WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

Popular Christian fiction author Frank Peretti finally makes it to celluloid as screenwriters Kathy Mackel and Stan Foster turn his novel Hangman's Curse into a (nearly) straight-to-video movie. Peretti also won a small acting role, turning in the film’s only noteworthy performance as a "mad scientist" determined to save the day through superior chemical analysis.

The story begins with a hanging. Shadows on the wall reveal that a teenage boy has gone through with his desperate, life-ending plan. Since he does it at school, the entire student body is, naturally, traumatized, and a mystique begins to build around the now-expired Abel Frye. Then students begin to hallucinate and fall ill. But not just any students—jocks. While alive, Abel was bullied mercilessly by the athletic types at the school, so now that they’re, one by one, falling victim to a strange malady, it’s quickly established that they’re being cursed by Abel’s ghost. (Satanic worship being carried on by the school’s "goth" crowd only serves to confirm suspicions.) Enter Nate, Sarah, Elijah and Elisha Springfield, all members of a family that travels the country on assignment from the Veritas Group, investigating unexplained supernatural phenomena. Sixteen-year-old brother and sister Elijah and Elisha go undercover at the school, attempting to blend in with the locals and extract the real reason this high school has been cursed.

positive elements: The Springfield family has become a crime-fighting machine, devoted to truth and justice. Though fixated on the dark side of the paranormal, subtle clues reveal that their motivations are rooted in the Light. Elijah and Elisha exchange playful barbs from time to time, but they’ve always got each other’s backs when the going gets tough.

Tempted to take the family car without permission (and without a license), Elijah does the right thing and zooms away ... on his trusty scooter.

Bullying is condemned as the story navigates the chasm sometimes present between juvenile cliques. While the movie’s treatment of bullying is more two-dimensional than one might want (and the best deterrent it proffers is that victims might rise up and destroy you for humiliating them), the basic point comes across loud and clear.

Key characters are shown cleaned up and reformed at the end of the movie. The inclusion of one suicide (and two attempts) will upset some viewers, but the portrayals are intended to give value to life, not death.

spiritual content: Sarah kids her husband about him not having known how to pray when they first met (the implication is that now he does). Then, when Elisha develops something of a crush on one of the boys at school, Mom welcomes him with open arms even though (because?) he’s spiritually underdeveloped just like her husband was years earlier. The family and its newfound friends hold hands and pray over a picnic lunch in a concluding scene. In trouble and fighting for her life, Elisha quotes Psalm 23 and sings "Jesus Loves Me."

Conversely, a pentagram, animal skulls and an effigy of Abel form the focal points for teenage Satan worshippers who are shown parading around in black robes and masks. One teen calls on the "power of Abel." Some of those involved in the rituals later forsake them, but no clear indication is given that God is involved in their transformation.

sexual content: A forward classmate steals a kiss from Elisha. But while she seems to like him, she reprimands him for "taking liberties." That same classmate thanks God that Elisha is "so hot."

violent content: Abel’s suicide launches the movie (shadows show his limp torso dangling in midair). One of the "goth" guys attempts to follow Abel’s example, and manages to go so far as putting a rope around his neck and stepping off a ledge before friends save him. When kids succumb to the mysterious "curse," they see scary visions that cause them to writhe around on the ground and scream. Elisha falls from a great height, breaking her leg. To get away from an attacker, she struggles with him, bites him on the arm and kicks him in the crotch. In a later confrontation, the same attacker comes at her with a knife. Firearms make appearances at a drug bust (working undercover and pretending to be a dealer, Nate puts a shotgun to a teen’s head). Abel’s sister also brandishes a gun, jabbing it into Elijah’s throat. "Jocks" are shown intimidating, roughing up and bullying "goths" and "geeks" at school. Sticking up for a new friend, Elijah slams one of the bullies into a table. Nate twists a man’s hand to the point of breaking his fingers. There is talk of a stabbing.

Suspenseful moments involve "things that go bump in the night," scary masks and eerie audio effects. Hordes of marauding spiders ratchet up the movie’s creepy vibe. In a climactic scene, a boy crushes one of the poisonous beasties against his chest, making it bite him.

crude or profane language: Elijah blurts, "What the ...," and then stops himself before finishing the thought.

drug and alcohol content: No drugs are used or exchanged onscreen, but a teen boy is apprehended for selling them at school.

other negative elements: Elijah tells a "little white lie" to his sister.

conclusion: Here are the unvarnished facts about Hangman's Curse: It's a B-grade horror flick that melds elements of Arachnophobia, Pax TV's short-lived exploration of supernatural phenomena Mysterious Ways (or ABC's even shorter-lived Miracles) and an auditorium full of diehard Marilyn Manson fans. Then, to celebrate, it concludes with a rousing rendition of "Doxology," a stunt that feels about as fluid as postscripting Scream 3 with the "Hallelujah Chorus." On the plus side, this film is exceedingly tame by today’s "horror movie" standards, and the creators went out of their way to avoid gore, profanity and sexual content. "If we can get something out there that will still scare the kids, and give them a thrill, but give the parents a better choice, that's what we're trying to do," says Hangman's Curse media representative Melany Ethridge.

When an author builds up a strong reputation in the book world, it’s hard as cinder blocks to make a smooth transition to the big screen. One has only to look as far as secular horror maven Stephen King and his early stabs at big screen glory to see just how hard. So it's beyond this critic's conscience to spend too much time weighing the cinematic plusses and minuses of Hangman's Curse. But fans of Peretti's supercharged supernatural novels (especially his early ones), know that he practically reinvented the contemporary Christian understanding of supernatural conflict. And they’ll want to know why his first movie doesn’t emphatically pin the tail on the demon. So Plugged In asked Mr. Peretti that exact question: "Why doesn’t Hangman’s Curse make a big deal out of spiritual warfare?" He responded, "I’m not really writing about spiritual conflict in the same way I was years ago. Hangman’s Curse [published in 2001] never was a book about spiritual warfare. It was a book about bullying. I guess one way to look at it is that we’re almost doing these movies in reverse. The choice of Hangman’s Curse for the first movie was purely a matter of money, of ability, of resources."

In Frank Peretti’s mind, Hangman’s Curse isn’t about creating an evangelistic tool. It’s about getting a thriller out there that’s not chock full of blood, lust and foul language. And it’s about confronting viewers with the pain bullying causes. Anyone looking for anything more will be sorely disappointed.

Advertisement

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

David Keith as Nate Springfield; Mel Harris as Sarah Springfield; Leighton Meester as Elisha Springfield; Douglas Smith as Elijah Springfield; Bobby Brewer as Leonard Baynes; Daniel Farber as Norman Bloom; Edwin Hodge as Blake Hornsby; Andrea Morris as Crystal Sparks; Frank Peretti as Algernon Wheeling

Director

Rafal Zielinski ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Steven Isaac

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!