Scary Movies for Mothers and Daughters

My daughters (ages 8 and 10 years old) don’t scare easily.  I am not exactly sure how that came to pass but I expect it had something to do with me nursing my eldest as an infant while catching up with my recorded episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer “ and “Angel”. Perhaps babies take in more of their surroundings than we realize. Early exposure to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” may also be responsible. I believe they were 4 and 2 years old when I popped it into the DVD player and watched it anxiously with them, ready to turn it off at the first sign of discomfort. They were enraptured and did not find it scary at all. In fact they were delighted by the singing and dancing. I should have suspected they would be fine with it.

My first clue regarding their fortitude should have been when we sat down to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and warned them that parts might be scary. Of course I was alluding to the creepy child catcher that haunted MY CHILDHOOD – flying monkeys from Oz had nothing on him, as far as I was concerned.  I reassured them that if they wanted me to stop the movie, I would. But no, they had no idea what I was talking about, asking me “what part was scary, Mommy?” with slightly disappointed voices.  It is with pride that I can say that my daughters were 4 (really 1 month shy of 5) and 2 ½ years old when we went to the theatre to see “The Corpse Bride” . It was my youngest daughter’s favorite movie until she saw Avatar, in the theatre 3 different ways (3D, 2D, Imax 3D).

Suffice it to say they have a high tolerance for scary movies. They love thrillers as well and often ask me to rewatch some of their favorites. In the past we have enjoyed Poltergeist, Ghostbusters, The Sixth Sense and the Aliens Quadrilogy. So last night, when they expressed a desire for something scary, I decided to try them out with Psycho (1960). They were familiar with Alfred Hitchcock in passing because I love reading aloud to them a series of detective novels from my childhood called Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.

I had watched “Psycho” for the first time about 20 years ago and had not watched it since. One evening I found myself in my residence dormitory’s TV lounge. Everyone was away on spring break but my university program still had classes that week and I had a different scheduled break. Not an ideal way to watch a psychological thriller, especially when your room is at the complete opposite end of a long dark corridor. I enjoyed it then, but I ran very fast to my room afterward. Boy was I spooked.

Of course, my yard stick for sizing up scary movies has changed a lot since then. I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up to my more “sophisticated” tastes;)  Well I was pleasantly surprised. There is a reason that it is considered a masterpiece. It builds a tale of suspense that throws you a curveball after the infamous shower scene. It prompted my older daughter to cry out “Hey, who is this movie about?” and I just chuckled and said “What is the title?” Certainly, in 1960, the plot twist was not as commonplace as it is now. I can only imagine how shocking it was at the time.

The film starts with the story of Marion Crane (Vivian Leigh) whose boyfriend Sam cannot afford to marry her as he is divorced with alimony payments that leave him broke. Marion is entrusted to deposit $40 000 in cash on behalf of one of her boss’s clients. It is an amount the odious man can clearly afford to lose. Who wouldn’t be tempted under the circumstance? She embezzles the money and leaves town. Soon enough, she finds herself at Bates motel and in the company of Norman (Anthony Perkins), the creepy proprietor. This odd young man has a bizarre relationship with his nasty invalid mother. Just how bizarre becomes a major theme and is summed up in this quote from the movie “Well-uh, a boy’s best friend is his mother.” Just as Marion has a change of heart and decides to return home, the movie takes a quick detour, never to return to the road it started on. From that point on it is all about Norman and his mother.

Whether this film is truly horror or merely a psychological thriller is debatable/ splitting hairs. This film evokes fear and that is enough for me to call it horror. Gore is not an absolute requirement in my book. In fact I can name gory titles that are not horror, “300” comes to mind.

This movie was artfully made and benefitted from its low-budget style. The black and white film added to the creepy quotient. It was deliberately paced; some might have called it a bit slow, but not me. It allowed us time to get to know and subsequently relate to Marion and Norman.  It had riveting performances by Anthony Perkins (Norman) and Vivian Leigh (Marion). The dialogue was sparse but witty at times, especially when Marion and Norman were chatting. The musical score remains iconic. The film’s biggest weakness was the last act with the psychobabble explanation. It was unnecessary and long winded. But that’s a minor complaint because I had already had my mind blown by all the ways this film was well crafted.

My girls were creeped out by the end but liked it all the same. After the credits rolled, they were still in the mood for scary stuff so I dusted off my X-files DVD’s and we watched one of my favorite freak of the week episodes. “Squeeze” from season one featured the character  Tooms, a mutant who stretched himself and broke into homes via duct work and fed on human liver. Ah mother /daughter time was never this good when I was a kid.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. maroon5gurl88
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 00:00:21

    I grew up being able to watch any movie (my mom watched movies with sex first to make sure but horror and action films were given to me). I think the movies that terrified me the most as a kid where the Gothic ones like Edward Scissorhands and The Witches especially…films where the pervading darkness was scarier (that’s not to say Child’s Play didn’t screw me up for a few years)


    • annhall
      Mar 06, 2012 @ 07:02:08

      I like your mom’s approach. Growing up I did not have a role model that I wanted to emulate and had to figure things out. I grew up with a parent who thought Ginger from Gilligan’s Island was inappropriate viewing and would just turn off the TV with no discussion. I am most concerned about graphic violence/cruelty/torture especially towards humans. I am a bit more lenient if it is toward monsters/zombies, or aliens. They handled The Lord of the Rings trilogy with no problems over a year ago, so I use that as my ruler. As for sex, kids are curious and talking about it as early as grade 1. I want my kids to know they can ask me or their dad about it any time. I preview for it too but let them watch what most things that are allowed on network TV.


  2. manonmona
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 04:41:47

    Reblogged this on Espacio de MANON.


  3. Kira Turner
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 10:30:26

    Maybe your kids could influence my kids to watch these great classic movies – the are so much more biased towards the new.


  4. annhall
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 08:25:43

    The next time you come over (that would be tomorrow), I will use my technique of having something on the kitchen TV that may suck them in. I used an Our Gang (aka Little Rascals) DVD last week and my girls did not comment on it being old or B&W. They just sat down, started laughing and complained when I turned it off so we could eat our supper. Episodes of I Love Lucy work as well. Starting slow with comedy is a gentle approach that may be worth a shot.


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