The House with a Clock in its Walls
Magic, mystery and the “indomitable” will of a courageous youth against a dark warlock. No, it isn’t Harry Potter, but rather The House with a Clock in its Walls, which is based on the first book (of the same name) in the bestselling young adult series by John Bellairs. The latest endeavour by Hollywood to adapt a popular novel for this particular readership into a feature-length film, the movie mostly succeeds as a favourable choice for tweens that are looking to get into “horror” genre without getting super scared by it.
After losing both of his parents, 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), who lives in a mysterious old house where strange oddities occur. When the boy confronts his uncle, he reveals to his nephew that he’s a warlock, and that his next-door neighbour and friend Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a witch – though her powers have waned due to some misfortune. However, trouble brews as the house’s former owner and warlock Isaac Izard (Kyle McLaughlin) – who died under mysterious circumstances – is about to unleash his master plan, placing an ominous doomsday clock within the house’s walls. It’s up to Lewis, Jonathan and Florence to find Isaac’s hidden clock in a “race against time” and prevent unspeakable destruction.
Directed by Eli Roth – known for his more gory and violent R-rated films like Hostel and Green Inferno – the movie has enough whimsy to make the feature approachable for its target demographic (8 to 11-year-olds) in telling a classic “coming-of-age” kid’s fantasy story, but it also delves into the horror genre, with Roth producing some PG-rated scares and thrills along the way, adding a distinct flavour to the feature’s proceedings and making a for an entertaining kid-friendly fantasy/horror picture. The film does stumble in its pacing, which seems to lag from time to time in the first two acts, but the third act snaps it all back, presenting a sort of 80s Stephen Spielberg-esque form of cinematic entertainment (the picture is also produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment). Additionally, the narrative could’ve been easily expanded upon, with certain areas (i.e. character backstories and events) being glossed over.
Of the cast, Black and Blanchett give exceptionally solid performances, with the former being comfortable in the role and the latter branching out into the kid’s entertainment realm (see Cinderella and Thor: Ragnarok). Vaccaro’s performance is probably the weakest link of the main characters, his portrayal of Lewis too vague and generic to stand out from the wayward and weird protagonist archetype. Still, what he gives is enough to make for passable boy hero.
In the end, The House with a Clock in Its Walls presents something which is both a bit different and familiar whilst still managing to remain an engaging movie. It doesn’t strike a powerful resounding chord, but it’s an entertaining ride that will surely strike its target audience, particularly those looking for some “magical spooky fun”.
The House with a Clock in its Walls is released nationwide on 21st September 2018.
Watch the trailer for The House with a Clock in its Walls here: