One of the most popular horror movie tropes is the Bad, Scary Mother. It’s not just horror movies that love to trot out a fearsome mother figure. Norma Bates wasn’t the first controlling, abusive mother to terrify her children, and she won’t be the last. Medea, Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Cersai Lannister—human culture and literature has countless examples of maternal figures that are selfish, manipulative, and downright evil. These figures are powerful because they fly in the face of our ideal image of what a mother should be.
And what should a mother be? This Mother’s Day, like all others, we will celebrate our mothers for their nurturing natures, for how loving and supportive and selfless and kind they’ve been to us. We will post cute vintage pictures of our mothers, young and bright-eyed, holding colorful little bundles of joy on their laps. We will send them flowers, buy them lovely gifts, bring them chocolates, and wait on them hand and foot. They have given so much to us, we will say. They’ve sacrificed so much for us. They’ve been good mothers.
Does a bad mother fail to do all of that? Is that how easy it is to tell who is a good mommy and who is a bad mommy?
Mild Spoilers for Goodnight Mommy
I’d like to preface this review by assuring you that I am no lightweight when it comes to watching horror films. On-screen violence and gore usually elicits the expected level of shock and disgust, while body horror reliably grosses me out.
Part of my love for scary movies is remembering that a movie is only a movie, and art is only art. The onscreen images are powerful, but they aren’t real. I’ve never forgotten that fact. I have never had to run for a bucket, nor have I fainted in a movie theater.
So when I almost fainted during Goodnight Mommy, it was because Goodnight Mommy is so precisely calibrated to create a deeply disturbing experience that I forgot to breathe.
As I lay on the carpet in my living room, waiting for the walls to stop swaying, I realized that Goodnight Mommy is one of the most harrowing horror movies I’ve ever seen. My friend spoke softly to me, coaching me through breathing exercises and assuring me we didn’t have to finish the movie if I didn’t want to. Which was so embarrassing, to say the least.
September gets kind of a rough deal. It’s the first full month back from summer and the only real barrier between summer fun and Halloween fun. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you start planning your Halloween costume at least sixty days out. Around that two-month mark, you might start planning your annual Boo-bash or purchasing your tickets for a haunted house tour. September often seems like thirty days of not-being-October, like time to clear your schedule for costume parties and scary movie marathons and baking ghostly treats.
But let’s give September a little bit of love. Some awesome horror movies will be released later this month. Maybe it’s time we think of September as the warm-up month. These films will get you in the mood for all of October’s creepy glory.
So, without further ado, September 2015 has everything from unnerving, suspicious twins to murderous trick-o’-treaters to Nicolas Cage’s best “scared/confused” face. Check out the September horror below!