Though torture porn is his usual field of expertise, Eli Roth reins in the severed limbs and decapitated heads for Amblin Entertainment's family friendly horror The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Taking place in 1955 Michigan, a young orphan Lewis Barnavelt moves to live with his warlock uncle Jonathan. Along with the help of the witch next-door neighbour Mrs Zimmerman, they must locate a mysterious clock hidden within the walls of the house before it can bring about the end of the world.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls captures the visual bewitchment of an Amblin 80's classic, delivering an entertaining family adventure that perfectly sets the run in to Halloween. In the same creative vein as Goosebumps and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - The House with a Clock in Its Walls combines magic with pre-teen style horror. In complete contrast to his previous work, Roth has created an extremely cute and easily digestible picture that will offer kids the thrills they require and, much to the adults dismay, the toilet humour too.
This fantasy feature works because it stands alone from any existing franchise, moreover its CG is used in very short supply. The House with a Clock in Its Walls is so visually appealing because almost everything about it is real. Jon Hutman's fantastic production design throws you into this enchanting, imaginary world - going old-school and creating atmosphere purely through set design. It's an authentic technique we rarely see used today in visual effects heavy modern Hollywood and yet it still works a charm.
Jack Black seems to be making a comeback in recent years, starring this time as off-the-wall Uncle Jonathan. Whilst this is one of his weaker roles he still relishes in Kung Fu Panda style entertainment, his bickering banter with Blanchett's Mrs Zimmerman displays a chummy dynamic between the two. Although she didn't particularly shine in Thor: Ragnarok and was massively overshadowed in Ocean's 8, in contrast to Black this is one of Blanchett's better roles for a while. She plays a cooky witch with conked-out magic and the film takes a surprisingly poignant turn when we discover the tragedy of her past. Not forgetting Owen Vaccaro - so sugary sweet as the lead boy Lewis - but luckily he won't give you tooth decay.
Being an 80's inspired flick it obtains a fairly creaky narrative which feels, by today's standards, a bit simple and unambitious. When the story ramps up and Roth deepens the post-war horror theme the film comes close to greatness but doesn't quite get there. Nonetheless, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a light hearted caper that goes back to basics in the visual department - in this house there's no trick, it's all treat.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.