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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Don't Look Under the Bed is a Disney TV movie that contains many jumps and scares. Younger children may find the boogeyman (Steve Valentine) too scary -- his prosthetics, makeup, and demeanor are reminiscent of A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddie Krueger. His behavior also starts with playful pranks -- egging a teacher's car, a school bus being flooded -- but escalates into him grabbing a kid from under his bed, taking him into an imaginary world, and keeping him captive in a sack. When Frances (Erin Chambers) and Larry (Ty Hodges) -- who himself is slowly transforming into a boogeyman -- go to his rescue, more peril ensues. This includes a fight between the boogeyman and Larry. Larry is almost pierced by a dramatically extended fingernail before electrocuting the boogeyman -- who survives. Frances' younger brother Darwin (Jake Sakson) is in remission from leukemia, and part of the plot revolves around Frances' guilt at not providing him with her bone marrow. Another key component to the plot is growing up, either too soon or accepting that your childhood is over. There is some tween romance -- flirting and one kiss -- and an adult joke based around the word "bust." But overall, it's all innocent fun, with the only concern being how sensitive young viewers are to scares.
What's the story?
In DON'T LOOK UNDER THE BED, Frances Bacon McCausland (Erin Chambers), a studious and methodical teen, is blamed for the strange and unexplained events taking place in her town. After meeting Larry Houdini (Ty Hodges) -- an imaginary friend who only Frances can see -- she discovers that the person responsible is a boogeyman (Steve Valentine) who has a personal vendetta against her.
Is it any good?
This made-for-TV Disney movie is a fun adventure for tweens who like to be scared. Its TV movie credentials mean it's a little rough around the edges. The supporting cast are hit and miss and the dialogue clumsy -- particularly some of the boogeyman's rhymes, which feel forced. But Chambers' Frances is a likable lead, and younger viewers will find plenty of humor in Hodges' Larry. Valentine's boogeyman is also suitably scary -- if a little too scary for some. Don't Look Under the Bed touches on some poignant and relatable themes. Front and center is the balance between growing up too quickly and recognizing when it's time to say goodbye to your childhood. It's handled admirably, although the subplot around Frances' guilt over her brother Darwin's leukemia feels out of place and even cruel.
It was made in 1999 with a modest budget, and there are far better offerings available in the tween scary genre. Comparisons will be made to Stranger Things and Goosebumps, although it's actually closer to the '90s TV series Eerie, Indiana, both in tone and in atmosphere. But there's a certain nostalgic charm about this Disney scare-fest. Families should close the curtains, snuggle up, and let their imaginations run free. Just don't look under the bed!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the scarier moments in Don't Look Under the Bed. Which scenes did you find most frightening? Why do some people like being scared? Did you feel scared after the movie had finished? How much scary stuff can kids handle?
Discuss the importance of imagination. Why is it important that we have an imagination? Can you give examples of how you use yours?
Saying goodbye is an important theme in the movie. Why can saying goodbye sometimes be difficult? When have you had to say goodbye to someone or something? How did it make you feel?
- On DVD or streaming: October 9, 1999
- Cast: Erin Chambers, Ty Hodges, Robin Riker
- Director: Kenneth Johnson
- Studio: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 9, 2020
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