Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns Watch: Trailer For Bret Easton Ellis’ Penned Teen Horror ‘The Curse of Downers Grove’ With Bella Heathcote Watch: Trailer For Bret Easton Ellis’ Penned Teen Horror ‘The Curse of Downers Grove’ With Bella Heathcote Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time

Oh 'Mama': 5 Of The Worst Movie Mothers

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 16, 2013 at 12:57PM

This week sees the release of "Mama," the low-budget horror flick, expanded from a short film by writer-director Andres Muschietti, and executive produced by Guillermo Del Toro, which as the title must suggest, is a chiller at least in part concerned with the issue of motherhood. Jessica Chastain's bass-playing hipster is forced into a maternal role when the nieces of her boyfriend (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are found in a near-feral state. But the kids are being menaced (or are they?) by something that may -- or may not -- be the spirit of their departed mama.
7

Faye Dunaway Mommie Dearest
Faye Dunaway - "Mommie Dearest" (1981)
Joan Crawford had to deal with a near-demonic screen daughter in "Mildred Pierce," but if the 1978 memoir by her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford, and the 1981 film adaptation by director Frank Lewis, are to be believed, the actress was a real-life monster of a mother that could compete with any of the fictional creations on this list. Crawford (played by Faye Dunaway), after seven miscarriages, adopts a daughter, Christina (Mara Hobel, then Diana Scarwid), who is spoiled, but also becomes subject to her mother's competitive nature, heavy drinking, instability and physical abuse. She beats her in swimming races. She hacks her hair off. She trashes her daughter's room and bathroom, hitting her with a wire hanger. She throttles her, pulls her out of school, shuts her away from the outside world, disinherits her, and generally acts like Mo'nique in "Precious." Unlike the other films on this list, "Mommie Dearest" is in no shape or form a good movie; trashy, wildly over the top and fairly self-serving, veering more towards unintentional laughter than serious drama (Dunaway even acknowledged in her autobiography that she wishes that director Lewis had reined her in more; she was nominated for a Razzie for the part, while the film was later named the worst film of the 1980s by the organization). But there's a certain camp value to the film (it's become a midnight cult classic among some circles), and however scenery-chewing she might be, Dunaway's pretty indelible as Crawford. One viewing, and you'd probably rather take Andres Muscietti and Guillermo Del Toro's creation over Dunaway as a mother.

Anjelica Huston
Anjelica Huston - "The Grifters" (1990)
Unlike some of her competition on this list, Anjelica Huston's Lily Dillon in Stephen Frears' still-woefully-underrated adaptation of Jim Thompson's Greek tragedy of a crime novel (produced by Martin Scorsese, and with a script penned by crime fiction legend Donald Westlake) is driven by love for her son. Roy (John Cusack), a small-time con-artist, has followed his ma into the family business, much to her disappointment. She's especially suspicious of Roy's new girlfriend Myra (Annette Bening), who's older, and another grifter, one looking for a partner in an elaborate long-con. Lily, having already threatened a doctor to save Roy's life after he's beaten when a grift goes wrong, is prepared to go to any lengths to protect him, especially after Myra tries to have her killed by claiming she's been stealing from her bookmaker employer (Pat Hingle). Lily ends up killing Myra (admittedly in self-defense), and even attempts to seduce her son, telling him he's not really hers (there's already a somewhat incestuous Freudian dynamic between the pair, something pointed out by Myra earlier). But her efforts are counter-productive; she ends up accidentally cutting an artery in his neck with a drinking glass, and he bleeds to death. This is the most generous version of her actions; Frears walks a delicate line of ambiguity that suggests that she may just be out to rip her son off. It's one of the most complex and fascinating screen mothers we can remember, and rightfully won Huston (who initially turned the part down, and found the shoot tough) an Oscar nomination, though she was beaten by Kathy Bates in "Misery."

Other Mother Coraline
Teri Hatcher - "Coraline" (2009)
One of the most chilling screen moms of recent years came not from the live action world, but from the animated, and with the unlikely vocals of "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher involved. In Henry Selick's excellent stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman's childrens' book "Coraline," the title character (Dakota Fanning) has moved away from her friends, and is ignored by her benevolent but self-involved parents (Hatcher and John Hodgman). But one night, she discovers a tiny door that leads to an alternate reality where her Other Mother and Other Father (Hatcher and Hodgman again) are, despite having buttons for eyes, warmer, fun-loving and more attentive. But things aren't quite what they seem to be: the Other Mother is in fact a horrific, spider-like witch, with needles for fingers, known as the "beldam." Selick's gorgeously-rendered fairy tale sits with the best of such cinematic fables because of the way that it taps into very real concerns, and there's a sly comment on the traditional role of women in the way that darkness lies in Other Mothers' skills at more traditional feminine, maternal pursuits like cooking and sewing (especially when contrasted with the resourcefulness of Coraline). And as Stepfordishly perfect as the Other Mother seems at first, she becomes one of the best screen villains in recent memory when her monstrous true form is revealed.
 

This article is related to: Features, Mama, Guillermo del Toro


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates