Wait Till Helen Comes

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Wait Till Helen Comes Movie Poster Image
Scary book-based ghost story is nonsensical and loud.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 87 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Ghosts exist and try to kill people so they can have company. They write on mirrors and give children jewelry.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teenager Molly was traumatized by her father's suicide and now is coping with her mother's new husband, a stepsister with mental problems, and a move to a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. Despite real problems and oblivious parents, she manages to be remarkably responsible and decent to her troubled stepsister, eventually saving her life.  


A girl is seen from behind walking deliberately, fully clothed, into a lake and submerging. In flashback a young girl accidentally locks her parents in the cellar, then knocks over a kerosene lamp that causes a deadly fire. The parents are heard yelling to be let out as the girl runs into a lake to put out the fire on her clothes. Doors of a haunted house fly open by themselves, allowing swarms of either locusts or bats to enter and demolish the place. This is accompanied by loud sound effects and scary music. A girl deliberately walks into a lake in order to kill herself and be with her new ghost friend. Her older sister jumps in and rescues her.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A girl takes swigs from her stepdad's whisky bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wait Till Helen Comes, a 2016 Canadian horror-drama based on the novel of the same name by Mary Downing Hahn, has plenty to scare kids. There's a house haunted by a ghost that lures children to drown themselves, lots of loud and mysteriously shutting doors, swarms of locusts, and a revelation of three fiery deaths long ago. Children who have lost their parents cope with the trauma. Issues of mental illness and suicide are raised. A girl takes swigs from her stepdad's whisky bottle.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymovie review 102 January 27, 2019
im actually 13 and this movie isnt like the book at all (at least for me) kinda disappointing compared to the book
Adult Written byMartinaa3101 May 10, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byButterflyperson7 March 27, 2020

Not like the book

Mary downing Hahn is one of my fav authors and I feel she did a really good job with the book,so it was disappointing that the movie didn’t give me the same ide... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGappy May 21, 2020

Nothing like the book.

It sucked. I didn't like it. It was nothing like the book.

What's the story?

Mix teenage angst and horror and you get WAIT TILL HELEN COMES. Molly (Sophie Nelisse), who is 14, is a traumatized person of substance. She thinks about life and writes thoughtfully in a diary. Yes, she rolls her eyes when her mother (Maria Bello) makes a misstep but she isn't a bad kid. It seems as if psychiatrists and sleep medication have played roles in her life since her father's suicide and she has retreated into isolation to cope with her heartbreak. She and her family -- her younger brother Michael and Mom's new husband Dave (Callum Keith Rennie) -- move into a big old former church (complete with cross) in the middle of nowhere, which dark music warns us is a perfect spot for horror. The fact that Dave's own traumatized young daughter, Heather (Isabele Nelisse), is picked up from an institution to join them at the house is another reminder that eerie things lie ahead. Heather is fragile, still recovering from the death of her mother, which she may have accidentally caused. Of course, the house is haunted, but only Molly and Heather are in the know and, also of course, they tell no adults. Furniture moves on its own. The TV turns itself on. Doors fly open to alarming and loud music. Whispers are heard. A girl tries to drown herself but is saved. A story about a lethal fire more than a century ago and many missing little girls since entrances the the stepsisters until they learn what it all means.   

Is it any good?

According to the distributor, this movie is "a scary ghost story for children not allowed at PG-13 and R-rated movies." In other words, it's specifically targeted at a pretty limited audience -- kids under 13. For parents who worry about overexposure to profanity and sex, Wait Till Helen Comes will trigger no alarm bells. However, just because the movie doesn't have cursing or nudity doesn't mean it's right for tweens. Nightmares are likely to be generated by nasty black flying things and ghosts luring children to drown themselves. Caution is urged. This may be too intense for many kids.

Ghost stories are always problematic. Why do the ghosts want to scare people? Why do they kill people? What good does more dead people do them? Don't look for answers here. In this case, a 19th century girl died in an accident and, for generations to come, she keeps drowning other girls, supposedly so she can have company. Are there no other already dead people she can hang out with in the netherworld?  Even crazier is that the haunting problem is finally solved when Molly opens a stuck cellar door, freeing the ghost's dead parents' spirits from where they died to rise into the night sky in swirling white mists of scariness. But wait. Ghosts walk through walls, right? How does a measly cellar door hold back any self-respecting spirit? For that matter, how come we don't all regularly see swirling spirits at funerals? At cemeteries? In hospitals? Sigh. The great Maria Bello's talents are wasted here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Molly didn't bother telling her mother that she and her stepsister were seeing a ghost and other supernatural phenomena in Wait Till Helen Comes. Do you think she was worried her mom wouldn't believe her?

  • Heather's mom died because of a mistake Heather made. Do you think Heather feels guilty? Do you think Heather was put into an institution partly because her dad blamed her for the death?

  • Do think ghosts live among us? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love spooky fun

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