Film review: The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018), directed by Eli Roth
tl;dr: Eerily good fun, with lots of CGI!
Based on a novel by John Bellairs, and with a screenplay by Eric Kripke (Supernatural) this is the story of orphan Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro). Having lost his parents in a car crash, he’s taken in by his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). The next door neighbour (Colleen Camp) is aghast – weirdo Jonathan Barnavelt is supposed to not only keep a child alive, but actually care for him?! Uncle Jonathan isn’t entirely on his own, though. His other neighbour, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), is at hand as well – if they can ever stop bickering, that is.
Uncle Jonathan’s weird house starts being creepy by the front gate – Jack’o’lanterns, despite it not even being Halloween. Lewis keeps having dreams about his mother (Lorenza Izzo), and there’s a mysterious ticking noise from the walls. When Lewis discovers his uncle chopping away at the walls in the middle of the night, he fears he may be in the “care” of an axe murderer … but the truth is a bit more interesting than that …
Also starring Kyle MacLachlan and Renée Elise Goldsberry as Isaac and Selena Izard.
The funny thing is that when we saw this film, we were both surprised it was already available on streaming services, seeing as how we both thought it had only just been in the cinema. Not quite, perhaps, as it seems it came out in September 2018 (we saw it in April 2019), but it was still pretty recent, to be fair.
We both very much enjoyed the film. It was funny, but Jack Black is a funny bloke so that’s not entirely surprising, perhaps. With a beard, at times it felt like he was trying to channel Orson Welles, which isn’t really far-fetched, considering Welles was a skilled magician. Now, Jack Black playing an older Orson Welles in some capacity? I’m game!
I liked the purple stylings of Florence’s … well, everything, because I (unsurprisingly) happen to rather like purple, and Cate Blanchett … you can never go wrong with Cate Blanchett.
Owen Vaccaro had to pull a lot of terrified faces and scream in this film, so it’s just as well he’s really good at it! Lewis is a sweet kid, but of course his school friend Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic) is less so. But if it wasn’t for Lewis trying desperately to impress him, would the plot have jumped forward at the pace it did?
There’s never really a dull moment, and while a CGI armchair acting like an excited dog or a CGI leaf-defecating topiary griffin are silly comic relief, it doesn’t matter. This is a magical, whimsical adventure for young and old, and no one had to burst into song in the process. Jolly good fun.
4 out of 5 creepy mechanical dolls.