A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Extraordinary Tales is an animated adaptation of five classic Edgar Allan Poe stories, and it's aimed at mature teen and young adult audiences. The creepy themes and the dark subject matter, paired with intense moments like bloody murders and an overall obsession with death make it generally frightening and inappropriate for most children and tweens. The stories include dismemberment, blood, torture, starvation, and Poe's signature fascination with death and paranoia. One segment shows naked dead bodies tumbling into a mass grave and a brief shot of naked revelers cavorting, caressing, and kissing in baths at a masquerade ball -- not to mention drinking and smoking hookah pipes.
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What's the story?
EXTRAORDINARY TALES is an animated adaptation of five Edgar Allan Poe horror stories: "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart." The stories are woven together by a framing device set in a graveyard where a statue of a beautiful lady representing Death (voiced by acclaimed children's book author Cornelia Funke) speaks to a raven representing Poe (voiced by Stephen Hughes) about his obsession with her. Each of the short stories has its own narrator and animated style, with one featuring a classic Bela Lugosi voice over and another the late Christopher Lee in one of his final performances.
Is it any good?
Spanish director Raul Garcia's take on Edgar Allan Poe is visually stunning but occasionally too slow to capture more than fleeting attention from mainstream audiences. Although he uses animation to depict Poe's works, Garcia shies away from making the stories kid friendly, instead focusing on their creep factor -- so don't be misled into thinking the anthology is a good early introduction to Poe's horror classics. One of the more memorable segments is the utterly adult "The Masque of the Red Death" -- a tale of a masquerade ball during a plague -- which has one line of dialogue in it, coincidentally spoken by none other than Roger Corman, who once directed a live-action adaptation of the very same story.
The scariest segment is, fittingly, "The Tell-Tale Heart," with its modern black-and-white animation juxtaposed with Lugosi's voice. But the longer the anthology draws on, the more audiences will feel compelled to turn it off, because a little goes a long way, and the segments aren't all equally riveting. Non horror fans will be through with it rather quickly, but even those who favor Poe's stories might want to fast forward to the better shorts and skip the Guillermo Del Toro-narrated "The Pit and the Pendulum," about a prisoner waiting for a terrible fate. Overall, this is definitely the best fit for aficionados of art-house animation and teens already interested in Poe, horror, and independent film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Extraordinary Tales. How is it depicted? Is a creepy mood just as frightening as more explicit violence? Why or why not? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Does the movie make you interested in reading Poe's works? Which ones are you most interested in?
What ages do you think these shorts are best suited for? Why do you think audiences assume animation means a movie is automatically OK for preschoolers and up?
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