The House with a Clock in its Walls
Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Eric Kripke; based on the novel by: John Bellairs
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic and Kyle MacLachlan
Run Time: 1h 44min
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Eli Roth, known for making horror films that leave nightmares in their wake, this time tries his hand at something for the younger crowd with, ‘The House With a Clock in its Walls,’ based on the novel by John Bellairs. While this is a family movie, it does have a touch of darkness I wasn’t quite expecting to see. With its creepy puppets and dolls, the frightening CG creatures, some nice some not so nice, and the house itself which appears to be alive and often crabby, the film just might not be right for someone under the age of eight. This would especially be the case if a child has never been exposed to anything similar to Goosebumps. Magic swirls around the story and the world a young boy, Lewis (Vaccaro), who finds himself forced to live with his kooky uncle in Michigan after the death of his parents from a car accident.
Lewis is still upset about his loss but immediately warms to the idea of living with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Black) after getting to know him more. He’s helped by getting to know his uncle’s friend and neighbor, Florence (Blanchett), and he begins to see that through them he might eventually be part of a family once more. Jonathan and Florence’s relationship is much like that of a married couple. They bicker and argue but also care about one another and seem to have Lewis’ best interest in mind as they introduce him to the life of witches and warlocks. They give him some books and he quickly learns spells of his own. At school, he’s told by his friend, Tarby (Suljic), that his uncles’ house is haunted. Lewis believes it at first due to the strange noises and loud ticking clocks but is shown that the rumor is far from the truth. Wanting to impress his friend, Lewis gets himself into trouble when he decides to prove to Tarby that he’s wrong by showing him some of the magic he’s learned. Not easily able to impress the boy, Lewis goes further. He opens a forbidden cabinet and offers a blood oath to a book on necromancy that he finds which raises from the dead the previous owner of the house, Isaac Izzard (MacLachlan). Isaac has been waiting for someone to bring him back to life so he could wipe all people from existence.
‘The House With a Clock in its Walls’ is solid entertainment. The CGI is well done, Blanchett is dramatic and comical, Jack Black’s crazy warlock is impressive and the barking chair that seems to be his pet will leave smiles on the faces of the young and old alike. In fact, this might be a good introduction for kids to watching something heavier. Again, this will appeal to the older kids in the family, but you might want to leave the much younger ones at home. I don’t think you want this film to be how they learn about death which is a subject well breached here. It can be scary but its intentions of teaching a boy about his spirit and about being adventurous are not missed. I can see where the studio might be able to take this trip a little further if they were so inclined.