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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes teamwork and honesty. Encourages strong parent-teen bonds and sharing truths, no matter how uncomfortable they are to discuss.
Positive Role Models
Kit is inquisitive, sensitive. She's brave enough to look into creepier aspects of boarding school and stand up to school authorities. Despite her abrasive demeanor, Veronica is courageous, selfless when she and Kit are about to be caught. Jules and even Professor Sinclair attempt to help the girls -- but not until the end. Kit's mother, stepfather rush to her rescue.
Violence & Scariness
High body count. One suicide. Several people die in a fire, and one person is shown burning to death. Jump-worthy scenes of ghosts/possessed people screaming. Someone is crushed to death. Young women seem to be possessed and act like they're out of control of their bodies. A character slaps and slaps another character to revive her. An older woman pushes and hurts students to discipline them. Fights between the girls are broken up.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The students are all attracted to Jules (one girl says "I have a boner" after he plays the piano); he and Kit nearly kiss but are interrupted.
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Strong language/insults includes "bulls--t," "s--t," "holy s--t," "boner," "douche," "bitch/bitches," "stupid," "nothing," "crazy," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke cigarettes on more than one occasion. Adults drink wine at dinner.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Down a Dark Hall is based on the classic gothic YA novel by Lois Duncan. The story follows Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), one of five students at the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School that's run by headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman). The book isn't as widely read now as it was a few decades ago, but the movie should still appeal to fans of scary stories and boarding school tales. Expect moderate supernatural horror, including a couple of jump-worthy scares, several deaths -- via suicide, fire, stabbing, building collapse, and more -- and some strong language (mostly "s--t" and "bitch"). Romance is limited to a near-kiss and flirting, so it's really the supernatural violence that's most disturbing. Messages center on teamwork and honesty. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This supernatural thriller is just campy and creepy enough to entertain young teens who are interested in ghost stories. Generation X and older viewers who remember Duncan's book may wonder how the writers managed to maintain the isolation the girls felt when the setting was updated to current (read: phone/internet-heavy) times, but Madame Duret keeps phones under lock and key and requires the girls do old-school library research without computers. Robb and the other young actresses, particularly Moroles as angry Veronica, Russell as Ashley the suddenly unstoppable poet, and Fuhrman as blossoming mathematician Izzy, do a fine job conveying how off-putting the school's eerieness is -- especially in the dark.
The French-accented Thurman is delightfully campy, as is Rebecca Front as Blackwood's housekeeper/cook/disciplinarian Mrs. Olonsky. The frights are surprisingly real in a few scenes, even though the ending is somewhat more tragic -- and less satisfying -- than audiences may be used to in the genre. Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés has a knack for depicting the macabre, and while the subject matter of ghoulish happenings in ominous old estates isn't original, it's still the sort of fright that teens will enjoy experiencing together.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.