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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 The Birds is the classic 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film in which flocks of birds begin attacking the inhabitants of a small California coastal town. While certainly not the gore-fest of so many contemporary horror films, there are some disturbing scenes, including a shot of a man found dead of a bird attack with his eyes pecked out, a man killed after accidentally tossing a match onto a gasoline spill and becoming engulfed in flames, as well as bird attacks on children. However the horror and suspense derive primarily not from the blood and killing but from a slowly ratcheted tension devoid of the usual background music cues so prevalent in most horror films when a character unknowingly (and perhaps foolishly) gets killed. There is frequent cigarette smoking, and characters are often shown drinking, including a scene in a bar where a man is obviously drunk as he rants about his hatred of birds and then finishes his drink and leaves to give a ride to a panic-stricken woman and her kids. "Damn" is heard.
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What's the story?
In an age when special effects just aren't so special, the matte paintings and animation that create the attack scenes in THE BIRDS are admittedly both tame and lame. Yet this classic shocker is still unnerving, laced with shots that haunt you after you've switched off the TV. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren, a textbook example of Hitch's cool blondes) impulsively follows a bachelor, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), up to his hometown, Bodega Bay, for a weekend jaunt. But things go quickly awry as thousands of crows, gulls, sparrows, and other birds flock over Bodega Bay and relentlessly attack, and even kill, its residents.
Is it any good?
THE BIRDS is quite talky and slow; the film runs for a good 45 minutes or so before anything the slightest bit odd happens. But once the birds get going, this is a real nail-biter. The birds attack at first with no warning, felling kids at an outdoor birthday party. Before long, they have trapped Melanie and Mitch's little sister and mother (Veronica Cartwright and Jessica Tandy, respectively) in the Brenner home, and it seems nothing can stop them from drilling and pecking their way in by the thousands. Although it sounds silly, in this movie, it's not.
Parents should know that this film is an excellent choice for families who love horror films. This might seem a bit tame for kids weaned on slasher flicks, but once they get into it, you might find them screaming for their teddy bears.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about respecting animals and their habitats. Why do the birds attack humans?
Hitchcock is considered the master of suspense, never showing violence but always implying it. Do you find movies scarier with or without on-screen gore?
How is background music often used in horror movies, especially when something is about to happen? How is this different from The Birds, in which no background music is used?
For kids who love suspense and chills
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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.