Australian Council on Children and the Media

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase

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Not suitable under 9; parental guidance to 12 (scary scenes, violence, mild themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase
  • a review of Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 October 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 9 Not suitable due to violence, scary scenes, themes and mild coarse language.
Children aged 9–12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and mild themes.
Children over the age of 12 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence, mild sexuality
Length 89 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase is a movie based on the 1939 book of the same name by Carolyn Keene (a pseudonym created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate). It is the second novel in the popular Nancy Drew mystery series. This movie is set in modern times and Nancy Drew and her father have moved from Chicago to the small town of River Heights following the death of her mother. Nancy misses her friends and her life in Chicago but keeps herself entertained by fighting social injustices with rebellious tactics that sometimes get her into trouble. One day she overhears an eccentric older woman telling the Sherriff about the ghosts that are haunting her old house. Intrigued, Nancy offers to help the woman discover the source of the hauntings and arranges to stay a night in the house. When night falls, strange things begin to happen and the night quickly descends into a spooky and disorientating nightmare. When she wakes up in the morning, Nancy is even more determined to discover exactly what is going on in the house. She and her friends put their heads together and use powers of deduction to unravel the mystery.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a parent; Social justice; Cyber-bullying; Supernatural; Mystery; Crime; Friendship.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • A car tries to run Nancy down in a dark alley. Nancy is on her skateboard, but the car catches up with her and she is cornered. A man gets out and threatens her violently. He says, “I’m not a violent man, but I will hurt people if I have to”.
  • When Nancy tells her father about the car, her father shouts in anger, “I’m going to kill this guy!”.
  • Nancy is held around her throat by man in a pig mask.
  • Nancy’s father and the old lady are held prisoner and tied to chairs using cable ties.
  • One of the villains uses chloroform to drug the Deputy Sherriff and steal his gun.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There is a haunting scene which children will find particularly scary. It includes horror/supernatural elements such as lights flickering on and off, a chair being dragged across the room by an invisible force, a floating man wearing a scary pig-face mask which glows red, and a cloud of smoke which takes shape.
  • The girls discover a hidden staircase in the house, it is dark and spooky.
  • The legend of why the house might be haunted is discussed, and it includes bodies being buried in walls.
  • A girl screams in horror because she sees what she describes as a “pig man” looking in at her from the window.
  • Nancy’s father is violently kidnapped. Nancy watches him being shoved into a car and she is very afraid for his safety.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group will also find the above-mentioned scenes scary.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may still find some of the above-mentioned scenes scary.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • iPhones.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • An older woman describes her past career as a burlesque dancer and talks about her various romantic partners, calling them her “gentleman callers”.
  • A teenage boy is seen in the gym trying to chat up girls in a sleazy way and ogling them as they work out.
  • Nancy’s father hugs his friend and Nancy says, “Ew…get a room!”
  • There is some very mild flirtation between Nancy and the Deputy Sherriff.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A teenage boy is seen half undressed and in the gym shower room.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Several scenes of characters who have been ‘drugged’ with a hallucinogenic chemical.
  • Nancy accuses someone of ‘drinking on the job’.

Coarse language

There is frequent but fairly mild language in this movie, including:

  • Butt.
  • Son of a….
  • Jesus Christ.
  • “You’re not as big a tool as I thought you were”.

In a nutshell

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase breathes fresh life into the Nancy Drew mysteries and brings her rebellious and spunky character to a new audience. This film is likely to appeal to tweens who love a little bit of a scare and the thrill of a mystery to solve. Parents should know that there are one or two very scary moments (which are resolved quickly), some violence, and fairly frequent (mild) coarse language. For this reason, it is not suitable for children under the age of nine. This film may inspire children to get into reading the Nancy Drew book series.

The main messages from this movie are that it is important to take action when you come up against social injustice, and that things are not always as they seem.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Standing up against bullies.
  • Using powers of deduction, rationale and logic to solve complex problems.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Cyberbullying.
  • Judging someone’s character by the way they look.
  • Breaking the law, even for a good cause.

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