Greatest years for horror - Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie

Parents in horror movies can be a pretty horrific lot. They are prone to abuse and mistreat their children. Whether it’s emotional or physical, it’s probably present more often than not. Some of these parents manipulate their offspring, others are totally domineering. And then there are the parents who are simply neglectful.

It is a parent’s duty to protect their children from the dangers of the world, but these people sadly became the face of danger for these kids and often wound up creating monsters in the process. We’ll be looking at a broad spectrum in this article, but for the purposes of this list, we’ll only be examining parents who’s relationship with their children was depicted onscreen. Mrs. Voorhees and even Mrs. Loomis in Scream 2 are characters we only see pop up after the death of their child. The Friday the 13th franchise has given us a couple of flashbacks but, interestingly, has still never shown us any real examples of how Pamela treated young Jason while he was alive. So, read on to see our picks for some of the most tragically overbearing parents in horror.

Chris Creek (The Woman)

Chris Creek is a family man, a respected member of his community, a man of fine social standing. He has such a public face that even his children can’t see past it. Only his wife has a glimpse into who he really is. He’s a screwed up, psychotic man that insists upon having total control over his family. He would likely kill any one of them if they stepped too far out of line. When he finds the last remnant of a cannibal tribe while out fishing, he takes her home and chains her up in his shed in an attempt to clean her up and show her how to live a civilized life. But of course, he rapes and tortures her, and while he doesn’t do it directly he encourages his son to do the same.

Chris Creek of The Woman, 2011Mommy and Daddy (The People Under the Stairs)

Now, the children that these nameless characters have are not their own. Mommy and Daddy abduct kids on a fairly regular basis, the problem is that they’re only happy with these kids for so long. It’s only a matter of time before a child sees, hears of speaks evil and the moment they do, the parents swoop in to cut out their eyes, ears or tongue respectively. They want a perfect, God-Fearing, white child. They’ve tortured and killed a dozen kids trying to reach that goal, and probably would have kept on doing it forever.

People Under the StairsKrug Stillo (The Last House on the Left)

Murderer, thief and rapist Krug Stillo is, shockingly, not a great father figure. He knows that his son is not comfortable with the lifestyle he’s been forced into, so to get the boy to cooperate, Krug gets him addicted to heroin. If he doesn’t do what Krug wants, then he doesn’t get his fix, so he always makes sure to do exactly as Krug tells him. It’s about the sickest form of parental control imaginable.

Krug in The Last House on the Left 1972Harry Cooper (Night of the Living Dead)

Harry Cooper has a wife and daughter and he loves being right. If he also happens to love his family, it’s not 1/100th as much as he loves being right. Because he’s perfectly willing to let both his wife and child die in order to prove that he’s the one with the sound plan and that the people upstairs are stupid. And that’s exactly what happens. While the major point of Night of the Living Dead is that people who are locked in together just don’t agree on anything, even if their survival is at stake, there’s still a good possibility that everyone would have survived if Cooper hadn’t done even half the ill-advised things he did in the film.

Harry Cooper from Night of the Living Dead. Jack Torrance (The Shining)

It’s worth remembering that long before they ever stepped foot into the Overlook Hotel, Jack Torrance broke his child’s arm. Sure you could say it wasn’t his fault, he was drunk, but both things are actually his fault. This is par for the course with the Jack of the movie, though. After all, instead of a man slowly driven insane by the hotel, this Jack is insane from the get go. Instead of the character in the novel, who is so shamed by events in his past that he desperately tries to be a better father only to be tragically corrupted, the character in the film looks at the things he’s done in the past and says “I can do worse.”

Jack Nicholson in the popular movie The Shining.Margaret White (Carrie)

Margaret White is the worst, and the damage she’s done to Carrie is obvious from the very first scene. Carrie’s been torn down by just about everyone she’s ever met, but her mother dishes out the worst of it. From locking her into a closet for hours on end, possibly even days at a time, to trying to convince her that everything in the world around her was evil, and finally to attempting to take her own daughter’s life. Margaret’s admittance that she tried to kill Carrie in the womb is a revelation for both of them. She’s never been happy since her daughter was born, but in that moment also realizes that she’s never been happy because her daughter was born. Margaret White never wanted to be a mother, she never even wanted to be alive, so she committed herself to being one of the absolute worst parents in cinematic history.

Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie holds a knife over her head as she attacks her daughter.