If There Be Thorns

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
If There Be Thorns Movie Poster Image
Sex, incest, melodrama in seamy lit-adaptation.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Worrisome messages for teens: An evil character criticizes sex and women, and family members are duplicitous and evil. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the characters featured is a role model; even the character who comes off best is filled with rage toward his parents. 


A young boy tries to drown a very young girl in a pool in an extended scene; a character finds the gory body of his dead dog; characters die suddenly on-screen in a fire; women are hit point-blank with a fireplace poker. 


Main characters are involved in a consensual incestuous relationship. Teens make out in their underwear and moan and sigh off camera; a man bends a woman over a bed in preparation for sex; one character hates women and considers them temptresses. Pornographic magazines are seen (no nudity). 


Some cursing ("Are you gonna kick my ass?") and rude language, with characters called "jerk-off" and "freak boy." 


Movie is based on a series of novels. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that If There Be Thorns is a TV movie based on a pulp novel that centers on a very unusual family. In this movie, a married couple is secretly brother and sister, which is used as fodder for blackmail; viewers watch them passionately making out as a prelude to (offscreen) sex. Family members scheme against each other and try to discredit or even kill each other. The body of a dead dog is seen at length on-screen; a tween boy tries to drown a very young girl in a potentially traumatizing scene. Characters are suddenly killed on-screen; a fire consumes a house and people are trapped inside. Women are hit with a fireplace poker. Expect mild cursing ("kick my ass") and rude language, as when one character is called "freak boy." Pornographic magazines are shown on-screen (no nudity), and a young boy keeps them in his tree house. A teen couple makes out in their underwear, then moans and sighs offscreen; a man bends a woman over a bed in preparation for sex before the camera cuts away. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhellcat1 December 28, 2015


If you've read the books, you'll be extremely annoyed at how this movie was made. Very little of it has to do with the book, they've messed it... Continue reading
Adult Written byAnnaleesaScott March 21, 2021

Spinning in the grave.

I’m glad I read the VC Andrews novels way before they were spun into ‘made for tv’ movies. Some things really should be left as novels. Lifetime has screwed up... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJuniper Peppin March 29, 2021

So bad it's good

Honestly, this movie is hilarious because of how absurd it is. there's an OBSCENE amount of incest that was just unnecessary. I'd recommend watching i... Continue reading

What's the story?

Six years after the events in the movie and book Petals on the Wind, IF THERE BE THORNS finds Cathy (Rachael Carpani) and Chris Dollanganger (Jason Lewis) married and settled into a seemingly staid suburban existence with sons Jory (Jedidiah Goodacre) and Bart Jr. (Mason Cook). But all is not well with the Dollanganger clan: A recently arrived neighbor has nefarious plans for the family and immediately begins to spin a seductive web around Bart, convincing him to hate and fear his parents and revealing their dark secrets. Can Chris and Cathy save their son before he's lost forever? 

Is it any good?

If There Be Thorns is every inch the trashy hoot that fans of V.C. Andrews' shamelessly purple novels could wish for. When Bart asks the mysterious lady next door (Heather Graham in hilarious age makeup) for inside information on his deceased dad, she sighs and says, "I don't want to go down this twisted road" (whereupon she does, naturally). A psychiatrist engaged to take a long look at the disturbed-acting Bart asks Cathy and Chris if there's been any family history of "abuse, inversion, or deviance." Hey, is that a psychological term? Deviance? Sure it is. 

It's all silly fun that would make for a great drinking game -- try taking a sip every time you hear the name "John Amos" -- and Mason Cook is effective, if melodramatic, as the warped younger brother, Bart. But this is most definitely for adults and teens sophisticated enough to see the over-the-top drama as the Grand Guignol it is. Younger viewers will just be terrified by the pool-drowning and dead-dog scenes and deeply confused by the revelation that Mommy and Daddy are brother and sister. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the premise of this movie. Is it realistic? Can you imagine a family like this? What do the filmmakers do to make the drama seem more or less realistic? 

  • Why do you think family dramas remain popular? Do you think they're better as movies or books? Why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love campy drama

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