Welcome to Mother of Fears – a monthly column that will explore the various roles that mothers play within the horror genre. Mothers are a staple feature in horror movies, and yet, their stories, motivations, representations, and relationships with their children are so varied and complex that we never feel like we’re watching the same story twice. Every month I will take a look at a different mother from the world of horror, explore their story, and look at how they fit into the broader representation of women in horror.
A Quiet Place (2018) opens 89 days after a race of extremely sound-sensitive creatures shown up on Earth, perhaps from an exterritorial source. If you make any noise, even the slightest sound, you’re likely to be pounced upon by these extremely strong and staggeringly fast creatures and suffer a brutal death.
Even though it’s only been 89 days, the Abbott family seems to have adjusted to the new world pretty quickly, considering it seems like most of the surrounding population has already been wiped out. Made up of parents Evelyn and Lee, and their three children, Regan, Beau, and Marcus, the family make their way into town on a shopping trip barefoot, creeping around the deserted store to stock up on supplies and collect medication for a sick Marcus. Beau, the youngest of the family, follows most of the rules and uses sign language to communicate with his sister, Regan, but he doesn’t understand why he can’t have a noisy toy from the store.
While Lee removes the batteries from the toy and takes it off Beau, Regan gives it back to her little brother in the hopes of cheering him up. However, unseen Beau swipes the batteries, meaning on the trip back to the family farm Beau is killed by one of the monsters, despite Lee’s desperate bid to save his son.
Cut to day 472, and the rest of the Abbotts are still alive and making the best of their new life, even if it means living in silence. As well as sand-covered paths between their farm and the local town, the floorboards in their house are painted so they know which creaky spots to avoid, and the farm is strewn in fairy lights to silently communicate when all is well, or when there is an emergency.
Evelyn is around eight months pregnant, floating around serenely in a pair of dungarees, with her due date looming at the end of the month. While Lee has chosen to focus on activities that keep him busy and make him feel like he’s tackling the problem, such as researching the monsters, trying to find their weakness, and trying to judge how many survivors are still in the area, Evelyn’s full focus is on the new baby which will soon join them.
Obviously, newborn babies are loud, and having them in a world where you need to stay silent at all times is not an ideal situation. However, it’s clear that Evelyn and the family have taken the time to think about what a new baby will mean to them, and the preparations they will need to make to keep themselves and the new baby safe.
In an underground room in the barn, Eveyln prepares a crib area for the baby, hanging a mobile on the ceiling as Regan and Marcus soundproof the walls behind her. In place of a crib, there’s a small box with a lid, an oxygen tank, and an impossibly tiny face mask to keep the baby hidden, safe, and hopefully quiet.
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“Considering how hard Evelyn works to love and care for her family, she still ends up alone when she goes into early labor with the newest addition to the Abbott family.”
Evelyn has already had three children, so she knows what to expect from pregnancies and labor. While she is missing out on the normal appointments and milestones of a pre-apocalypse pregnancy, Evelyn carries out her own pregnancy checks in the basement, counting down the days to her due date on a calendar. She searches for her baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope and relaxes with her eyes closed when she finds it. For Evelyn, these moments of baby-related normalcy are a brief escape from the world she now finds herself bringing a child into. She completes her baby checks alone, rather than asking another member of the family for help, so she can sit alone with her baby’s heartbeat and enjoy focusing on that and nothing else.
Compared to the intense and stressful activities that Lee chooses to participate in to feel useful, Eveyln’s life seems almost idyllic, if you can forget about the sound-sensitive monsters lurking in the woods. She’s portrayed as pregnant, barefoot, hanging up the laundry in the countryside. It seems as though Evelyn is trying to embrace and enjoy this period of her life as much as possible for a couple of reasons. First of all, she knows that when the baby comes everything is going to change. Once you give birth to a child, they are outside your protection, and you have to worry about that almost constantly. However, when you’re pregnant, you can safely carry them with you. This fear is obviously intensified because of the fear of being eaten by these horrible monsters. Secondly, she enjoys the feeling of being a mother and that intense bond you share with the baby in your belly. Her two children are a little older now, and having lost her youngest child, there is surely a longing for that unbreakable bond that smaller children share with their mother. Before the baby is born and reality hits, Evelyn is allowing herself to focus on the positive aspects of her pregnancy.
The Loss of Beau
The loss of the youngest member of the Abbott family has affected the remaining family members in different ways. Regan blames herself for her part in Beau’s death and feels that her father blames her too. Lee blames himself for not saving Beau in time, which Marcus’ fear of the monsters has only intensified after seeing her brother die.
Initially, Evelyn seems the most at peace with what happened, but when Lee and Marcus head out on a hunting trip and Morgan storms off on her own, Evelyn makes her way to Beau’s room to sit quietly among his things and cry. It’s as though Evelyn feels she needs to be strong for the rest of the family, knowing how hard they have all taken Beau’s death, but with the rest of the family gone, she allows herself a moment of weakness. In fact, she sits there all day, until the sun goes down, enjoying her time to mourn in peace without it affecting the rest of the family members. She puts the feelings of her family before her own, but still gives herself the time to process her sadness and guilt over Beau’s death, albeit alone.
After giving birth to her new baby, Evelyn finally confesses to Lee the guilt she feels for Beau’s death, believing she should have been carrying him rather than letting him walk at the end of the line, as her arms were free. However, like most mothers, the prospect of lugging around your deceptively heavy four-year-old is no-one’s idea of a good time. It shows the futility of Evelyn and the rest of the family’s guilt, as they all regret the little actions they took that day that lead to Beau’s death, but in truth, none of them could really do anything to prevent it.
Keeping the Family Together
Aside from grieving in private, Evelyn works her hardest to bring the rest of the family together. Not only does she want to avoid letting the grief of Beau’s death ruin their strong family bonds, but she also wants to ensure as happy a life as possible for everyone.
She does it in little ways like sending Regan to collect Lee for dinner in order to almost force the two to speak to each other as they’ve let the guilt of Beau’s death cause a rift in their relationship. She also brings an MP3 player down to Lee in the basement, so the pair can dance together, enjoy some alone time, a bit of normalcy, and keep their relationship focussed and loving, even as Lee tries to throw himself into his research.
While it’s clear that Lee loves his children, it’s also clear that he’s letting his fear about the situation affect their relationship. He’s so desperate to keep them safe that he can’t seem to relax and be a loving father. Evelyn, however, is nothing but a caring and loving parent. You can see it in the way she touches Beau’s face, how she gently rubs Marcus’ hand as the family says grace, how she patiently teaches Marcus, and reassures him that he will be safe in the woods, despite his intense fear of the monsters.
Evelyn is the glue that holds the family together, making sure that each member of the family feels loved and supported when perhaps the rest of them don’t always have the energy to show this love to each other. Without Evelyn, the family would be a much colder, disconnected place, and she never forgets to let her family know they are the most important people in her eyes.
Considering how hard Evelyn works to love and care for her family, she still ends up alone when she goes into early labor with the newest addition to the Abbott family. To make matters worse, she stands on an upturned nail as she makes her way into the basement to set off the family alert system, causing her to drop a picture of Beau she was carrying, attracting the creatures to the house.
If there was any doubt about how powerful and strong Evelyn is, it’s wiped away in this scene as we watch her move into the later stages of labor and have to suffer each mounting contraction in silence. While she’s obviously working on a level of self-preservation, she’s also doing everything she can to keep her baby safe and ensure it makes it into the world alive and well. Even though she went into labor alone, her family clearly love her dearly with the efforts they go to in order to distract the monsters and allow her to give birth safely.
As Lee and Evelyn enjoy a brief bit of respite after the birth of their new son, they worry about their oldest children, now stuck out in the cornfields with the creatures. “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” she asks Lee, begging him to do everything he can to protect Regan and Marcus. They may work in different ways, but both Evelyn and Lee are doing everything they can to keep their children safe. This need is only amplified by Beau’s death, and the want to protect a helpless and very loud newborn.
In a bid to keep his promise to Eveyln, Lee sacrifices himself rather than watching his two oldest children die. While it’s terribly sad for Evelyn to lose her husband, especially right after giving birth, it seems that Lee knows she wouldn’t be able to stand losing another child, and so he makes an incredibly difficult decision.
“Not only does [Evelyn] want to avoid letting the grief of Beau’s death ruin their strong family bonds, but she also wants to ensure as happy a life as possible for everyone.”
It means that mere hours after giving birth, and very much in need of a nap, Evelyn has three children to care for by herself and a sound-sensitive monster stalking her house. Up until now, she’s taken a more passive role in protecting the children, opting for a caring approach while Lee was quick to act as he raced up the bridge to save Beau or quickly put out a fire Marcus caused in the living room. But now she doesn’t have a choice and has to take on an active protector role. It doesn’t mean that Evelyn isn’t capable, it just means that she played to her strengths before, letting Lee take on the active protector role because that was what he needed to feel useful.
Considering the trauma of the night before, Evelyn is still able to act calmly, arming herself with a gun but knowing that if she doesn’t pick exactly the right moment to use it, she will give away the family’s position to the surrounding creatures. In fact, she doesn’t even consider pulling the trigger until the creature edges closer to Marcus and the baby in the corner. Together with Regan, who was also sidelined by Lee in favor of Marcus when it came to training them for survival, Evelyn kills the monster when Regan’s hearing aid malfunction gives them the upper hand.
As the film ends with the other creatures converging on the house, and Eveyln reloading the shotgun, it’s clear that not only will the Abbott family be fine as they take on this next chapter, but they may even be stronger than before. Evelyn knows how important it is to work together as one unit, and will give Regan the support and independence she’s been craving lately. Evelyn is also more than ready to take on the role of a more active protector, and keep what remains of her family together now it seems like they finally have a way to kill the monsters.
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