Title – The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)
Director – Eli Roth (Hostel)
Cast – Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle Maclachlan, Sunny Suljic
Plot – After his parents are killed, young boy Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) finds himself under the care of his uncle Jonathan (Black) and his friend Mrs. Zimmerman (Blanchett) who introduce him to a world of magic, wonder and danger.
“Things are quite different here”
Review by Eddie on 26/09/2018
If we were to turn back the clock to the mid 2000’s and someone were to tell me that the man responsible for giving the movie public Cabin Fever and 2005’s gore filled shocker Hostel would be releasing a children’s book adaptation in 2018, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.
In the reality we are living in right now however, this has become very much a real thing, with Eli Roth (out of all people) adapting John Bellairs darkly themed children’s book The House with a Clock in its Walls for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment production company, in what’s the newest movie in the Goosebumps like sub-genre that’s looking to tap into the older children’s age bracket, without appealing to the teenage market.
It’s a very odd choice for all involved, despite Roth’s strong affiliation with the horror marketplace, as Roth for a number of year’s now has struggled to remain relevant as a filmmaker with dire films such as Death Wish, Knock Knock and Green Inferno all marking down the director as a filmmaker very much on a downward spiral.
Perhaps it was hoped that Clock could be the change of pace and scenery to bring the best out of Roth but sadly this wasn’t to be, with this rather charmless and frequently odd film another poorly established and amateurishly constructed feature from the filmmaker.
The type of film you would’ve loved to have seen made by Tim Burton at the peak of his powers or even by another visionary such as Guillermo Del Toro, Clock has some fantastic set design and a plethora of potential to be a magic filled adventure but under the guidance of Roth, Clock is odd and colourful but also instantly forgettable, hard to love and more often than not, quite boring.
Throwing us into a world of warlock’s, witches and dog like couches, Clock wastes little time as it follows Owen Vaccaro’s goggle wearing orphan Lewis Barnavelt, who has found himself under the care of his mysterious uncle Jonathan and his friend Mrs. Zimmerman, as the trio work to stop a dark magic from changing the world but it’s hard to care about any of it with Roth failing to properly establish this world or connect the audience to it as he goes along his way.
Leads Jack Black and the always game Cate Blanchett try their best with the material and are clearly enjoying their time collecting a pay-check in such a frivolous affair but they’ve done a lot better work before, while unfortunately for us and the films chances of succeeding, young performer Vaccaro struggles big time in bringing Lewis to life, with the actors turn becoming one of the most irksome child performances in year’s.
It never feels nice to talk down a performance by a youngster but Vaccaro weighs down almost all of his scenes, although much of this to can fall at the feet of Roth, who shows here he is not yet capable of being a director of children.
It’s not the only aspect of the film that can be blamed on Roth, with Clock finding itself between a rock and a hard place as is try’s to be a kid friendly horror adventure but getting caught in between as a film with copious fart jokes, that sit uncomfortably with talks of demons and performing dark spiritual rituals, making the whole experience hard to recommend to its target audience.
Final Say –
Fantastic set-design and production values make A House with a Clock in its Walls feel like a much better production than it is but this fun-free and charmless affair is another misfire from Roth that never nails its tone or place in a crowded marketplace filled with much more magical and memorable offerings.
1 ½ baby Jack Black’s out of 5
Too bad. I really liked the book and other John Bellairs stuff as a kid (though then again I’ve never revisited them).
I must admit to not having read the books so would be interesting to hear from a fan of the series about how they feel about this adaptation.
I felt it was really lacking in world building and just generally didn’t know what it wanted to be.
Good review. Personally, I liked this movie a bit more than you did. To me, it was definitely a fun and entertaining kids fantasy / horror feature (plus Black and Blanchett were great in their roles). However, I thought Lewis was too much of a wimp (not as super weird as the movie made him out to be) and the whole baby Jack Black scene was odd.
Yeh mate glad you enjoyed it I found it really hard to sit through and Lewis a terrible character/actor. Plus that image of baby Black is just to much!
Nooooo, it’s not good? I still want to see it though, I like quirky stories like this (I hope I like it)
It may be worth a look, its certainly quirky just for me not the right kind ha.
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