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Scary Potter? / Spiders and snakes are child's play in new movie

If you don't like spiders, you may not be any fonder of them when a movie screen makes them appear to be 40 feet high.

But despite all the warnings to parents about frightening scenes, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" seems to be a hit with the surprisingly sophisticated junior viewers who flocked to the Loews Cineplex Shore 8 in Huntington on opening day Friday.

At the 9:15 p.m. showing, to which this reporter brought her own unfazed 8- and 12-year-old viewers, there were no audible responses to the worrisome scenes. But there was plenty of laughter for the frequently amusing dialogue and situations, as well as cheers when the bad guys got theirs. And that seemed to be the standard reaction all day long.

After the first showing at 10 a.m., Julia, 9, and Danny Lerner, 7, of Melville, who had the day off from school for a parent-teacher conference, said they didn't like the snakes and spiders, but didn't find the movie too scary.

Their mom, Maria, said she left her 4-year-old home, however. "He would have been frightened. He still has a hard time with Nearly Headless Nick from the first movie," she said.

Also at this showing, 10-year-old Terence Patane-Ronan of Northport said he thought the spiders and snake he imagined during his five readings of the book were more frightening than the images in the movie. That response pleased his mom, Kathleen Patane, who said she let him skip school to see the movie because he would soon be learning in class about comparing literature to films. They attended with Nicholas Andriano, age 10, and his mom, Lynn, also of Northport.

Nicholas, who says he's afraid of spiders in real life ever since his uncle became ill from a spider bite, didn't find the movie disturbing. "I knew all along they were fake," he says.

Eight-year-old Juliette Thepenier of Dix Hills has read the book five times and watched the first movie "50 times," so she says she knew what to expect when she attended the 2:45 p.m. show. "It didn't exactly scare me, though I plugged my ears sometimes because it was loud. The snake part was different than I imagined. I thought it was a big green snake. The movie one was scarier. I kind of freaked out when Harry gets trapped by the snake."

In the expert opinion of her 7- year-old sister, Franchesca, parents may want to think twice before bringing children preschool age and younger. "One 2-year-old was crying during the whole movie," she said. "I think it should be a rule that no little kids see it, like no one under 4, because the whole movie can be creepy and it might scare them."

If anyone seemed troubled by the movie, it was a few parents. After the 7:15 p.m. showing let out, Don Earl of Northport said he thought the movie was intense. But that didn't bother his son, 6-year-old Samuel, who enthused that it was, "Cool. I liked it when Harry stabbed the snake with the sword."

And Sue Cook of Huntington Station said she didn't like the spider and snake scenes, but her 6-year-old son, Corey, couldn't stop talking about the "spider that grabbed Ron and the snake that jumped out."
Peggy Pipolo of Huntington, who had not been familiar with the story beforehand, said she thought she was going to regret taking her daughter Hannah because she herself found it too gory. But Hannah, who was celebrating her 7th birthday, happily chatted about the "bloody words on the wall and the cool spiders."

Other parents, such as Barbara Thepenier, said the positive messages in the movie about friendship outweigh the darker images. Cook added that the lessons about making good choices and how hurtful prejudice can be were also valuable.

All in all, it seems that the fear factor turned out to be unimportant.
Nonetheless, if you're still trying to decide if you should take your child to see the movie, Peter Kanaris, director of public education for the Suffolk County Psychological Association, said you should consider both your child's age and personality.

"Children younger than 7 are developmentally more vulnerable to being frightened by monsters and grotesque images. If you're not comfortable with what the reviewers have to say about a movie, don't take your child," he said.

"Those between ages 8 and 12 tend to be more frightened by violence against themselves and peers, so seeing characters they love being injured could upset them. But when the movie has a happy resolution, they're usually OK."

Kanaris said you may want to skip the movie if your child is easily frightened. "But it helps when the children have read about the story and are prepared for what will happen," he added.
 

f you want more information about what to expect in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," including a long list of scenes that could potentially upset your child, check out the Web site www.screenit.com. This site, as well as www.moviemom.com, is an excellent resource for parents for all first-run movies.

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