‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’

An Eli Roth Movie For The Whole Family

Wait–is there another Eli Roth? Because the guy I’m thinking of has a body of work that consists of two torture porn flicks (the Hostels), one about cannibalism/genital mutilation (The Green Inferno), one that’s a remake of a fascist/racist vigilante movie (Death Wishyeah, I forgot about that one too), and one about a bunch of horny college students who die in horrible ways via a flesh-eating virus and/or crazy rednecks (Cabin Fever). Not what one would deem Wholesome Family Entertainment. But this is Trump’s America, and because everything is stupid and no one deserves good things, screw it, let’s let Eli Roth direct a kid’s movie based on a beloved classic children’s book. Apparently the formula works, because this The House With A Clock In Its Walls is currently the #1 movie in America.

Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Eric Kripke, based on the novel by John Bellairs
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan
Running time: 104 min.

I will admit to having never read the book The House With A Clock In Its Walls, so I can’t say if it’s a faithful adaptation. The movie stars Jack Black and Cate Blanchett as warlock and witch friends who take Black’s orphaned nephew under their wings and teach him all about magic. There is, of course, an Evil Warlock, played by Kyle MacLachlan, and there’s magic furniture and ghostly beings and everyone dresses like Mumford and Sons. Yes, it is very Rowlingesque (Isaac Izard is the Hogwarts-y name of the Big Bad). Yes, Rowlingesque is a word we can use to describe things that look, sound, and read like a Harry Potter movie/novel. And yes, I know that the novel upon which THWACIIW (even after reducing the title to an acronym I still need to rest my fingers) is based was published in 1972, and presumably was one of the 28,932 works of fantasy / mythology that influenced Ms. Rowling. Don’t @ me, as the kids say.

The question parents will have, especially if they’re aware of Eli Roth’s filmography: is it scary? I have two kids, one 14, the other 11, and we occasionally discuss Horror. Both come at scary things from expected angles. The 14-year-old is convinced that he can and should watch Hereditary; the 11-year-old finally worked up the courage to watch Stranger Things, and now the show is the subject of at least 50% of any conversations she has with anyone. There’s Disturbing Scary (i.e., watching Toni Collette chop off her own head,) and there’s Fun Scary. The 11 year old would happily sit through THWACIIW.

It was certainly an odd choice, putting the guy who’s perhaps best known for writing and directing a scene in which a dude gets his penis chopped off with a pair of garden shears and fed to a couple of frisky guard dogs (Hostel 2, if you and your special person are looking for something for your next Netflix and Chill night) at the helm of a kid’s movie. There’s nothing here that won’t immediately remind you of a Potterverse movie. Your kids will enjoy it –it’s surprisingly safe, the scares are mild, and no one’s genitals get mutilated.

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Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

One thought on “‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’

  • September 24, 2018 at 12:42 am

    loved the review. As someone constantly looking for something rowlinesque I’m going to check out the movie, but read the book first.


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