- Horror films often rely on tropes and clichés, including the main villain having mommy issues.
- Villains like Norman Bates, the Xenomorphs, Michael Myers, and Leatherface all exhibit mommy issues in different ways.
- These issues stem from traumatic relationships with their mothers, leading to violent and twisted behavior.
Horror as a genre tends to have a considerable number of tropes and clichés that appear again and again, such as the main villain having mommy issues. From a lonely cabin in the woods to the power cutting out, from splitting up to the classic line “I’ll be right back,” from the final girl to the villain that doesn’t actually die, horror is rife with concepts that can be seen across a wide variety of films. These concepts can also be found in any subgenre of horror including the more cerebral and psychological, or the jump scare slashers.
With many horror films featuring a primary antagonist or villain, it makes sense that some of these tropes will apply to the big bad of the story. Some villains are provided with only the smallest amount of detail about their origin, but this can give enough information to show the potential for mommy issues. From the classic Psycho antagonist where the issues are central to the plot, to some that may be less clear such as the deadly alien Xenomorphs, plenty of horror bad guys have mommy issues.
6 Norman Bates
Tragic Psycho villain Norman Bates is the well-mannered, and somewhat charming young man running the Bates motel. When a beautiful stranger is passing through, Norman takes an interest but finds his efforts to get to know her being thwarted by his mother. In a twist that defined the horror genre and has been parodied countless times, it’s revealed that Norman’s mother has been dead for years, and he’s been carting around her body.
On the subject of mommy issues, Norman is the textbook definition. Norman has developed some sort of traumatic association where he plays both the role of himself and his mother, and his mother is the voice urging him to do unspeakable acts of violence. Whatever, the relationship was with Norman and his mother in life, it resulted in something incredibly unhealthy and twisted.
5 The Xenomorph
Alien was released in 1979 and thanks to the incredible visionary efforts of director Ridley Scott and leading lady Sigourney Weaver, it became one of the best sci-fi futuristic horrors, frequently included in any related ranking. The antagonists of these films are alien creatures who hunt down their prey with extreme efficiency. These genetically advanced creatures are capable of inserting their eggs into the body of their victims where they grow and inherit some of the characteristics of their host.
While this doesn’t make them traditional children to their host bodies, it’s enough to suggest that the host is in some ways a parental figure. They carry the unborn child, imparting some of their own genetics before giving birth, in an incredibly traumatic fashion. These creatures come out with a bloodlust to destroy their host and other living beings nearby, sounds like pretty intensive mommy issues.
4 Michael Myers
Michael Myers is one of the most famous horror villains of the genre, with several Halloween films, sequels, prequels, reboots, and alternative versions, there is a lot to uncover about his origins. Myers grows up in Haddonfield and by the time he is a pre-teen, he begins on his violent, murderous rampage. Myers’ first victims were none other than his sister, her boyfriend, and his mother’s boyfriend. Despite his bloodlust and the vicious crimes he committed, Myers’ mother supported him and protected him from significant consequences. This eventually led to her committing suicide as she couldn’t live with the monster he became.
Myers was protective of his mother, who suffered abuse from her boyfriend, and this could have been one of the inciting incidents that sparked his violent streak. The mother issues Myers has don’t necessarily come from any abuse he personally endured, but an unhealthy attachment which was then expressed in violent, murderous acts. If Myers and his mother had a healthier relationship, and there wasn’t an abusive partner in the home, it’s possible that young Myers could have turned out differently. Thankfully for the sake of the franchise, that wasn’t the case, but it is worth considering.
3 Frankenstein’s Monster
Frankenstein’s monster is one of the oldest villains in horror. A creature that has been pieced together from the bodies of corpses to create a hideous and unnatural creature. Dr. Victor Frankenstein has been shown to be either a mad scientist hellbent on creating life and unhappy with his creation, or a nefarious man who intentionally wanted to unleash the monster on his community. One thing that frequently appears in the Frankenstein stories, however, is the monster developing sentience and coming to grips with its existence.
Frankenstein’s monster is not naturally malicious; he’s simply confused about the sudden life that has been thrust upon him. The creature seeks to gain knowledge and look closer at the surrounding communities in an effort to find out what life means and if he could have a purpose. The creature feels great weight and sadness at his unnatural birth and yearns to be more like the natural living people he sees, to love and be loved. This yearning is often developed in further stories by introducing a wife for the creature, but if he had a mother who loved him and cared for him instead of the terrible Dr. Frankenstein, he might have had a chance.
Leatherface is the antagonist in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Often depicted as a mindless creature who rarely if ever speaks, Leatherface and his origins are depicted through the films. Growing up, he was raised by a family of cannibals who took pleasure in killing innocent passersby and devouring their flesh. Depending on the film, Leatherface is either raised in a family where the women have all passed away, leaving the boys to fend for themselves with no professional or social skills outside of butchering and cooking, or his Mother is in a frail condition due to tragedies and abuse.
In either case, Leatherface is raised without traditional motherly love and becomes ultraviolent and unable to interact with society. Left to fend for himself, he relies on murder and literal cannibalism in order to stay alive. In the stories where his mother is alive, she is in a wheelchair and can only speak through a voicebox meaning that she had to rely on her family’s terrible actions and could not help to raise them. Lacking that presence, Leatherface becomes a terrible monster who loses all of his humanity.
1 Jason Voorhees
Friday The 13th as a franchise consists of 12 films, all in the traditional slasher genre. The series follows events that happen around a specific location, Camp Crystal Lake where the leading antagonist was believed to have died as a child. Jason Voorhees supposedly died as a boy after drowning in the lake. As a result, his mother stalks the camp to ensure it doesn’t reopen by killing the young staff who would run the youth camp. After Pamela Voorhees is killed by a counselor defending herself, it’s revealed that Jason is somehow alive and now fully grown.
The rest of the franchise sees Jason taking vicious revenge on anyone who enters Camp Crystal Lake in order to praise or honor the memory of his mother. This odd cycle, where Pamela is murdered to avenge her son, and he has returned to continue avenging her creates a warped and twisted relationship of ongoing violence. Jason even kept a shrine to his mother with her decapitated head as its centerpiece, a clear and horrific example of mommy issues in a horror villain.