The Scream Team

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
The Scream Team Movie Poster Image
Zany ghost adventure deals with death and the afterlife.
  • NR
  • 2002
  • 88 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie's purpose is entertainment rather than education.

Positive Messages

The movie teaches the importance of family. A strong message is not to fear what you don't understand, and to show empathy and compassion -- even to those who seem lost. Love and understanding are more powerful than anger and hate.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters -- brother and sister Ian and Claire -- put themselves in danger to help their grandfather, though they are reckless, lie, trespass, break into a home, bet, and steal in the process. Ian is brave and resourceful, while Claire is intelligent and empathetic. Their father is distant and belittles the small town, though changes his behavior during the movie.

Violence & Scariness

Death is referenced throughout and a scene takes place at a memorial. There are numerous ghosts -- including one "evil" ghost, who throws fireballs and sets places alight. Eerie happenings include faces stuck in walls and eyes popping out of a ghost's head. There is mention of being burned at the stake and the disembowelment of a pumpkin. A character is hit in the face with a tree branch, another falls down a mineshaft, and a snarling dog attacks.

Sexy Stuff

Language includes "Jesus," "freak," "little beggars," and "butt."


A character tries to manipulate a local legend in order to open a theme park and monetize it.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Scream Team is a Disney fantasy-adventure TV movie that deals with issues of death and the afterlife in a light -- and often humorous -- tone. Though there are ghosts in it, many are friendly. Even the "evil" ghost, who throws fire and feeds off souls, is only likely to scare the very young due to a mixture of bad special effects and lack of immediate peril. The death of the grandfather and implication that the mother has passed away will be upsetting for some. There is some mild language such as "freak," "little beggars," and "butt." "Jesus" is also used as an exclamation. The two children, Ian (Mark Rendall) and Claire (Kat Dennings) are adventurous and inquisitive, but take a lot of risks, lie, break the rules and even the law. However, the overall story is a fun adventure about fighting an infamous local ghost, saving the town and helping their grandfather to pass on to the afterlife -- ultimately letting him go. Family is a central theme, and the characters are taught that compassion and understanding are stronger than anger and revenge.

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What's the story?

In THE SCREAM TEAM, a family returns to the small town of Steeple Falls after the death of their grandfather. Brother and sister Ian (Mark Rendall) and Claire (Kat Dennings) share fond memories, but their father just wants to get back to the city. When Ian discovers that his grandfather's soul has been unable to cross over, he follows a ghostlike spirit to the local "Soul Retrieval Center," where the recently deceased are ushered through a mirror into the afterlife. There he and Claire team up with ghosts Ed (Eric Idle), Jumper (Tommy Davidson) and Mariah (Kathy Najimyto) to rescue their grandfather from the evil clutches of Zachariah Kull (Kim Coates), a man burned at the stake by locals centuries ago, who is hell-bent on revenge. With Halloween preparations afoot and the town preparing for a festival in honor of Kull's legend, can the "Scream Team" stop Kull before it's too late?

Is it any good?

Mark Rendall makes an energetic and likable hero and a young Kat Jennings brings the requisite sarcasm and eye-rolling to the character of his savvy, long-suffering sister in this Disney TV movie. The family relationships in The Scream Team are believable and intricate, though clearly set up to facilitate the moral messages -- of a father repeating his own father's mistakes, of the importance of truth and understanding, and learning to let go.

The plot itself is a little more convoluted than it needs to be, and often both the scares and the comedy fail to land. The horror element particularly suffers from the cheap special effects, which are so unrealistic that they feel silly rather than scary. Monty Python's Idle and his ghost buddies offer a zany comedy element that will amuse younger viewers, but it is the most simple devices, such as whispering voices and objects moving on their own that prove far eerier than the big set pieces or the finale. The themes of death may upset some, but the adventure itself is light and entertaining, and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Talk to your kids about ...

  •  Families can talk about the scarier moments in The Scream Team. 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 how death and the afterlife are presented in the film. How does it compare to other movies? How can movies help us talk about death? 

  • Talk about the relationships between the characters in the Carlyle family. What are the similarities and differences between the different dynamics? Which of the siblings did you most identify with and why?

  • The movie reveals the reasons behind the bad guy's actions. Can you think of other times when bad things become less scary when they are understood?

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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