Why Are So Many Horror Movies About Moms and Kids?

Why Are So Many Horror Movies About Moms and Kids? February 12, 2019


Roman Christou, Linda Cardellini and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen in The Curse of La Llorona, screenshot from the Warner Bros. trailer

The new trailer for The Curse of La Llorona dropped yesterday. It doesn’t seem like the horror movie’s trying to break new ground, but it does look pretty creepy.

I know this puts me out of line with lots of Christians, but I’ve always appreciated a good horror flick–not gross, bloody, slasher/torture horror, but atmospheric, unsettling supernatural horror. Even though scares are inherently predicated on unpredictability, creaking doors and hidden stairways and things that go bump in the night rarely get old for me. These sorts of horror movies, by their very nature, can address spiritual themes more directly than most others, and I find that kind of refreshing.

But in La Llorona, we see another horror trope at play, too: The terror a mother feels about not being able to protect her kids.

La Llorona plays on the fear all parents have: How to keep their children safe in an unpredictable, sometimes terrifying world. Maybe most of us don’t worry about ghosts in the bathtub, but terrors leaking through online? We’re very familiar with that. Dangers today, both real and imagined, lurk everywhere, and sometimes parents feel a little helpless in protecting their children from them all.

Last week I reviewed a movie called The Prodigy, which takes that fear a step further (if not all that effectively): A mom watches as her child’s body is being taken over by a reincarnated serial killer. It blends that fear of protecting your child with the even greater fear that there’s something seriously wrong with your child.

And then, of course, you’ve got movies like The Babadook, wherein the mother just might be the monster.

Yup. Creepy.

So many of the best horror movies feature this unsettling mother/child dynamic: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Ring and on and on. Even Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House played fast and loose with those relationships. These stories subvert and twist one of the most beautiful, even hallowed bonds we know.

I don’t have any great spiritual takeaways to offer on this point right now, but I do find it interesting. And I’ll be thinking more about it as The Curse of La Llorona gets closer to its April 19 release.

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