Tuesday, 05 December 2023



Finally, some good news when it comes to a children’s movie that adults may find equally enjoyable. Based on the beloved best-selling series of books, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy adventure that reveals a hidden, mysterious world around us, one that is found in an area surrounding an old Victorian home in rural New England. The bucolic setting alone suggests the possibility of magical creatures, many of them downright malevolent and bent on visiting destruction on humans unfortunate enough to discover their presence.

You wouldn’t know if from the monsters, goblins and assorted not-so-enchanting creatures, but Spiderwick is an unusual celebration of family bonds. The Grace family finds itself tested by their own conflicts, especially since the recently separated mother Helen (Mary-Louise Parker) decides to uproot the kids from the comfort zone of New York, moving into the isolated, dilapidated Spiderwick Estate. Jared and his brother Simon (both played by Freddie Highmore) and older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) confront the challenges of a new environment.

The rebellious Jared is the most resentful and bitter, remaining anxious to reunite with his mythical good-guy father. From the very moment they move into the aging Victorian home, strange disappearances and accidents start happening.

More precocious than his studious brother, Jared starts poking around the old house, discovering quickly that magical things are truly happening. Poking into an old chest, he stumbles upon a strange and potentially dangerous book written by his great, great-uncle Arthur Spiderwick. The eponymous “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You” reveals what the naturalist discovered when he uncovered a concealed faerie world.

Finding the book turns out to be a Pandora’s box that unleashes an army of goblins and trolls in the service of the crafty, evil ogre Mulgarath (Nick Nolte, looking something like his infamous mug shot), who is desperate to get his hands on the Field Guide because he can use it to destroy his adversaries.

Meanwhile, Jared discovers that not all creatures pose a hostile, ominous threat. One of them lives in the walls of the manor, and he becomes agitated when Jared dares to open the Field Guide after ignoring the portentous warning on its cover.

Thimbletack (voiced by Martin Short) is a scampering imp known as a brownie. Yet, upon being angered, he turns into a boggart, who can only be placated by guzzling honey from a squeeze bottle. Even though his disposition can be a bit uneven, Thimbletack becomes an invaluable ally in the fight against the dangerous goblins.

Another indispensable collaborator is the wily but friendly hobgoblin named Hogsqueal (voiced by Seth Rogen), who has an odd taste for birds and a knack for spitting in the eyes of the children so that they can actually see the invisible creatures.

As the inquisitive siblings are increasingly drawn into conflict with the monstrous creatures while mom is at work, the confrontation escalates to the point that they need to enlist some help. Thus, Mallory and Jared set out on a mission to find great-aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), who long ago was institutionalized because she uncovered the hidden faerie world as she watched her father Arthur construct his “how-to manual.” Fortunately, Lucinda remains lucid enough to provide some useful guidance.

Not surprisingly, Spiderwick exploits its marvelously over-the-top fantasy adventure by realizing a wide range of combative monsters. While many of them look like overgrown toads or reptiles, the nightmarish creatures are decently scary but not overtly frightening. Thus, the violent action that arises from the central front of a pitched battle waged inside the Victorian home does not come across as so scary that it is offensive to the film’s core value of family entertainment. Still, it would seem unrealistic, indeed foolish, to recommend this film for the very young.

The Spiderwick Chronicles, for the most part, inhabits an imaginative world where the kids undertake the serious work of coping with the strange phenomena of goblins and griffins, hobgoblins and trolls, and things that take odd shapes. Freddie Highmore and Sarah Bolger, as the intrepid and plucky siblings, create a rooting interest in their exploits.


More and more, Asian horror films are making their way to the DVD market in the United States. A sleeper hit on the film festival circuit, Nightmare Detective is a terrifying thriller that is driven by the suggestion that suicidal impulses abound.

A young detective investigates a mysterious man who invades his victims’ dreams, convincing them to kill themselves in real life.

Eventually, the detective (Japanese pop singer Hitomi) pursues the killer into the dreams themselves, facing her own darkest fears.

Nightmare Detective weaves a hypnotic narrative that explores terror too sinister and imagery too shocking for the waking world.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


Upcoming Calendar

12.05.2023 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Lakeport City Council
12.06.2023 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
East Region Town Hall
12.09.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
12.09.2023 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Christmas in Middletown
12.10.2023 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Concerts with Conversation: Kennedy Jazz Trio
12.14.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lakeport Blizzard event
12.16.2023 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Kelseyville Wreaths Across America ceremony
12.16.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
12.21.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lakeport Blizzard event

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