Serial Mom

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Serial Mom Movie Poster Image
Waters' cheery murder satire is gory and profane.
  • R
  • 1994
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

As part of the satire Beverly is a "role model" American housewife to the utmost -- perfectly mannered and spotlessly domestic -- when she isn't a profanity-spewing, murderous, manipulative sexpot psycho. Her husband and kids (normal, except for a gore-movie-loving son) vow to unconditionally love her even if she is insane.

Violence

Characters are stabbed (one character's viscera comes off on the rapier), one run over by a car, others bashed to death, and one set on fire. Gory excerpts from slasher movies.

Sex

Glimpse of nudie magazines and a topless woman on vintage exploitation video (to which a character masturbates). Mrs. Sutphin and her husband have loud sex (but stay clothed in sleepwear). References to pornography and perversion.

Language

Beverly makes horrible obscene phone calls to the neighbor, heavy on the c-sucker word, later making the victim break down in a swearing fit herself. "A-hole," the S-word, and more. For what it's worth, this same Jekyll/Hyde heroine disapproves of using profanity.

Consumerism

Mention of other movies, with favorable critiques for the adults-only horror movies Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Blood Feast, negative ones about family-friendly fare like Annie and Bill Cosby. A joke about a Pee-wee Herman doll, shots of major department stores and breakfast cereals. Mention of clothing labels.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reference to a character being a "pothead." Social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is considerable violence and killing here. Splattery gore happens both in video clips from famous horror movies (which are praised as entertainment, over more wholesome movies like Annie) and in the "real" narrative. There are depictions of sex and male masturbation and brief glimpses of topless/pornographic magazines. A Catholic mass is ridiculed. The swearing gets really vile in places, and, like the violence, it's meant as a contrast to the tame-looking situation-comedy milieu.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydavispittman June 5, 2017

Funny at times, but NOT for kids

Serial Mom starring Kathleen Turner is funny at times and it features pretty good acting performances. But the content is very rough, so it's not for chil... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old August 16, 2009

maybe not the best for young children

I saw it like last year on tv so i have not exactly seen anything like bad bad in the movie except one part when my parents put their hands over my eyes but you... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymtroubledbg November 28, 2009

A pretty funny movie. View before hand

The movie was hilarious. I wouldn't recommend you let young children watch it but it was hilarious. It is graphic as far as the language goes and there are... Continue reading

What's the story?

A candy-colored satire on tabloid-y true-crime movies, serial killers, and suburban values, SERIAL MOM takes place, as do many of the comedies of naughty-naughty filmmaker John Waters, in suburban Baltimore. Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is a proper, well-mannered, ultra-capable and adoring, churchgoing mom to her dentist husband and their two kids. But she is also a murderous psychotic, who torments/tortures/brutally kills anyone (outside the immediate family) who annoys her. A neighbor who steals a parking space from Beverly receives guttural, obscene phone-call harassment. Another woman who returns rented videotapes unrewound gets bashed fatally with a frozen leg of lamb (a Hitchcock in-joke). Eventually, family and police notice the increasingly public crimes, and Baltimore is thrilled to finally have its own serial killer. Even the victims' grieving relatives confer with the Sutphins about true-crime book/TV/movie deals, as Beverly's trial goes forward.

Is it any good?

The social spoofing is broad and unsubtle in this darkly humorous film. For example, when a Catholic sermon turns into a pro-death penalty speech, the priest cheerfully asserts Jesus never made policy statements against execution -- not even during His own. But the performers seem to be having a great time, and the Squaresville-sitcom vibe (inspired by the likes of Leave It to Beaver takes the edge off the bloodletting, sex, and swearing. Serial Mom doesn't make you feel contaminated for watching it, like Natural Born Killers does, even though the two movies share much in common in criticizing a sicko-crazed media mindset.

Parents should use extreme caution -- especially since John Waters, for his part, does enjoy gore imagery and bad-taste stuff for its own sake, and he gives favorite horror flicks prominent onscreen plugs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fascination with serial killers. How can a law-and-order society like the United States simultaneously make folk heroes out of mass murderers it condemns? Is the media to blame? Is Waters' sitcom-funny take on this pathology part of the problem or part of the solution? Parents can ask kids what they think of serial-killer trading cards, comics, or Web sites.

Movie details

  • In theaters: May 13, 1994
  • On DVD or streaming: May 5, 2008
  • Cast: Kathleen Turner, Ricki Lake, Sam Waterston
  • Director: John Waters
  • Studio: HBO
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 93 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: satirical presentation of strong violence, vulgar language and sexual episodes.

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