Jane Fonda returns to the screen in “Monster-In-Law” as Viola Fields, an overprotective mother who tries her best to destroy her son’s relationship with Jennifer Lopez (no doubt she reads the tabloids).
Here, in honor of Mother’s Day, we count down ten monstrous motion picture mamas who probably won’t be getting a bouquet from FTD. Some of them mean well, some are a little cracked and a few are just plain evil.
Sigmund Freud would have a field day with the nature of a mommy’s love in many of these movies, including this rather pedestrian 1998 thriller. When a young expectant couple moves from crime-ridden NYC back to the hubby’s Virginia hometown, Helen Baring (Gwyneth Paltrow) finds her mother-in-law Martha (Jessica Lange) to be more than a little overbearing. Martha thinks her beautiful baby boy Jackson (Johnathon Schaech) is way too good for Helen... or anyone else, for that matter. Okay, so trying to poison Helen seems extreme, but perhaps Martha just couldn’t deal with a grandchild named after a piece of fruit.
Anyone whose ever paid attention to Eminem’s lyrics would imagine that the portrayal of his mother in a movie partially based on his life wouldn’t exactly be warm and fuzzy. 2003’s “8 Mile” features Kim Basinger as Stephanie, an alcoholic trailer trash Ma whose neglect and abuse are only somewhat mitigated by her proficiency at Bingo. But maybe what makes Stephanie such an awful mom to Rabbit (Eminem) more than anything is her affinity for southern rock ala Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Mom! ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ ain’t tight!”
Friday the 13th”
We know what you’re thinking.... Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) wasn’t a BAD mother to her little Jason... granted, she did kill a bunch of camp counselors in 1980’s “Friday the 13th” (before her zombified son took over for her in the sequels), but it was out of love! But consider this, if she had bothered to check out the qualifications of Camp Crystal Lake before sending her darling baby boy to that Forest of Iniquity, then maybe we wouldn’t have had to suffer through “Jason X.”
Wild at Heart”
When a darling daughter brings home a quintessential bad boy, Mom usually disapproves, and sometimes histrionics can ensue. But few mothers go as far as Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd) in David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” (1990), a crispy-haired harpy with dagger fingernails who talks a hitman lothario into killing Sailor (Nicolas Cage), the true love of Lula’s (Laura Dern) life. Not that Marietta’s an angel herself... infidelity, murder, arson, and an extreme overuse of lipstick are only some of this wicked witch’s sins.
1979’s “Alien” left one big unanswered question: Where the heck did those facehugger-laden eggs come from? James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, “Aliens” shows us: They’re laid by the Alien Queen (Rosie O’Donnell), an enormous, goopy bitch with twin mandibles and a razor sharp tail who challenges Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) for the title of toughest mama in outer space. Okay, we’re kidding about her being played by Rosie O’Donnell. But we wanted to put her on this list somewhere.
In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, “Psycho,” lonesome motelier Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is tormented by his domineering mother, a woman so protective of her son that any filthy woman who tempts her dirty boy’s dirty mind meets the business end of the trusty kitchen knife. Over and over and over. However, by the end of the film, we discover that the murderous “Mother” is actually a drag-sportin’ Norman, who poisoned his mother years earlier, but kept her mummified remains around for company. Talk about not being able to cut the apron strings (even with that knife!)!
Okay, so your adopted little girl turns out to be a little weird. So she’s not the product of your own loins, and maybe her supernatural powers and horse-killing abilities freak you out a little bit. Still, is that any reason to throw a bag over her head and shove her in a well? That’s the tough love that Anna Morgan (Shannon Cochran) dishes out to Samara (Daveigh Chase) in “The Ring” (2002). Fat lotta good it did (although taking away Samara’s TV privileges wouldn’t have done anything either). Let this be a lesson to all you frustrated parents out there; corporal punishment could backfire and make your face melt.
Many parents dream of their children following in their career footsteps, but if you earn your money illegally, well, maybe that’s not such a good thing. In “The Grifters” (1991), Anjelica Huston plays Lilly Dillon, an aging hottie who hedges bets for the mob. Lilly’s never been close with her son Roy (John Cusack), a short con artist
being pushed to think bigger by his hustler girlfriend Myra (Annette Bening). Lilly hates Myra, but it’s not out of maternal concern; She’s envious of Myra’s youth and connection with her son. And when Lilly tries to make up for lost time with Roy, her motive is greed, her method is incestuous, and the result is one of the most shocking climaxes in film noir.
The Manchurian Candidate”
Nothing against Meryl Streep, but her portrayal of Raymond Shaw’s Machiavellian mother in 2004’s version of “The Manchurian Candidate” can’t hold a candle to the icy evil of Angela Lansbury in the 1962 original. Selling out her own son (whom she does love, but in all the wrong ways) in a plot to install her weak willed Senator husband as a US President who’s a puppet of the communists (follow that?), this mother (she has no first name in the film) may be the only one on this list more frightening than the Alien Queen.
C’mon, who else could take the top spot? What’s scariest about this monstrous mother (besides her eyebrows) is that she’s the only one on this list who’s real! Based on Christina Crawford’s autobiography, this 1981 camp classic stars Faye Dunaway as screen legend Joan Crawford, who adopts children more for the publicity it generates than altruism. Vain, deluded and demented, Crawford lacks any maternal instincts whatsoever, trying to force her kids (especially her adopted daughter) to fit her perfect Hollywood mold, even when it means giving away all their Christmas presents to charity, forcing them to eat spoiled meat and hammering home the evils of wire hangers.
There now, doesn’t that make that awkward dinner with your mom and your new boyfriend / girlfriend seem like an episode of “Happy Days?” So, for Mother’s Day, go buy her a big box of chocolates, give her a giant smooch and thank her for not ever trying to kill you.
ORIGINALLY POSTED in REWIND on MTV.COM, May 2005