‘The Strange Case Of the Claustrophobic Ghost’ (2023) Review: A Decent Attempt At A Children’s Film

I’ve been a fan of the horror genre ever since I was a child myself. Casper meets Wendy is still one of my favorite films to this day, and although it doesn’t really count as a horror film, it’s still a highly entertaining ghost vs. witches film. It’s interesting how the genre always uses children to generate fear in adults, but they can’t watch half the things they’re part of. Goosebumps is a great example of a good children’s horror that can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike. It’s got the thrill without all the gore and violence that the genre has come to be associated with today. Horror is a very creative and imaginative genre. There’s so much to be explored when it comes to instilling fear in people, but moreover, there’s so much that can be taught with these stories. Over the years, the industry has forgotten that young people want to be entertained in unique ways, too. The Strange Case of the Claustrophobic Ghost has, in a way, resurrected this semi-genre. Although the movie is quite flawed and there are many things about it that don’t work, it would still be a fun movie for kids to watch.

The Strange Case of the Claustrophobic Ghost follows Nikolaj and his brother Emil, who find their room haunted when they move into a new house. With a friend named Ximena, they solve the mystery of this ghost and figure out how to get rid of it. Nikolaj and Emil’s relationship is something that is quite underexplored in the film. While at some parts, they seem very close because Nikolaj lets Emil go everywhere with him, at other times, Emil makes fun of his older brother without reason, and it just feels very dry. The kids struggle to make an impact because the dialogue also feels very stiff and straightforward, and even though I don’t understand the language, it definitely comes across on the screen. There are some elements that make this film fun; it has some Harry Potter-esque music, and the ghosts also look like they’re from Hogwarts, but the progression of the narrative feels quite haphazard, which may be a little distracting. These three children are on an adventure, so you’d think they would be at least a little bit eager, but they maintain relatively neutral facial expressions throughout the movie. The picture has elements of romance peppered throughout and is reminiscent of classic children’s adventure films in many aspects, but it still fails to impress.

The film plays it pretty safe when it comes to horror, but there are certain sequences and mostly sounds that might terrify very young children. On the other hand, I believe it might become a little monotonous for the older ones. The CGI effects are alright, but the makeup of the ghost kid is pretty impressive. At the same time, I think director Alejandro Sugich plays it very well with both his screenplay and direction. It seems he wanted to establish a kind of team with these three kids, mainly a power couple of sorts with Ximena and Nikolaj, but it doesn’t come across, and the characters are mostly forgettable. What makes adventure movies fun is their aspirational quality. As a child, you want to do what the kid in the movie is doing or experience the same kind of nail-biting fear—maybe even join their team. This is the element that is missing in Nikolaj, Ximena, and Emil. Nikolaj is definitely the only character who is well thought out. Again, with Ximena, the dots are there, but they’re not well connected.

Despite all this criticism, I believe the film is watchable and has much to offer. It includes the 1985 earthquake and addresses grief, panic, loss, familial conflicts, and other topics through fantasy and mystical themes. Nikolaj and Ximena are both, in a way, outcasts, but they find friends in each other and do not lose their authenticity. The movie encourages being true to yourself in a very subtle way that can still help children appreciate their uniqueness. Families can watch this film together and talk about issues such as stealing, jealousy, and death. At the end of the day, given the fact that it’s a kids’ movie, we don’t have to go into how complex the plot is or how many adults are enjoying the film. Will kids enjoy this movie? I think they might find it amusing, at the very least. While this film is lacking in execution, I think it has the potential to be the starting point for an entire franchise. There’s definitely a need to make it more interesting, even for young children.

There’s a great adventure to be built and many ghosts to be learned about. With Nikolaj and Ximena splitting ways, it’ll be interesting to see where a sequel could take us, and that’s what makes me excited about this film. As a fan of the horror genre since I can remember, I definitely want to see more films like this for young people to step into the world of ghosts and the paranormal. The movie runs for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, which is perfect for the attention span that we have today, and the pacing is good enough to keep young kids hooked. Overall, I’d give The Strange Case of the Claustrophobic Ghost about 2.5 out of 5 stars. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement, but I do think it’s delivering on what it promises.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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With Nikolaj and Ximena splitting ways, it'll be interesting to see where a sequel could take us, and that's what makes me excited about this film. 'The Strange Case Of the Claustrophobic Ghost' (2023) Review: A Decent Attempt At A Children's Film