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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this horror movie is tame by today's standards, it does deal with issues of life and death and scientific ethics. Also, there are some killings, including a child who is drowned when a monster throws her into a lake. Younger children might be frightened by the monster, themes of grave-robbing, and the laboratory scenes. Still, older kids accustomed to modern-day horror's fast pace and stylized violence may find the film too "old-school" for their tastes.
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What's the story?
Based Mary Shelley's novel and released in 1931, FRANKENSTEIN follows the experimental exploits of Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his hunchbacked assistant, Fritz, who steal corpses from graves for Henry's experiments on creating human life. Despite pleas from his friends, families, and colleagues, Henry persists and finally succeeds in bringing his creation to life. Alas, he realizes too late the consequences of playing God (and the danger of trusting your assistant to steal the right brain). The monster (Boris Karloff) escapes into the countryside. Shunned by his creator, tormented by Henry's assistant, and hunted by an angry mob of villagers, the creature responds with confused aggression, even terrorizing Henry's bride on the eve of their wedding. Armed with torches, hounds baying at their heels, the villagers pursue him in revenge and Dr. Frankenstein faces off with his creation.
Is it any good?
Decades after its release, this classic monster movie remains just as eerie today thanks to the chilling presence of Boris Karloff as the monster. When he first appears on-screen -- a hulking, lumbering, vacant-eyed creature -- the moment is pure black-and-white horror. But Karloff also invites sympathy with his portrayal of a tragic and misunderstood being with the body and strength of an ogre but the mind and innocence of a child. Sure, the movie occasionally feels dated, and viewers might find some incidents more slapstick than scary. But overall, it holds up admirably.
Those familiar with the more famous scenes will be surprised to discover some comic relief in the character of Henry's father, a crusty old baron. Although the baron's final lines, which end the movie, may seem abrupt by today's standards, they still convey the sad, strange irony of an old man's wish for a grandson and his son's "fathering" of a kind of monster-child. This classic remains the most iconic film adaptation of the novel, even though it does stray from Shelley's original plot.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how horror movies have evolved since this movie was released in 1931. What makes a movie scary?
Do contemporary horror films rely too much on gratuitous violence and gore?
How does this movie still manage to be scary without resorting to over-the-top content?
What does the Frankenstein's monster make you feel? Do you feel bad for him?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.