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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Creepy charms aplenty in "The House with a Clock in its Walls"

Sep 23, 2018 02:05AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, and Jack Black in The House with a Clock in Its Walls - © 2018 Universal.

The House with a Clock in its Walls (Universal)

Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language.

Starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Colleen Camp, Lorenza Izzo, Vanessa Anne Williams.

Written by Eric Kripke, based on the book by John Bellairs.

Directed by Eli Roth.



Filmmakers have done all they cane to mine the available supply of quality young adult literature lately. The movement began with the runaway success of the Harry Potter adaptations and peaked with the Hunger Games film series. More recently, the mine hasn’t yielded much booty, with several startup flops and a few series that fizzled out before completion. The latest adaptation comes from John Bellairs’ book, The House with a Clock in its Walls.

Set in 1955, it’s the story of 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), a recently orphaned boy who is sent to live with his only surviving relative, Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in Michigan. Jonathan lives in a haunted house of sorts that emits a ticking sound. Jonathan spends a lot of platonic time with his equally eccentric neighbor Florence (Cate Blanchett), who always wears purple. While trying to fit into his new surroundings at home and school, Lewis encounters bullies and more than a few strange creatures at the house. He soon discovers that Jonathan and Florence possess magical powers and harbor a lot of secrets regarding the home’s previous inhabitant, a deceased magician named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLaughlan) having met his doom by using some dark magic spell. Lewis begins taking magic lessons from Jonathan and Florence, with mild success. Jonathan’s only rule for Lewis is to stay away from a book of spells that can be used to raise the dead. While trying to impress a classmate named Tarby (Sunny Sujic – dead-ringer for a young Ted Cruz), Lewis awakens the corpse of Izard, setting off a string of events that may lead to apocalyptic consequences. Lewis must find the right magic to thwart Izard’s evil plans to erase mankind from the world.

The House with a Clock in its Walls has its charms (no pun intended), with a little bit of a dark and creepy edge, courtesy of Director Eli Roth, a man known for his dark and creepy side. With a 10-year-old protagonist and cute, eccentric parent figures like Black and Blanchett, the movie seems a little out of place with the inclusion of a Satanic backstory. Black’s performance is more subdued than normal, which is refreshing. Blanchett is equally pleasant, giving the film a little extra class.

The House with the Clock in its Walls is not a perfect movie, certainly derivative of other young adult literature film adaptations. Even with a few flaws, the movie is enjoyable enough for kids who can handle a little bit of creepy humor. 


The House with a Clock in its Walls Trailer