. What sets it apart from most films of its ilk, is the main trio of actresses are given plenty of time to build their characters. It’s late in the extended third act before we’re reminded this is actually a horror film. The inciting incident is swift and brutal, resulting in an outstanding leap from your seat moment. The matriarch over seeing the murderous goons is Mother (Rose Ross). Ross’s portrayal is certainly more on the campy side, which despite how grim the duration is, the fact remains – it’s a Troma film.
Darren Lynn Bousman’s 2010 remake removes almost any trace of humor but casts a perfectly steely Rebecca De Mornay in the role of Mother this go ’round. It’s a well made film that suffers from perhaps an overstuffed cast, but De Mornay’s presence is a perfect addition to such classic horror tropes.
Be sure to cherish the women in your life everyday of the year, because you never known when they just might have to kill for you! Happy Mother’s Day!