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?
The Haunted House Movie is one of my favorite types of horror movies. Multiple factors contribute to my appreciation, but the biggest thing for me is what a haunted house movie accomplishes as a trope. Haunted house movies may not be the scariest genre, but it is certainly the most unsettling in my book. These movies are about the pollution of the sacred sanctuary of a home. Otherworldly forces beyond human control destroy the integrity of a house as a protective dwelling, which terrifies me on a deep level.
The genre of horror tends to go through phases where certain subgenres experiencing a sort of “renaissance”, where writers and filmmakers explore all limits of the subgenre, where audiences become temporarily obsessed with the subgenre. It’s happened with creature features, psychological horror, slasher films, haunted houses, demonic possession, and the hyper-realistic gore of the “torture porn” subgenre. I guess that, currently, supernatural “found-footage” horror is the big, mainstream deal, what with the Paranormal Activity series, the V/H/S/ series, and July’s upcoming The Gallows.
However, a wholly different type of horror is bubbling up from underneath. Movies and television are gradually starting to explore the intersection between the sinister and the fantastic, while books have long intertwined the two.