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You heard the story as a child. A wolf dresses in sheep’s clothing to fit in with the herd they plan to feast on. The same concept applies to malicious forces that thirst for children’s blood. To get to the child, they take the shape of their parent. While many countries have their mythos of the doppelgänger, they all agree on one thing. To see one is a bad omen. And that death will soon follow.
Even more horrific than the mythology is the actual illness that places the afflicted inside these dark fables. Capgras Syndrome is the belief that your loved ones have been replaced with imposters. The cause of this psychiatric disorder is unknown and can be found in people of any age. In the digital world, cloning is not a question but a fact. The most recent advances in digital tech have brought non-consensual vocal cloning. Is full human cloning next? Or do doppelgängers, changelings, and clones already walk among us?
Best ‘Other’ Parent movies
Kirsty Cotton loves her father Larry, but she doesn’t get along with her father’s new wife Julia. Julia doesn’t really love Larry, but she loves (or rather, lusts for) Larry’s brother Frank. Things get complicated when Frank escapes a dimension of horrific sensations inhabited by Cenobites. The Cenobites want Frank back, and they task Kirsty with helping them in exchange for not whisking her away to another dimension. However, Kirsty may discover too late that the face of her father is now being worn by Frank.
An organization that seeks control relies on conformity. That’s what agent Malone and his kids discover when they move into a military base. The environmental protection agent is there to test its surrounding ecosystem. His children come with him and are quick to notice the many oddities of the base. This base hides its new weapon – plant pods that grow human clones. Clones to build a new society that perfectly conforms to the military’s every desire. Eventually, the children must distinguish their father from his clone while trying to escape the base. Body Snatchers may make you question the origins of other strange military sightings.
Not all “other” parents are sinister. In Multiplicity, Michael Keaton plays Doug, an overworked man who wants to spend more time with his wife and children. A chance meting with a friendly scientist leads to Doug secretly getting a clone of himself so he can be in two places at one. One clone leads to more, each with the same memories, but with their own diverging personalities. Despite the best of intentions, Doug’s life begins to unravel as his wife and children, not knowing about the clones, just think Doug is either losing his mind or losing interest in their family.
Sometimes an “other” parent can teach a valuable lesson. In Face/Off, FBI Special Agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) has his face swapped with a terrorist, Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). The plan is to use Troy’s face to gain information about a deadly plan, but Troy, using Archer’s face, winds up interacting with Archer’s family. Troy (as Archer) gives Archer’s teenage daughter Jamie some advice about self defense which comes in extremely handy when Jamie realizes the man with her father’s face is not her real father.
Nine-year-old Coraline struggles in contempt in her dull gray life. Her parents are indifferent to her dissatisfaction. One night, Coraline crawls through a hidden tunnel to discover a home that is somehow both identical and opposite to her own. Therein lies another set of parents. Ones who indulge Coraline’s senses with limitless pleasures. Like the vibrant colors of a poisonous animal, this second set of parents seeks only to lure her into their web. There, they can finally devour her soul. “The people who love you might not get to pay you as much attention as you like, and,” writer Neil Gaiman says in regards to Coraline’s parents vs. her doppelgänger parents, “those that do pay attention to you might not have your best interests at heart.”
A celebrity mother returns home after undergoing intensive cosmetic surgery. Her twin children are uneasy with her presence, afraid that the face beneath the bandages hides a different identity. Another mother completely. One who slaps her children and fears sunlight. Violence eventually controls the chaos in a home full of distrust and mystery. The film uses the identical children beautifully, to mirror the paranoia that the mother may also have a double.
Grandparents are stereotypically spoil their grandchildren with an overabundance of affection. For young Tyler and Becca, their trip to visit their Nana and Pop Pop is spoiled for a different reason. Meeting their grandparents for the first time could be awkward, but their continuous erratic behavior becomes creepy very quickly for the children. Eventually pushed to the point of fear, Tyler and Becca make a shocking discovery about their “grandparents.”
Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) takes her family to vacation in her beachside childhood home. Come nightfall, another mysterious family overtakes the home. A family that looks exactly like their own. Each family member confronts their own menacing double. Eventually, they must ask themselves the terrifying question: who is truly the shadow of the other? Only Adelaide’s doppelgänger speaks, telling tales of being born “connected to a shadow.” Is this the same shadow that follows closely behind each of us?
Teenage outsider Char returns from school to discover that her depressed mother is missing. As Char tries to uncover the mysterious disappearance, she realizes the true mystery is her mother, who returns a few days later. Upon returning, Angela is the antithesis of her former self. Happy and cheerful, she only physically resembles the mother Char knows. “There’s actually a lot of stories in real life,” writer/director Kate Dolan says, “of people hearing these stories about changelings and fairies and believing that their family members were something else.” Though the film is based on Irish folklore, stories of ‘the changeling’ have spread to various cultures.
More ‘Other’ Parent Movies
- Freaky Friday (1976) – In the classic Disney body-swap movie, a daughter becomes her own mother, a fact unknown to her brother/son (and her father/husband).
- Baby Blues (2008) – A mother’s mind breaks, leading to her eldest son protecting his siblings from a twisted version of their own mother.
- Moon (2009) – The unethical and secretive use of cloning puts moon-based mining worker Sam Bell (Sam Rockell) in the heart-wrenching position of speaking with the fifteen-year-old daughter he remembers as a child, and who isn’t even really his.
- Mom and Dad (2017) – If a parent’s mind is drastically altered, are they now an “other” parent? Such is the case here when a mysterious mass hysteria compels parents to kill their children.
- Evil Dead Rise (2023) – A demonic force inhabits the body of a mother, forcing her children and sister to fight against a familiar face for their lives (and souls).