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THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS gets 7/10 School of tock


Directed by Eli Roth

Starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan

7/10

What happens when you give a known horror autuer a children’s film? Surprisingly something very good, as Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno) breathes life into this adaptation of the 1973 young adult novel The House with a Clock in its Walls.

When young orphan, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), moves to his Uncle’s house, he soon uncovers a secret. Not only are Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) and his purple clad neighbour, Mrs Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), practitioners of the magical arts, but the house itself holds more than a few mysteries. Not only does the house have a life all of its own, but within its walls the previous warlock owner (Kyle MacLachlan) has hidden a mystical clock, a sinister device that is counting down for its own evil purposes.

This young adult fantasy film walks the path of Harry Potter in its introduction of a child to a magical world running concurrent with the mundane, but this one emphasises the darker and more Gothic nature of the setting. Roth brings many horror tropes into play, referencing many of the great directors of the genre (Carpenter, Rami, and Hooper all get nods), while maintaining a distinctly dark but child friendly tone. The look of the world is vividly brought to life, utilising the antiquated feel of the American Gothic period balanced against the post war modernity of the US entering the Atomic Age.

Part of the charm also comes from the cast. Jack Black (Goosebumps, School of Rock) is a perfect fit for the strange, cool, but reassuring uncle, bringing his own charm and sense of theatrics to the role. His large personality is allowed free reign here, creating a charming mentor figure. He’s ably aided in this regard by Cate Blanchett, as warlock and witch bounce good-natured jibes off each other as part of their platonic friendship. Almost lost amongst this is Owen Vaccaro (Daddy’s Home), who produces a serviceable performance as the young hero of the piece, but his straight laced honesty and indomitable spirit is almost swamped by the larger stage presence of the veteran actors.

The House with a Clock in its Walls will produce a few age appropriate thrills and chills for its younger audiences. It may lack a little in substance, but it is stylishly executed and enchanting in its own right.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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