Secrets in the Walls
Channel 5, 20 January 2012, 15:15
A complainant alerted Ofcom to the pre-watershed broadcast of the film The Secrets in the Walls because of concerns that it contained supernatural and horror themes and images unsuitable for a child audience.
Ofcom noted that this was a made-for-television film about a mother who moves into a new home with her two daughters where, it is later revealed, a young teenage bride had been murdered. Her malevolent spirit now seeks to free itself by possessing the older daughter. The film featured the following scenes:
- the unexpected appearance of the spirit in front of the daughters and at the window of the house, and their reactions of fear and distress;
- supernatural activities such as unexplained music from a jewellery box, slamming doors and flickering lights;
- the older daughter was trapped in the wardrobe screaming and scratching as the light in the wardrobe flickered on and off (it was later revealed that she lost two fingernails from her frantic scratching to get out);
- an attempted exorcism to banish the spirit from the house; and
- the possession of the older daughter by the spirit.
Ofcom considered Rule 1.3 of the Code:
- Children must … be protected by appropriate scheduling from material that is unsuitable for them.
Channel 5 said that in total 18 edits were made to the film with the aim of reducing the overall horror/thriller tone of the film and this was the version that was broadcast. However, having reviewed this broadcast version, Channel 5 stated:
we are of the view that further significant edits would have been required to make the programme suitable for a 3.15pm timeslot, or, the programme should have been scheduled at a time when children were not likely to be watching. Re-scheduling this version of the programme would have been the preferable solution as further edits…seem likely to compromise the editorial narrative of the programme, distort its meaning and/or confuse viewers.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 1.3
This film contained themes, sequences and images of menace, threat and suspense as well as specific examples of supernatural activity, exorcism and possession which are typically found in horror films aimed at adult viewers. In one particular example, the mother was asleep in darkness when a shrill scream came from her older daughter’s bedroom, piercing the silence. The mother and younger daughter ran to the bedroom and loud scratching and screams for help and I can’t breathe could be heard. The light in the cupboard flickered on and off as the mother pulled open the doors to release her daughter, whose hands were injured from scratching at the closed doors to escape. These scenes were accompanied throughout by menacing sound effects and music. Further scenes featured the spirit appearing to the daughters unexpectedly in the mirror and at windows; and an attempt to exorcise the spirit that resulted in the woman conducting the exorcism being knocked down violently.
In Ofcom’s view these themes, sequences and images were unsuitable for child viewers and hence in breach of Rule 1.3