October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the most harrowing horror movie pregnancies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Pregnancy: it’s the thing that made us, yet it’s also a topic that’s plagued by taboos, frequently politicized, and for roughly half the population, shrouded in unknowable mystery. It’s also, despite the pastel-hued Instagram posts that will try to convince you otherwise, bloody and gross and alien and primal.
All of this makes pregnancy a theme that naturally fits well with horror movies. What happens when a parent doesn’t feel a connection to their child, or can’t keep their kid safe? What if outside forces take control of a woman’s body? The often-unspoken anxieties that go hand-in-hand with human reproduction have been channeled through the safely metaphorical conduit of horror for decades, resulting in films that expose tough truths and reveal deep-seated fears.
Here are ten films that do an excellent job making the magic of giving life look horrific… it’s the harrowing horror movie pregnancies as voted on by Brad Gullickson, Chris Coffel, Kieran Fisher, Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Anna Swanson, Jacob Trussell, and yours truly.
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989)
Some critics would have you believe that the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise gets sillier in its later installments. However, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child set out to address issues such as abortion and teen pregnancy, so it can’t be accused of being devoid of ideas or not confronting hot-button topics.
In some ways, this is one of the more mature movies of the bunch. But the story is also a testament to Freddy Krueger’s never-die attitude, as he uses a pregnant woman’s baby’s dreams to continue his murderous rampage. Of course, it’s only a matter of time until Baby Freddy makes an appearance, and he’s as cute as a button. (Kieran Fisher)
9. Beyond The Door (1974)
If you ever watched Rosemary’s Baby and thought, “Shit, man, I really wish this had the energy of The Exorcist,” then do I have a movie for you. A shlockbuster before the term was invented, Ovidio G. Assonitis’s Beyond the Door mashes up two of the finest horror films in such a way that it would almost become an incoherent mess if it wasn’t held together by Juliet Mills’ committed performance as a pregnant woman possessed by the spawn of Satan growing in her belly.
The film veered so close to William Friedkin’s classic that Warner Brothers actually sued the producers of Beyond the Door, who eventually settled five years later. I’d like to believe that Assonitis was successful in mitigating the illegality of his movie by pointing out that the film is brazenly a parody of The Exorcist, featuring a twelve-year-old girl who doesn’t need Satan’s help to have the mouth of a sailor and her little brother who has a heavy addiction to slurping Campbell’s Pea Soup like it was a Coca-Cola.
Nothing can accurately describe how fucking crazy this film is, but if you want a kaleidoscopic trip into the world of 1970s Italian knock-offs, then Beyond the Door is required viewing. (Jacob Trussell)
8. Eraserhead (1977)
The pregnancy plot in David Lynch’s experimental debut feature would almost be absurdly funny if it wasn’t also a source of tremendous existential dread. In the film, a man named Henry (Jack Nance) has an unusual dinner with his girlfriend Mary (Charlotte Stewart), which ends with the revelation that Mary had a child… or… something child-like. This is unusual for many reasons, one of them being that traditional pregnancy was never mentioned, with a surreal and cosmic opening scene standing in for conception.
Nonetheless, the couple moves in together to take care of the deformed being, which looks nothing like a human but a bit like an unformed alien fetus swaddled in bandages. At first, this all seems like a strange and detached artistic exercise on Lynch’s part, but when things begin to go grotesquely wrong with the creature, Eraserhead invokes a sense of inexplicable parental protectiveness mingled with disgust. Though pregnancy itself isn’t examined closely, Eraserhead is a fever dream that’s overwhelmed by palpable anxiety around the topic of accidental parenthood. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
7. The Seventh Sign (1988)
If you make a face at any film’s inclusion on this list it will probably be this underappreciated tale of horror on a biblically apocalyptic level. I’ve been a fan since its release in the late 80s, and while it’s never quite found the reappraisal it deserves — either from audiences or critics — it delivers when it comes to featuring a harrowing pregnancy.
Demi Moore plays Abby, a young pregnant woman whose cynical view on life is shaken by a confluence of events including the arrival of a man (Jürgen Prochnow) who just might be Jesus Christ. Disasters, both natural and supernaturally ordained, ravage the planet and an undeserving human species, and only Abby holds the key to our salvation. It’s an appealingly emotional sentiment confirming that only we can save ourselves… from ourselves. (Rob Hunter)
6. The House of the Devil (2009)
Ti West’s atmospheric, slow-burn chamber piece about a babysitter in the ‘80s doesn’t advertise itself as pregnancy horror, but the all-in third act takes it to some unexpected places with a final stop at motherhood. The House of the Devil follows Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), a college student who takes a babysitting job in a creepy mansion to make ends meet. By the end of the night, Sam has become pregnant by way of a forced cult ritual.
On one level, West’s movie is a stylish, deftly-made throwback that offers homage to several genre classics. On another, it’s a harrowing film about a trusting young woman who’s manipulated into increasingly uncomfortable situations, culminating in an unwanted pregnancy. The House of The Devil might not be that deep on purpose, but by treading the hallowed ground of Rosemary’s Baby, it highlights horror’s long legacy of provocative takes on reproductive narratives. (Valerie Ettenhofer)