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The creepiest parents in movie history

We all tend to think we have weird parents. On one hand, it's just because we tend to amplify the strange memories in our heads until they far outweigh the staggering normalcy that takes up most of our lives. Other times, it's because a lot of parents have fun doing weird stuff. As Dave Barry once wrote, "Your most important responsibility, as the parent of an adolescent, is to be a hideous embarrassment to your child. Fortunately, most of us parents have a natural flair for this."

However, the difference between weird and creepy is quite the shift, and in the history of cinema, movies are filled with disturbing dads and messed-up moms. So, today, we're taking a look at some of cinema's creepiest parents. Obviously, many of these parents will come from the realm of horror, where we expect things to be creepy. However, a few non-horror films were able to sneak in here, as "creepy" doesn't have to be exclusive to that genre. Regardless, we don't think this is what Dave Barry had in mind.

(Warning — some spoilers below.)

Pamela Voorhees is one mean mom

In the world of iconic horror slashers, a few tend to stand out above the rest, such as Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees. However, only one of those villains isn't a part of the original film that made them household names. Jason's mother, Pamela, is actually the killer in the original Friday the 13th. She's merely taking revenge on those that she blames for her son's death.

Pamela Voorhees is played by Betsy Palmer, who hilariously only agreed to do the film because she wanted the paycheck for a new car. She thought it would be a total flop and disappear, and now, it's one of the roles she's most known for.

For a role she didn't really want, Palmer makes the most of her screen time in the film. She's chilling and believable as a grief-stricken mother, and you almost find yourself rooting for her as you learn more of why she has beef with the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake. For films that get more and more ridiculous in later sequels, Pamela Voorhees is strangely relatable, despite being incredibly frightening.

Margaret White is one of the creepiest parents in horror history

High school is rough for a lot of people, even those who come from stable upbringings. For Carrie White, the title character of Carrie, being raised by an overbearing religious zealot of a mother takes its toll. Margaret White is such an awful being that, despite the severity of Carrie's crimes at the film's conclusion, we can't help but feel for the young woman and cheer her on. Her classmates are awful, certainly, but it's her mother's failure to prepare her for the world that makes Carrie who she is.

Margaret is played with barely concealed insanity by Piper Laurie. Her crazy eyes, severe punishments, and biblical rants make her a formidable force in the film, yet another of Stephen King's "authority figures who absolutely should not have authority." After Carrie's humiliation at the beginning of the movie, you'd think it would be her mother who would comfort her and help her understand. Instead, her mother blames her daughter for growing up and punishes her for beginning her period.

Margaret White is simply awful, making her fate at the film's end one of the only uplifting moments in the entirety of the film.

Nick and Lily Laemle are deliciously wicked in Parents

Children of the 1990s who spent time in video stores like Blockbuster probably remember the box art of Parents. It's set up as a satirical horror-comedy, with a perfect little family possibly hiding a dark secret. Are Nick and Lily Laemle really cannibals, as their ten-year-old son, Michael, seems to think? Or is he just the victim of an overactive imagination and some nightmares?

Well, even if you haven't seen Parents, you probably know the answer.

The movie can never really decide if it's a ridiculous satire or more of a straight horror film, but what Parents certainly does have is a strong couple of leads. Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt play Nick and Lily, and for much of the film, they're the perfect balance of "weird but maybe innocent" and "weird and definitely eating people." If Parents had a tighter script, it probably could've been a really good movie. It even features an Academy Award winner in Sandy Dennis, who plays a school guidance counselor who tries to assure Michael that he's just imagining things. We're sure everything turns out well for her.

Brent and Kendall Ryan get a bit murderous in Mom and Dad

Let's just get this out of the way — the premise of Mom and Dad is ridiculous. One day, a signal is sent out that drives parents into a homicidal rage but only towards their own children. A mother strains to kill her newborn just after giving birth. Parents drive to high schools across the country to murder their kids. It's completely absurd.

Completely absurd, you say? This sounds like a job for Nicolas Cage!

That's right, Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play Brent and Kendall Ryan, who try to be the best parents they can be until the mysterious signal scrambles their brains. But it's an absolute hoot watching these two go full-blown crazy. It's made even better when Brent's own parents arrive for a scheduled visit, making for an even more ridiculous brawl.

Cage may not always make the best choices with his roles, but he always brings 110% to the movies he's in. Paired up with Selma Blair, Mom and Dad makes for a pretty enjoyable 90 minutes.

Dad Meiks takes his fatherly duties very seriously

Frailty is an overlooked gem of a horror film with a great cast and a fascinating mystery. It begins in the present day, when Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) goes to the police to report his brother as a notorious serial killer. He then tells the police of their bizarre upbringing, where their father claimed the family was blessed with the ability to see demons disguised as people. Their job was to kill them.

Dad is played by Bill Paxton, and he puts on an impressive performance. As the audience, it remains pretty clear that he's a total lunatic, yet he and one of his sons buy into their holy mission with complete zealotry. As Fenton's story continues, it takes some odd turns as it jumps between the present day and a life of bonding with Dad by murdering people. Well, people disguised as demons. Maybe.

Paxton's portrayal is terrifying and utterly believable, and Frailty also packs a whopper of an ending. Dad Meiks is not the dad we'd want, but Frailty's worth a viewing anyway.

Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest is Hollywood's most infamous parent

You may not even know the context of the line, but you've probably heard someone say, "No wire hangers ever!" The iconic phrase comes from legendary actress Faye Dunaway in the film Mommie Dearest. The film is a biography of Hollywood icon Joan Crawford, and it's a story of what an abusive and psychologically damaged woman she allegedly was.

Mommie Dearest is based on a book of the same name written by Crawford's daughter, Carrie. To say it depicts the Crawford matriarch as unhinged is an understatement, and Dunaway brings a totally bonkers performance to the table. She's controlling and manipulative, and her petty attacks on everyone around her (including her own daughter) mean you never know what to expect from her.

It culminates with Crawford beating her daughter with a wire hanger because she hung an expensive dress on said hanger. It's completely brutal and insane, and it's hard to tell if Dunaway is giving an amazing performance or a ridiculous one. Still, you can't deny how creepy she is, as you never know when the next outburst is coming.

Coraline's Other Mother is a creepy claymation monster

We might be cheating just a little bit here, as the Other Mother in Coraline isn't actually our heroine's mother. Even still, she's so completely creepy that we can't exclude her. In the film, Coraline grows so fed up with her real parents that she escapes into a secret door in their new home, essentially transporting her to a mirror world. Here, magic abounds, and things seem completely perfect, including a new mother who cares for her above all else ... well, so it seems.

Of course, there's a lot more going on here, and the Other Mother has some pretty sinister plans for the spunky Coraline. Once everything plays out, we learn the Other Mother is really a monster referred to as the Beldam, who preys on children and imprisons their souls for eternity to sustain her hunger. She also removes her victims' eyes and sews buttons in their place. And she's a horrifying, bony spider/mantis thing.

Like we said, creepy.

Coraline is beautiful to watch (it's made by Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas), and the stop-motion animation makes the Other Mother even more unnerving.

The Graham family is full of crazy moms

Annie isn't really the problem in Hereditary –- it's actually her mother, Ellen. However, Ellen starts the film dead (one of the first images in the movie is Annie giving a eulogy about what a private person her mother was), so we mostly only get to see the effects of her creepiness. However, Annie's slow unraveling over the course of Hereditary is also intensely creepy, and it leads us towards a terrifying final act that's hard to imagine coming when you first started the film.

In the hands of a lesser actress, Annie could've fallen flat as a character. In the hands of Toni Collette, there was a pretty decent push that she could net an Oscar nomination for her portrayal (she didn't, but the buzz was strong). Hereditary is one of those films where everything is off just enough that you can tell the shoe is about to drop. Annie slowly becomes more and more unhinged as she becomes convinced her dead mother has some terrifying plot unfolding from beyond the grave, and it's impossible to turn away once everything goes sideways. Paimon would be pleased with Collette's performance.

Mum in Dead Alive is horrible ... both alive and undead

Lionel's mother in Dead Alive (originally known as Braindead in its native New Zealand) actually has a name — Vera. However, she's known best as "Mum." Her story is a classic one. Vera stalks her son, Lionel, when he takes a pretty girl on a date to the zoo. There, she's bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey, and she gradually turns into a zombie before Lionel locks her in the basement.

You know, tale as old as time.

What's great about Mum is that she's awful well before she becomes an undead creature. She's domineering and tries to keep Lionel in a constant state of adolescence and obedience, to the point of trying to sabotage his romantic life. As she starts to deteriorate, things get worse and worse for Lionel as tries to keep things under control. Eventually, that involves him strapping a lawnmower to his chest to fight off the forces of evil.

One other thing, this is a Peter Jackson movie. The Lord of the Rings guy. Obviously, it's on a much smaller scale than LotR, but you can still see Jackson's style and sense for practical effects on display in Dead Alive.

Mommy and Daddy are two of Wes Craven's creepiest villains

Wes Craven is known as one of the biggest names in horror. He brought us terrifying films like The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes early in his career, and he also gave us franchises like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. An oft forgotten and underappreciated gem in his catalog is his 1991 film, The People Under the Stairs, and a big reason it works so well is because of Mommy and Daddy.

Played by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, you can tell right off the bat that Mommy and Daddy are creepy. They go by "Mommy" and "Daddy," after all. On top of that, they keep a group of feral, cannibalistic children locked in their basement and ritualistically torture anyone who breaks their rules. They're also brother and sister. Yeah, it's a lot to unpack. Like most of Wes Craven's films, The People Under the Stairs has some pretty sharp social commentary at its core, but it also manages to be creepy all the way through, largely thanks to Mommy and Daddy.

Jerry Blake is one terrifying stepfather

Even though the 2009 remake essentially follows the same plot, we're talking about the OG version of The Stepfather here. The 1987 version is where it's at, mainly due to the performance of Terry O'Quinn as Jerry Blake. That's right – Lost's John Locke was in an '80s slasher flick, and he had hair! You're welcome.

If you've seen O'Quinn in Lost or any of his other roles, you know that he can turn on the intensity at a moment's notice. Watching him trying to juggle his various identities (after marrying into a family and murdering them, he moves on to do it again under a new name) as his past slowly catches up with him is really interesting, and the anticipation of wondering if and when his wife and stepdaughter will figure it out means that the movie never drags.

The Stepfather spawned a few sequels and a remake, though O'Quinn only appears in the second film. None of the others are very good, though this one might surprise you. Check it out if you can find it.

Tony and Becky Le Domas are the world's worst in-laws in Ready or Not

The real star of the show in Ready or Not is Samara Weaving, who's 100% game to take the film's silly premise and run with it. However, the rest of the cast is more than happy to be a part of things here, and few are having quite as much fun playing aristocratic jackasses than Henry Czerny and Andie MacDowell.

They play Tony and Becky Le Domas, and they lay out the film's plot when Weaving's character, Grace, marries into the family. She has to pick a game out of a deck of cards and play it in order to join the family. Unfortunately, she chooses the "Hide and Seek" card, which means the family has to hunt her down and kill her to appease the Devil, who long ago helped the family obtain their fortune.

Silly? Yes. A heck of a ride? Also yes.

Czerny and MacDowell are both excellent in their roles. They know that what they're doing is wrong, but they aren't willing to risk their fortune (and souls) to find out what happens if they don't follow the rules. As such, they're smarmy, creepy, and all too sure of themselves, so it's great to watch Weaving turn the tables.

Dean and Missy Armitage could win an award for cinema's creepiest parents

With Get Out, director Jordan Peele became the new face of horror overnight. A huge reason Get Out resonated so well with audiences was because of the incredible casting. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams as the young, (seemingly) in love interracial couple are both excellent, but Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener absolutely steal the show as Allison's parents.

Dean and Missy Armitage are off-putting from the get-go, mostly due to how dorky and normal they are. Dean tries to seem hip whenever he speaks with Kaluuya's character, Chris, while Missy quietly sits back and enjoys her tea as she watches her daughter and her boyfriend. Of course, it doesn't take things too long to go completely off the rails, and we learn that Dean and Missy are harboring an incredibly dark secret.

There's so much subtlety in Whitford and Keener's performances, and once you know Get Out's plot, there are tons of little details to pick up on subsequent watches. They're absolutely magnetic throughout the entire film and easily some of the creepiest parents we've seen in horror.

Jack Torrance is a bad dad and a lousy caretaker

One of the most iconic horror performances of all time, Jack Nicholson's role as murderous hotel caretaker Jack Torrance in The Shining is pretty much perfect. Stephen King, who wrote the novel that director Stanley Kubrick adapted, notoriously hated the film version, even though it's seen by many as a horror classic. However, we have to totally disagree with King when it comes to Nicholson's performance, as the actor nails so many nuanced aspects of the character as the film's tension builds.

There's the lingering abuse and alcoholism plot points that are rarely addressed but always lurk in the background of Jack's character. There's the feeling of unease and overall wrongness as Jack slowly slips under the Overlook's influence. We're talking about those odd facial expressions, staring off into space, and the like. And finally, there's the awful sense of helplessness felt by Wendy and Danny, his horrified wife and son, as the hotel turns their loved one into a maniacal weapon of evil. In other words, Jack Nicholson has brought many characters to life on the big screen, but Jack Torrance is definitely one of his best ... and easily one of the creepiest parents ever put to film.

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