While laudable for its attempt to modernise its lead character, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase would seriously have benefitted from a heavier dose of spooky mystery.
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase Synopsis
After helping her dear friend Bess Marvin enact vigilante justice against a school bully, Nancy Drew is sentenced to community service, during which she meets the elderly Flora. Flora, who lives alone, is the victim of ghostly hauntings in her home and after a terrifying night with her, Nancy uncovers a trail of clues leading to a larger conspiracy. Together with her best friends and newfound ally Hannah Corning, Nancy then exposes the truth and purpose of the otherworldly terrors.
I’ve written about this before. I was previously a huge, HUGE fan of the Nancy Drew books.
I mean, at age 12, rather than grinding for the Singaporean PSLE, I spent the year reading some 60, 70 Nancy Drew books. Wait, I think … I actually finished the whole series before the year was over.
Which then benefitted me in ways I never expected, but that is another story. What I’m saying here is, I consider myself a mini-expert on Nancy. And so I’m more than a little appalled that I barely, BARELY recognize the lead character in this 2019 film adaptation of the second oldest Nancy Drew book.
Oh, she’s still a sleuth of sorts in this adaptation. Sophia Lillis, such a gem in IT, certainly resembles the Nancy on classic hardback covers of the books in more ways than one too.
However, attempts to modernize the classic character made this version far more of a town rebel, and smartmouth, than intrepid detective. In turn, the plot emphasises this new persona way more than the mystery or investigations proper. Honestly, even the spooky moments were minimal and unravelled way too quickly.
How to put it? The whole show just … doesn’t feel very Nancy Drew in the end.
Of course, given the film is a teen mystery, and with the books themselves meant for younger readers, I’m aware too much terror would have been unbefitting. I also acknowledge that the classic version of Nancy would likely bore modern viewers to death. Myself (probably) included.
Still, it’s a mystery, isn’t it? One involving supposedly violent criminals too. I’m not asking for gore, but a richer layer of complexity and tension would seriously have done the movie wonders.
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