Hollywood’s Monstrous Moms

Vilifying Mental Illness in Horror Films


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About the Book

From Carrie and Rosemary’s Baby to Us, Hereditary, and Run, the image of the mentally ill mom as villain looms large in the horror genre. What do these movies communicate about mothers living with mental illness, and how do these depictions affect them? Portraying mentally ill moms as problems to be overcome, often by their own children, perpetuates harmful stereotypes with potential real-world consequences, such as the belief that these women are unfit to bear or raise children. More compassionate representations are needed to lessen the social stigma associated with the mentally ill. Fortunately, some of the contemporary horror films are attempting to achieve that task with critical success.
Using case studies from a broad range of films—including the classic, campy, slasher, or prestige—and placing them within their historical context, this work extends conversations about horror and mental illness, such as post-partum depression, bulimia, Munchausen by proxy syndrome, and others. Highlighting the trope of the mentally ill mother as a pervasive image within the genre furthers examination of how these films challenge or reflect existing stereotypes and illustrates how horror can be both a site of oppression and a source for positive transformation.

About the Author(s)

Kassia Krone is an associate professor of composition at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. Her research interests include disability studies, film, Southern and gothic fiction, women and gender studies, and epistolary studies.

Bibliographic Details

Kassia Krone
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 209
Bibliographic Info: 34 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8893-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5233-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction. “Give me the respect I’m entitled to”: Building a Historical and Theoretical Overview of Mental Illness in Horror Films 5
One. “They’re all going to laugh at you”: Mentally Ill Moms in Classic Horror 19
Two. “An emotion bent out of shape”: Spectral Moms and Mental Illness 45
Three. “Just good old fashioned revenge”: “Psycho” Moms and Slasher Films 70
Four. The “Shadow” of Horror: Depictions of Black Motherhood and Mental Illness 95
Five. “I know I’ve hurt you”: Disabled Moms with Disabled Children 125
Six. “Not that I’m to blame”: Offering Alternatives to Mental Illness as Villainy 148
Conclusion. “If it’s in a word or it’s in a look”: Transforming Depictions of Mental Illness in the Horror Genre 177
Works Cited 183
Index 191