Happy Mothers’ Day!
Sunday, we celebrate the women who perform the utterly thankless task of raising a bunch of self-centered, loud, surly, snot-nosed rebellious little hellions, just like you and me. While there are many women who are paragons of maternal nuturing, films and books offer a darker vision of women with children. Malevolent matriachs, dark and twisted, with homicide, sadism, sharp tongues and sharper kitchen knives!
Norma Bates, in Psycho 4, plays a widowed schizophrenic mother subjecting Norman (well underplayed by Henry Thomas to Olivia Hussey’s histronics) to random and severe emotional, psychological and physical abuse until he finally snaps and her and her long in the tooth boy toy. Norman progresses from matricide to cross-dressing, hotel running serial killing in an effort to escape Mother, who will always be with him.
Ruth Chandler, in The Girl Next Door, is deranged and drug addled woman who agrees to take in Meg and Susan Loughlin. Abandoned by her husband and raising 7 children, she snaps under the strain, imprisons Meg in the basement and begins a series of physical, psychological and sexual torture. Based on the novel by Jack Ketchum and the real life murder of Sylvia Marie Likens who was killed within 3 months of being dumped at the home of Gertrude Baniszewski, this film is a brutal, unflinching and non-sensational retelling of the crime. While I highly recommend it, it is not for everyone.
Lady Claudia Hoffman, in Snow White: A Tale of Terror, is one wicked stopmother to Lilli Hoffman (Snow White). Claudia (the always excellent Sigourney Weaver) uses every trick in the evil stepmother manual, to include black magic necromancy, in an attempt to keep her husband’s attention firmly fixed on her.
Mrs Lift is a maniacal and overbearing woman that makes her son Owen and everyone else wanna Throw Momma From The Train. Quick with her tongue and cane, momma is always ready for a scrap.
Recommended reading on this subject is The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Barbara Creed has a lengthy discussion of the monstrous-feminine: the evil mother, displayed by the Alien Hive Queen and Nola Carveth (The Brood).
I look forward to the commenatry and make sure you at least call your mother on Sunday!