Eli Roth is a director who has crafted some pretty impressive features. From Hostel to Green Inferno, the acclaimed horror director (and occasional actor,) has helped pour gooey red stuff on the screen.
Now he is putting all that blood to one side (well, except for Pumpkin Blood,) to direct his first ever family The House With a Clock in Its Walls.
The film, based on a novel by John Bellairs, revolves around young Lewis Barnavelt. After the tragic death of his parents, Lewis is sent to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan. When he arrives, he finds the old creaky house to be mysterious and magical. It turns out that Jonathan is a wizard, alongside his neighbour and best friend Florence Zimmerman. The house is also alive and adorned with almost hundreds of clocks. As Lewis trains to become a warlock, under the tuition of Jonathan and Florence, it seems there are secrets that his uncle his keeping from them…and it could destroy them all.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls is an OK family film. Similarly to Tim Burton’s Gothic romp Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the movie has a lot of scares that are suitable for all ages and frightening in a fun manner (except for the dolls. The dolls are so creepy.) The film has a whirlwind of imaginative effects and some pretty thrilling set pieces that it visually impressive.
The problem is that the story so convoluted that it struggles to find meaning and grounding. The House With a Clock in its Walls wastes it’s magical world on bad jokes and typical oddball antics. does the film connect to the heart of the story or feel cohesive enough to be an all-time classic. The material feels so lifeless that it wastes the double act of Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. What would’ve been a great duo, and they do bounce lines off each other on the odd occasion, pales against a shallow plot and they somewhat fade into the background. There’s also some really predictable and sketchy backstories that feel awkward reeled off in shoddy exposition.
Same can be said for antagonist Isaac Izard, played by Kyle MacLachlan. He turns up without the menace needed to juxtapose the humour and feels like there is no malice or drama.
The only good thing about all this, however, is that it gives young lead Owen Vaccaro his proper place to shine. He’s a great little actor who bemuses as our awkward lead. He has a lot of energy and a lot of talent in a very enjoyable manner. This sparks on the screen and makes Lewis an entertaining lead.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls will certainly appease to families and maybe even those who were fans of Amblin classics. An average PG horror film.
The House with a Clock in its Walls is out Friday