The House with a Clock in Its Walls Review

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Theatrical Poster

Eli Roth has given us some of the most unique horror films over the past two decades. From Cabin Fever to Hostel, Roth essentially helped usher in the cinematic boom of torture porn horror flicks. In other words, most of his films are brutal, bloody, and disturbing. That’s why it’s only natural that his next feature film would be a literary adaptation of a children’s book. Yes, from the man that gave you The Green Inferno and Knock Knock comes The House with a Clock in Its Walls. But does Roth have what it takes to create a horror adventure film that’s family friendly?

Believe it or not, yes. Although a lot of Roth’s cinematic tropes are in there, he’s able to give the film the fun and adventure that families will enjoy.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls follows Lewis Barnavelt, an orphaned boy who travels to a small town to live with his uncle, Jonathan. However, Lewis discovers that there is something sinister hiding within the walls of his uncle’s place.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls - Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, & Jack Black

Let’s get this out of the way, I haven’t read Bellairs’ 1973 children’s book. So I have no idea if this is as good as the book or not. Nevertheless, the film feels very reminiscent of the old family-friendly Amblin Entertainment horror films of the 80s. Think a mixture of Gremlins and Goosebumps. There are definitely jump scares and creepy images, but nothing that’ll traumatize your child. In other words, this isn’t your typical Eli Roth film.

However, some of Eli Roth’s trademark tropes are still in this film. Despite what you think of his torture porn films, there’s a sense of satirical silliness to them. The House with a Clock in Its Walls isn’t satirical but the silliness is there. Needless to say but silliness is a perfect ingredient for a children’s film. There’s a playfulness to the magic and spells that add a lot of fun to the film.

But there are a few creepy imageries that would seemingly only come from the mind of Eli Roth. Because of Roth’s love of practical effects, a majority of the monsters have realistic makeup on. If your child does get scared easily then you might want to cover their eyes when they show up on-screen.

Unfortunately, the film does have its issues though. The House with a Clock in Its Walls introduces and attempts to weave several storylines into the main one and doesn’t a very good job at it. The Tarby and Lewis relationship doesn’t really go anywhere. The dialogue for this film can be a bit cringe-worthy as well. Not to mention, there are a few characters that seem totally out of place within the film.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls - Owen Vaccaro

In addition, some of the acting by the child actors isn’t very good. Yes, they are children but some are just really bad. At times, Owen Vaccaro falls under the same category. However, he is still the best actor out of all the child actors. He gives Lewis a bravery and childlike behavior that seems to fit the character. Also, he makes Lewis a sympathetic character that audiences can root for.

Jack Black is also decent in this film, as well. When he’s at his usual self then he’s at his best. On the other hand, when he needs to be serious, it doesn’t come across as serious. Instead, he tends to over exaggerate the delivery of some of his lines. Of course, Cate Blanchett is wonderful as Mrs. Zimmerman. As she always is. She gives the film her character the gravitas it needs to be a powerful yet broken witch. As we’ve also learned from Thor: Ragnarok, Blanchett also has the comedic timing to play alongside Jack Black.

Overall, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a fun little horror adventure for the whole family. The film should be a yearly family favorite for Halloween alongside Tim Burton’s animated films and LAIKA’s films. Also, this is easily Eli Roth best film of his career. Who knew that his best film would be so family-friendly?

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1613 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.