NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE is the latest film from Katt Shea (Poison Ivy) and is a modern re-imagining of the beloved Nancy Drew book series. The film stars Sophia Lillis (IT, Sharp Objects), Sam Trammell (True Blood, This Is Us), Linda Lavin (The Good Wife, Alice), Zoe Renee (Jinn), Mackenzie Graham (Darlin’), Laura Wiggins (Rings) and Andrea Anders (The Stepford Wives).
After the death of his wife, Carson Drew (Sam Trammell) decides to leave Chicago behind and make a fresh start with his daughter in River Heights. But for 16-year-old Nancy Drew (Sophia Lillis), life is a small town is mighty dull. She longs for excitement, adventure, and the chance to make a difference. Nancy gets that opportunity when she is asked to help solve the ghostly activity at the Twin Elms mansion. Can she help explain the creaking footsteps, exploding lightbulbs and the ominous creature? Is it the handiwork of high-school bully Derek Barnes? Or is it possible that the ghost of original owner Malcolm Colfax is back for revenge? Recruiting her best friends George (Zoe Renee) and Bess (Mackenzie Graham), along with local “mean girl” Helen (Laura Wiggins), Nancy Drew is on the case!
I can’t honestly tell you the last time I read a Nancy Drew book, but what I can tell you is that I did grow up on her stories of teenage mysteries and thrills. Until earlier last month I wasn’t even aware that there was going to be a new, modernized version of Nancy Drew, but here we are! I went into the screening last week with rather neutral expectations, but to my surprise, NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE has become one of my favorite films of the year! Just like the book, this film is the perfect middle ground for those who may not be overly confident in seeing a straight up horror movie but enjoy films that have a spooky, mysterious edge to them. Though I figured out the “villain” early on, it didn’t deter me from the overall movie because I enjoyed watching the characters piece together the clues they found as they unraveled the mystery at hand.
What really seals the deal on this film is Sophia Lillis’ performance of Nancy Drew. Not only does she have similarities in the way that Nancy Drew looks in the illustrations from our youth, but her presence is the perfect combination of curiosity mixed with a somewhat innocent teenage rebellion that is executed wonderfully. As someone who is familiar with Sophia Lillis mainly from her performance as Beverly Marsh in 2017’s IT, I enjoyed seeing her take on a different role that that was much more playful as opposed to the more serious roles that she has taken on (not that I don’t love those, I do). Along with Lillis’ performance, everyone else in the cast left a noticeable mark throughout the film. The chemistry between everyone was believable and genuine allowing the audience to have an emotional reaction to whatever dilemma they faced.
As far as the spooky angle goes, I think most horror fans will find a lot to enjoy with NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE. It deals with the supernatural in a way that is fun and easily digestible by those who are cautious of horror films. Even though this is a film that is more geared towards the younger population, there are a few moments in which the tension is palpable. However, if you are going into this film as a hardcore horror fan hoping to be scared or grossed out, well, you probably won’t be. That’s not a slight towards the film that’s just me saying that you aren’t going to get all the gore and mayhem that most horror films have. With that said, if you like spooky mysteries, than NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE will be right up your alley!
In all, I had a blast with this film and it has reignited my love for Nancy Drew series. The movie does a fantastic job of dealing with themes such as bullying and revenge, as well as friendships and family, and is the perfect film to take the whole family to. Lastly, It’s a film that will be empowering to young girls and boys as it is a reminder that adventure and mystery await but most importantly, the relationships between whoever you call family and friends are what matters the most. With that said, make sure to check out NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE when it’s released in theaters this Friday, March 15th.