The House With A Clock In Its Walls (2018) Movie Review

Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever is one of my favorite films and Jack Black is one of my favorite comedic actors (in large part due to Tenacious D). So when I found out that these two did a family friendly fantasy film together called The House With A Clock In Its Walls, I knew I had to see it ASAP, so I and went to see it on opening weekend. Read on for my thoughts on The House With A Clock In Its Walls.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls was directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever 2002) from a script by Eric Kripke (creator of the Supernatural TV series) based on the novel by John Bellairs. The film stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccar, Kyle MacLachlan, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Lorenza Izzo.

The official synopsis:

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

What Works

The first act of The House With A Clock In Its Walls is fairly routine, following the firmly established tropes for films of its kind. As the plot moves along, the film finds its footing, taking some nice twists and turns and setting itself apart from your average family movie. The film features some unsettling moments such as creepy dolls, killer pumpkins and a brief appearance by a demon that is the stuff of nightmares, sure to terrify young children. Besides the creepy content, this flick is a lot of fun. Who would have thought that Cate Blanchett and Jack Black would have such great onscreen chemistry? Their back and forth dialogue is rapid fire and frequently funny, with the pair constantly one upping each other. The House With A Clock In Its Walls brings emotional heft in the second half, with Blanchett’s Florence and Owen Vaccaro’s Lewis bonding over their family loses, tugging at the viewer’s heartstrings.

What Doesn’t Work

Owen Vaccaro’s performance as Lewis is pretty shaky in the first act of the film, almost cringe-worthy. I’m not sure if these scenes were shot early on, but later on in the film, his acting improves greatly, even making me teary-eyed at one point. Some of the humor doesn’t quite work, with the worst offenders being a recurring scene of a defecating topiary griffin that is not only unfunny but feels out of place in a dark fantasy film, and a scene of Jack Black as a urinating baby which, besides being awkward and unfunny, suffers from terrible CGI.

Final Thoughts

Despite some bits of bad acting and awkward humor, The House With A Clock In Its Walls hits more than it misses. Black and Blanchett unexpectedly play off each other wonderfully and, with the addition of Vaccaro as a sympathetic lead, makes quite a charming ensemble. Overall, The House With A Clock In The Walls is fun and frequently creepy, the perfect film to add to your list for annual Halloween viewing.

About Charlie Cargile

Central Illinois based film journalist. Lover of cinema of all varieties but in love with films with an independent spirit. Elder Emo. Cat Dad. Metalhead.

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One comment

  1. I just got back from seeing “The House With A Clock in its walls” & you’re right If you think it is an imitation of Harry Potter or perhaps I should say Harry Potter was a good imitation of HWACIIW since that book predates Harry Potter ! It was written in 1973 by John Bellairs with illustrations by Edward Gorey. Bellairs’ boy wizard is Lewis Barnavelt. Like Harry Potter, Lewis is an orphan, who goes to live in New Zebedee, MI. with his warlock uncle,Jonathan (his Dumbledore) in his house with a clock in its walls. Lewis even has his own Voldemort -Isaac Izard. Now that I’m aware of the Bellairs’ Lewis Barnavelt series, I can’t help wondering how much of an influence the series had on Harry Potter. It’s like J.K. Rowling took the boy wizard, Lewis Barnavelt & gave him a simpler name & sent him to Hogwarts, instead of to the House With A Clock in its Walls.