A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that R.L. Stine's Monsterville: Cabinet of Souls is clearly intended for savvy kids who enjoy the creepy thrills of overblown monsters popping out from behind curtains, cartoonish demons who possess the innocent, and mustache-twirling villains of immortal proportions. Along with the usual teens-under-siege story line -- in this tale, they're all drawn to an ominous haunted house -- the array of ghouls is all-encompassing: beasts, vampires, zombies, witches, a macabre clown, ghosts, and a chain-saw-wielding giant. The heroes are chased, find themselves trapped in long shadowy halls, open a myriad of mysterious doors, are made to disappear, and fight for their lives against the onslaught of fiends who continually menace them. There's no real brutality here; it's all exaggerated gothic horror. Only the villains meet a ghostly end. To beef up the characters and the stakes, the filmmakers have included a sweet romance with a few kisses, a mildly sexy enchantress, and some teens struggling with their emotions and issues of conscience. Not for little ones.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
R.L. STINE'S MONSTERVILLE: CABINET OF SOULS finds Halloween approaching in Danfield, an American everytown. With the holiday comes the annual Halloween and Harvest Festival, headlined this year by the mysterious Dr. Hysteria's Hall of Horrors, a haunted house of gigantic proportions inhabited by every possible incarnation of monster and ghoul. Then there's the matter of a female teen who went missing about a year ago -- and the new boy in town, a hunk so handsome with a muscle car so decked out, he's hard not to notice. Complicating matters further, the heroic Beth (Dove Cameron, managing to be both strong and terrified) senses and hopes that that her lifelong truest friend, Kellan (a solid Braeden Lemasters), is on the brink of telling her that he wants more than friendship. So when Beth and her buddies head for the carnival, and some of the folks who enter Dr. Hysteria's domain never come out, the terrified but resourceful teen finds herself in a mystery she alone can solve. It's a question of survival and a race against time as Beth faces off against soul-catching immortals; the very creepy Dr. Hysteria and Lilith, his sexy apprentice; and the gothic secrets of the magical Cabinet of Souls itself.
Is it any good?
The scare scenes go by fast, so there's no time to focus on the nonsensical plot and cheesy effects; still the game actors play it for real, so tweens may find it creepy-funny enough. Adults on-screen briefly are appropriately stupid so the kids have no one to reply upon but themselves, and as they do the consequences of their risk-all behavior just get bigger and bigger. By the time one of the teen victims is obviously possessed by a witch and no one in school but the heroine seems to notice, there's no pretense of logic left. The glorious array of monster masks and makeup can't hide the fact that under those costumes and headpieces, actors are trying to carry off freaky behavior by slouching, stomping, roaring, and trying to make art out of walking like a zombie. The filmmakers try to balance the frights with a sweet but predictable romance, and it does help to keep the heroes likable and relatable; from the start, they're easy to root for. As Halloween movies go, it's not much, but for the right audiences it will entertain.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why older kids enjoy movies that are meant to scare them. Do you think these lightweight scare-fests lead to an appreciation for more realistic adult horror films? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Find out the meaning of the term "suspension of disbelief." In what ways were you asked to suspend your disbelief while watching this movie? (One example would be Dr. Hysteria's vast facility appearing and disappearing from the city's festival site.)
What do a tween film's creators hope to accomplish by having the adults involved either be unseen, uninterested, or unintelligent? How might this story have been different if the mayor, the sheriff, or the teacher had been a competent adult? Would there even have been a story?
- On DVD or streaming: September 29, 2015
- Cast: Dove Cameron, Braeden Lemasters, Andrew Kavadas
- Director: Peter DeLuise
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, High School, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: scary images throughout, thematic material, some violence and rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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