Harry returns for his second year of schooling at Hogwarts, the school for wizards. Shortly after the term begins Harry starts hearing a mysterious voice saying, ‘Kill, kill,’ which only he can hear. He then finds the caretaker’s cat Mrs Norris hanging upside down apparently dead. Fortunately she is not dead just ‘petrified’. There is a cure, but it will not be available until the Herbology class finishes growing Mandrakes, which have restorative properties. Later, two of the students are also found petrified. On each occasion, Harry hears the voice again.
It is apparent that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened by the heir of Slytherin. Slytherin was one of the four founders of the school. He left Hogwarts because he wanted to make the school available only to ‘pure’ wizards and witches, not ‘mudbloods’. Before he left he created a chamber where terrible evil lives. The teachers are fearful that they will have to close Hogwarts and send the students home.
The next victim to be petrified is Hermione, leaving Harry and Ron to solve the problem themselves. Harry overhears the teachers talking about a female student who has been taken into the chamber. The student is Ron’s younger sister Ginny, and Harry and Ron must try and rescue her. They finally manage to get into the Chamber where Harry comes face to face with the evil Basilisk, a monstrously large snake. Harry battles it out with the Basilisk. With the aid of Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet phoenix and the Sorting Hat, Harry eventually wins. Ginny is saved and all turns out well.
Fantasy, horror and supernatural themes
- Dobby the house elf punishes himself and repeatedly bangs his head on a cupboard and hits himself with a light.
- When George Dursley tries to stop Harry from escaping, he falls from a second story window on to the ground but is not badly injured.
- In a Quidditch game, a ‘rogue bludger’ chases Harry all over the place. It eventually hits him, causing him to fall to the ground and break his arm.
- First Snape and Lockhart, then Harry and Draco have ‘wand duels’, causing injury to the victims.
- Huge hairy spiders attack Harry and Ron.
Content that may disturb children
- Dobby is a rather grotesque-looking creature with very large ears, eyes and nose.
- The Weasleys’s pet owl Errol flies into the glass instead of through the window in their home.
- The Weasleys travel by Floo powder, which requires standing in the fireplace and sprinkling it over yourself while saying the name of the desired destination. Ron and Harry are both shown going up in flames.
- Harry arrives at Knockturn Alley, a scary place full of skulls. A skeletal hand is on a table and Harry is looking at it when it suddenly grabs his arm.
- Knockturn Alley is full of scary-looking characters who try to trap Harry.
- Lucius Malfoy is a very threatening man.
- Harry and Ron crash into the wall at Platform 11.
- Harry and Ron take the flying car to get to Hogwarts. Chased by the train, the car turns upside down throwing Harry out. He manages to hang on.
- The car fails when they arrive at Hogwarts and crash-lands into the Whomping Willow tree.
- The Whomping Willow tree attacks the car aggressively, smashing it up while Ron and Harry are still inside. The car manages to escape and throws Harry and Ron out.
- Snape and Fitch are both very scary-looking characters.
- In the Herbology class, the students have to re-pot the Mandrakes, which look like plants but turn into gross-looking screaming baby creatures when pulled out of the pots.
- There are two ghost characters – Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle.
- In Professor Lockhart’s Defence Against the Dark Arts class, he lets open a cage of Cornish Pixies, which attack the children and cause havoc.
- Ron casts a spell on Draco Malfoy to ‘eat slugs’ but it backfires on himself. Ron vomits out several slugs and disgusting creatures.
- Harry hears a voice saying, ‘Kill, kill’, in a very sinister tone.
- Mysterious writing on the wall is written in blood.
- The cat Mrs Norris is found hanging upside down, apparently dead.
- Lockhart casts a spell to mend Harry’s broken bone but instead removes all bones from Harry’s arm, leaving it quite useless and moving in all directions.
- Moaning Myrtle is quite eerie. She screams and dives into the toilet.
- Harry talks in ‘parsel tongue’ to the snake. It sounds eerie and evil.
- Dumbledore’s pet phoenix Fawkes bursts into flames - part of a cyclical event that happens when it is time to die, after which a new phoenix is born from the ashes.
- Harry’s face is shown transforming into Goyle’s face.
- Hermione’s face is transformed into a cat.
- Harry finds a diary which, when he writes in it, writes back to him in ghostly writing.
- Harry is sucked into the diary.
- Hermione is found petrified.
- Harry and Ron follow a swarm of spiders into the dark forest. The swarm leads them to Aragog, a monster spider. She is Hagrid’s ‘pet’, but she allows her family to feast on Harry and Ron who are then attacked by thousands of giant hairy spiders.
- The final scene with Harry and the Basilisk snake is particularly scary. This monstrous snake with huge fangs chases Harry and tries to attack him. Fawkes helps Harry by pecking out the Basilisk’s eyes, leaving red splodges. At one point the Basilisk erupts out of the water close to Harry. The Sorting Hat gives Harry a sword to defend himself with, and Harry eventually pierces the Basilisk's mouth and kills it. In the throes of a dramatic death, the Basilisk pierces Harry with one of its huge teeth that lodges.
- Harry still has to deal with Tom Riddle (Voldemort in disguise).
- Dying from the venom, Harry repeatedly stabs at the diary with the Basilisk tooth. This creates blood all over the diary and at the same time causes Tom great pain. Tom then explodes.
Most older children in this group, particularly early adolescents, would understand that this film is in the fantasy genre. There are scenes that some could find disturbing, however. The casting of spells and wizardry could be perceived by some as occultist.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
None of concern
Nudity and sexual activity
Ideas to discuss with your children
This movie is very well made. The graphics and special effects are excellent as is most of the acting. Professor Lockhart is very aptly portrayed as vain and fraudulent and other major characters such as Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore and Ron Weasley are all excellent. There is also much humour, which lightens the atmosphere.
The movie’s main message is that good triumphs over evil. Even when evil power is very strong, good still wins through cooperation and collaboration. This is something you might like to talk to your child about, as well as other values such as loyalty, courage, endurance, friendship. You could also talk about your own attitude to hating one’s enemies and disobeying rules, and the stereotypical portrayal of fat people as bullies.