“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” (2018) is directed by gore master Eli Roth and is about a young boy named Owen (Lewis Barnavelt) whose parents recently died. Owen has to live with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black), who also happens to be a warlock. This movie is a strange one for several reasons — for a children’s movie, it’s pretty terrifying.
There are scenes of people being brought back from the dead, sacrifices and even living toys that terrorize our heroes. This is pretty intense stuff for the presumed target audience for this film — children.
All of this could be excused if there was more to this film than a half scary/half family movie presentation of everything. None of the scenes outside of the scary ones are particularly engaging or interesting. Not even Black or Cate Blanchett, who plays his witch neighbor, can make it more fun.
Black seems to be doing a light version of his character R.L. Stine in Goosebumps (2015) and Blanchett seems to be on autopilot the whole time.
As for the little boy protagonist, he was fine. He is definitely not a prodigy but he isn’t awful. He brings some charm and life to this otherwise generic film.
In addition to the odd tone and overall blandness of everything besides the scary parts, the filmmakers thought that since every successful movie nowadays has a stale villain, they also need to. Except this one will only show up for the last 30 minutes.
Overall, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is an okay movie. It has some genuinely tense scenes and a few well-intentioned and kind-hearted moments.
Besides that, it is a mess. It’s very strange because this movie is so heavily-marketed toward children, but it will freak out anyone under 10-years-old and bore anyone older than that.
Maybe Roth should stick to filming people under extreme situations of torture like in his past movies.