Shortly after starting his second year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter starts to hear strange whispers coming from within the walls of the school. Then he, Ron and Hermione come across an ominous message mentioning the ‘Chamber Of Secrets’ scrawled on a wall in blood. The legend of the Chamber of Secrets tells of an heir of Slytherin that controls a monster which resides there. When some of the students are attacked, it appears that the Chamber of Secrets must be opened in order to save them. Without knowing where the entrance is or what lurks within the darkness, Harry must find out the truth of the mystery from those who seem to know more than they are letting on.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Director: Chris Columbus

Is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 161 mins

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson

Genre: Fantasy

REVIEW

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ is the second movie installment in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise as well as the second book in J.K. Rowling’s series about a remarkable boy wizard and his friends who fight against the forces of evil. This time, Harry and co face the dangers of what lurks beneath Hogwarts in the titular Chamber of Secrets and the mysteries surrounding it. While it is scarier than the first movie, there are plenty of lighter moments, including the flying car and one of Ron’s spells spectacularly backfiring so it is still perfect for kids, especially those who are familiar with the books.

The acting of the three young lead actors (Radcliffe, Grint and Watson) has improved well but, as might be expected, Alan Rickman steals the show as Severus Snape, especially when combined with Kenneth Branagh as the egotistical and vain Gilderoy Lockhart. ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ is also the final time that Richard Harris played Professor Dumbledore before his death in 2002 so there is an inevitable touch of poignancy to his performance.

While this is ‘Harry Potter’ and is therefore aimed towards a younger audience, ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ definitely has more of an adult tone than the previous instalment, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, supplanting a more serious atmosphere into the former’s childhood, wide-eyed wonder. Any fan of the story is bound to be entertained but. at over 2 and a half hours long, it may push the patience of some kids.

IS ‘HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Like the first movie, ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ starts in the home of Harry’s Aunt and Uncle who are very mean and nasty to Harry, letting him know that he isn’t wanted. However, because they are so comical in their abuse, Harry is strong enough not to be a victim and simply puts up with their insults until he is able to leave and go to Hogwarts.

During the initial scene, Harry meets Dobby, a house elf who hurts himself whenever he does something wrong, like banging his head against furniture. This is done more for comedy than to show his suffering so most children are likely to find these parts funny and should not be at all distressed. Later in the movie, Dobby tells Harry that he ironed his hands to punish himself and shows the bandages on his hands, however there is no indication of burns or severe damage to Dobby’s skin. Another character treats Dobby terribly, kicking and hitting him badly. This is not done for comedy so some kids may be upset that such a nice character is being harmed in this way.

A short while later when at Hogwarts, Harry begins to hear scary whispers. These whispers say things like ‘I smell blood’, ‘Let me rip you’, ‘Let me kill you’ and ‘Kill, kill, kill!’. This is followed by a message which has been written in blood being found on a wall and the caretaker’s cat hanging by its tail. It initially appears to be dead but it is soon revealed that it is only ‘petrified’ and will therefore recover. The caretaker is very upset and, thinking that Harry is the one responsible, attacks him saying ‘I’ll kill you!’.

During a Quidditch match, Harry is hit badly by one of the larger balls which breaks his arm. He holds it to his body and is clearly in pain. Another character tries to help and uses magic to heal him, unfortunately the spell goes wrong and all the bones are taken out of Harry’s arm which goes floppy and looks horrible. This is unlikely to be distressing for children but it is quite unexpected and could be a bit of a ‘gross-out’ moment for them. Another moment like this is when one of Ron’s spells backfires, making slugs ooze out of his mouth.

In order to find out some information, Harry and Ron follow lots of spiders into the nearby forest. As they go further, larger spiders appear until they meet Aragog, a huge spider who is not overly friendly. The spiders begin to surround the pair and attack. The dialogue makes it clear that the spiders want to eat them. This scene could be very scary for children, especially any arachnophobes.

One scene includes a huge snake which lunges and attacks Harry. It is quite a long scene, lasting around 5-10 minutes and is rather intense all the way through. As the tone of the movie has been building up throughout, children should have adjusted to be able to cope with this scene, however it may be too scary for younger kids, especially if they have struggled with the film up until this point.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

It has to be said that the filming and subject matter in ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ is noticeably darker than ‘The Philospher’s Stone’ and it therefore might be a little scary for children who have come to expect a light but exciting film. However, it never becomes terrifying and should be ok for most kids. As it is much less light-hearted than its predecessor, we feel that kids under the age of 6 may struggle with the scarier moments.

  • Violence:  2/5 (the finale of the movie is quite violent but, as previously mentioned, most kids are likely to have adjusted to the darker tone and should not be too upset by this scene)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (one character believes that they are dying as they have been poisoned, however this fear is short-lived and the character is fine)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5
  • Sexual Content: 0/5       
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some infrequent, mild cursing. One character is called a name which deeply offends them)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of friendship, loyalty, standing up to bullies, having the courage to help and protect those in need and intelligence being as important as strength.
  • Keep watching until the end of the credits for an extra short scene.

Words by Laura Record

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