A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Psycho is one of the scariest movies ever made, even though it's far less explicit than a lot of what's in theaters now. Still, this is a frightening movie, and judgment should be used about which kids will enjoy it and which will find it disturbing. The famous shower scene never shows the knife touching flesh, but it's still terrifying. There are also several very frightening scenes involving a corpse. On a less scary note, a character steals money from her boss' client, and a couple is shown post-sex, though they are clothed. There's some drinking and smoking. That said, this is a classic of filmmaking, one of the most influential and respected films ever made. It's terrifying and brilliant, and families with teens can enjoy the scares together.
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What's the story?
In PSYCHO, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals money from her boss' client and skips town. She drives for hours and then, exhausted and nervous, stops in a remote area at the Bates Motel, run by Norman Bates (a delightfully creepy Anthony Perkins). Norman is cheerful, but he's nervous and hiding something. He invites Marion to share some dinner with him and mentions his overbearing mother (whose silhouette is seen in a window of the big looming house that sits on the hill just above the motel). Norman's hobby is taxidermy, and he also happens to have in his possession the extra key to Marion's room ...
Is it any good?
This Hitchcock film is a classic, and for good reason. Everything about Psycho is perfection, from the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography to every single performance to the famous Bernard Herrmann soundtrack to some of the most suspenseful and frightening scenes ever filmed. If you consider yourself a film buff, this is a must-see. There is some real violence in this film, but it's not at all explicit, making it in some ways scarier than the gore-fests that are so popular now.
It's a film that works on many levels. It's truly scary, but it's also a psychological mystery and a couple of different kinds of love story. All the performances are excellent, and the screenplay is top-notch, but Hitchcock is the real star, manipulating the audience in every frame, making it perfect for repeat viewing -- there's always something new to see. It's a great way to introduce older kids to Hitchcock and may spark interest in his other wonderful films.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hitchcock's style and techniques and the way he uses the camera and lighting to tell the story. It's fun to go back over Psycho and look for clues to the ending, too.
Much of the violence in this movie is implied rather than shown, unlike so many horror movies that have been released since Psycho. Does implied violence seen scarier to you than graphic violence? Why, or why not?
What are some of the ways in which this movie is a classic, and how is it also very much rooted in the time when it was released?
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