The House With A Clock In Its Walls (12A)



Horror (2018)
105mins US

Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro
Director: Eli Roth
Writer(s): Eric Kripke
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Ten-year-old orphan Lewis Barnavelt travels by bus to the town of Zebedee in Michigan to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan. The boy's relative lives in a creepy house full of ticking clocks, which locals say is haunted. It transpires that the house used to belong to a deranged couple called Isaac and Selena Izard, who concealed a Doomsday clock within the walls. Jonathan, a warlock, and his neighbour Florence Zimmerman, a kindly witch, hope to locate the timepiece before the end of days.

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LondonNet Film Review
The House With A Clock In Its Walls (12A)

Mankind unknowingly teeters on the brink of destruction and a 10-year-old boy holds the key to our salvation in the family-friendly adventure The House With A Clock In Its Walls. Adapted from John Bellairs' novel, director Eli Roth's fantastical foray into a wondrous world of witches and warlocks is far removed from the glistening gore and entrails of his gruesome horrors Cabin Fever, Hostel and Knock Knock...

The House With A Clock In Its Walls. Copyright: Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC/Entertainment One. Caption: Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt and Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt in The House With A Clock In Its Walls, directed by Eli Roth. Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert. All Rights Reserved.Admittedly, there are some scary moments here involving an army of snarling pumpkin heads and a reanimated corpse, which might have very young audiences seeking the soothing protection of a parent. However, Eric Kripke's script predominantly spooks rather than scares and a modicum of suspense is dissipated with childish humour courtesy of a topiary winged lion that stands guard over a back garden and has a habit of loudly evacuating its leafy bowels. Poop jokes evidently never go out of fashion. A tattered armchair, which bounds around like an excitable puppy, adds to the cuteness and Jack Black and Cate Blanchett spark a delightful on-screen partnership as two members of a secret magical order, whose relationship is founded on affectionate insults. Youngster Owen Vaccaro wrings out copious tears on cue and has us rooting for his Harry Potter-esque orphan from the nostalgia-drenched opening frames.

He plays scaredy-cat Lewis Barnavelt, who travels by bus to the sleepy 1950s community of Zebedee in Michigan to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Black). The boy's quixotic relative wears a kimono and lives in a creepy house full of ticking clocks. "You'll see it's quite different here," Jonathan cryptically informs his nephew. It transpires that the building used to belong to a deranged couple called Isaac and Selena Izard (Kyle MacLachlan, Renee Elise Goldsberry), who concealed a Doomsday clock within the walls. Jonathan, a warlock, and his sharp-tongued neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), a kindly witch, hope to locate the demonic timepiece before the end of days. Lewis excitedly joins the noble quest in the hope that he might shake his tag as the "creepy little runt" at school and impress one of the popular boys, Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic). The battle between good and evil unfolds under the nose of snooping next-door neighbour Mrs Hanchett (Colleen Camp).

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is an entertaining and outlandish yarn, which delights until a freaky final 15 minutes when madness takes hold and Roth flings digital trickery at the screen in the hope something will stick. While the resolution disappoints, Black and Blanchett are consistently amusing. She lovingly draws attention to his "freakishly oversized head", he retorts by dismissing her as a "withered purple skeleton", bantering back and forth with visible relish. The excellent ensemble cast are the aces up Roth's sleeve and he deals them wisely.

- Jo Planter

The House With A Clock In Its Walls. Copyright: Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC/Entertainment One. Caption: Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt and Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt in The House With A Clock In Its Walls, directed by Eli Roth. Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert. All Rights Reserved.


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