ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to our youth through you,
their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

Spooky House (1999), PG
Analysis Date: April 19, 2002
CAP Score: 87
CAP Influence Density: 0.23

MinMax: -29

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NOTE: If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

SPOOKY HOUSE (PG) -- There are a lot of Max's (and Maxine's) out there with nowhere to go ...

Director(s): William Sachs
Producer(s): Anthony Esposito, Kirk Friedman, Richard Houghton, William Sachs
Written by/Screenplay: Margaret Sachs,William Sachs
Cinematography/Camera: Thomas Burstyn
Music: Garry Schyman
Film Editing: Jeremy Presner
Casting: Elissa Myers

In his final performance, The Great Zamboni's (Ben Kingsley) wife partner disappears. Shortly thereafter, a jaguar appears on his doorstep. There is a plot connection there. Hold on to it. This is a 1999 movie but it was shown at a local Fort Worth, Texas theater on April 19, 2002. The CAP final score of 87 places this movie at the bottom of the scoring range for G-rated movies (100 to 87), one point above the PG scoring range (86 to 68). And there was no sexual programming, not even innuendo, nor use of foul language noted.

The "magic" of Ben Kingsley is brought to the kidshow genre. Masterful as usual, Kingsley takes the role by the horns and leads the cast into a heart-warming excursion of a little boy and his four friends - and his enemies - through a old spooky house ... of love. Real love, not the Hollywood version of it. More on that at the end of this Summary/Commentary.

Six or seven year old Max (Matt Weinberg) is about to be taken away to an orphanage since the last of his two parents, his mom, died of an illness. Max is searching everywhere for answers and finally finds them in the most unlikely place one would expect. Max's four friends, Beans (Ronald Joshua Scott), Prescott (Simon Baker), Yuri (Jason Fuchs) and Zoe (Chaz Monet) do their best to comfort their friend Max and themselves, but the impending separation always invades any attempts to give comfort.

Zoe finds a little goat for a pet but three neighborhood teen thugs, Mona (Katharine Isabelle), Mike the Mouth (Myles Ferguson) and Dumb Dave (Kyle Labine) won't let her keep it. The three thugs keep popping up and repeatedly steal the goat. We find that the three punks are being taught by a crime boss wannabe named Boss (Mercedes Ruehl) how to steal [Hab. 2:12, Ex. 20:15, Luke 17:2]. Running for safety, the goat runs into a secluded entrance to the basement of an old house, the old spooky-looking house where the "Spooky Guy" lives. It appears to be the standard haunted house with all the trappings, but in reality it is the home of a recluse prestidigitator, The Great Zamboni. Chasing after the goat into the spooky house, the five kids are led into every imaginable house-of-horrors trapping. Max's pet frog also gets into the act of leading the kids into trouble in the spooky house. Topping off the "haunted house" fearfulness is a jaguar named Shadow, the jaguar that appeared on Zamboni's doorstep after his wife disappeared.

After a series of escapades through all the neat gadgets and trinkets and trappings, Max sees through the grouchiness of Zamboni and systematically etches away the exterior of the bitterness and the "hates kids" veneer. The last thing Zamboni said just before his wife and partner disappeared was "I hate children." She wanted children. He did not.

Even after all of Max's attempts to melt Zamboni, all seems lost as Max is taken away to the orphanage. Not completely cold and heartless, Zamboni agrees to give a performance to the orphanage. It is after that performance that two very special things happen. But I am not going to reveal all of the plot and secrets of this very fine show for kids of all ages.

All portrayals of "magic" in Spooky House are illusionism and slight of hand. No witchcraft, no sorcery. All prestidigitation. There is some suggestion of shape-shifting but it is so ambiguous a point reduction could not be justified, so ambiguous that there is likely no danger of implanting thoughts or desires of experimentation with witchcraft or sorcery. There is nothing evil or sinister about Spooky House. The most dastardly thing about Spooky House is the bullying and tormenting by the three teen thugs. There is one instance of gunfire to kill and a number of breaking and entering episodes and kids out at night alone, but beyond that (in my opinion) there is no significant danger regarding implantation of evil for your children in Spooky House. The listing in the Findings/Scoring section will tell all about the content of this film so you can make your own informed decision whether it is suitable for your children or not.

At the risk of revealing the ending, I will tell you this film is indeed heart-warming and touching and that I can relate to it since it is about a little boy with nowhere to go. Our Lord led to my wife and I 24 little kids that, for a while, had no place to go, and seven little kids who had no place to go at all. With experience such as that I can tell with with great credibility that the only difference between love for a biological son or daughter and love for an adopted son or daughter is the words. Try it! Really give it some prayerful thought. There are a lot of Max's (and Maxine's) out there with nowhere to go ... by no fault of their own.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Hab. 2:12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by crime! [Though no bloodshed was noted in this movie, the 'city/town' could be thought of as a crime gang.]
  • Ex. 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.

    *******Food for Thought*******
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

    Spooky House (1999) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • implication of death by explosion
  • teens torching private property
  • threats, bullyings, tomentings
  • trespassing, repeatedly
  • firearm threat of a child
  • a single gunshot to kill

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • belly tattoo on teen girl
  • name-calling
  • feigning injury to cover theft
  • big kids stealing pet of smaller kids
  • lie to cover participation in theft
  • teaching/coaching kids to steal

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • initial talk of evil spirits
  • a single use of God's name in vain without the four letter expletive
  • celebration of Halloween

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • none noted

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    NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our nearly seven years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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