Saturday movie review: The House With a Clock in its Walls

Jack Black is quickly becoming my favorite star of thrillers. Thrillers of the family friendly sort, that is. I was intrigued by his turn as author R.L. Stine in 2015’s GOOSEBUMPS and endlessly amused by his role as Bethany—yes, a girl!—in the slapstick silly yet oh-so suspenseful JUMANIJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE. Three’s a charm with THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, wherein Black plays mysterious and mesmerizing Jonathan Barnavelt, who lives in a creaky, creepy mansion that has a tick-tocking heart heard in the dark of night.


THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, based on the classic children’s book of the same name, written by Eric Kripke and illustrated by Edward Gorey, also stars Cate Blanchett and Owen Vaccaro. With master frightener Eli Roth directing and Steven Speilberg’s Amblin Entertainment the production company, the enchanting kids’ adventure has the feel of the delightful Amblin classics of the ‘80s—E.T. GREMLINS, GOONIES and more. Adding to the scare factor, the screenplay is written by Eric Kripke, creator of TV’s Supernatural, and produced by Brad Fischer (SHUTTER ISLAND) and James Vanderbilt (ZODIAC) along with Kripke.

Even so, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS isn’t too scary for kids—though I’d recommend a grownup watch with those younger than 10 as it’s chock full of creepy images that might be a bit much for wee ones.

The story:

After his parents’ untimely death, 10-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) goes to live with his Uncle Jonathan (Black), who resides in a magic-filled mansion and has a spellbinding, er, spell-casting neighbor named Mrs. Zimmerman (Blanchett). Lewis longs to learn magic himself, and that’s when things get exciting… and dangerous.

Every actor played their part well. Black, as I mentioned, was mesmerizing. Is he a good guy? Bad guy? True wizard or just a wacky wanna-be? Cate Blanchett’s Mrs. Zimmerman was snarky and fun, balanced by a sorrowful backstory. And Owen Vaccaro nailed the quirky and inquisitive outcast Lewis. Plus, Kyle MacLachlan was nearly unrecognizable as the dastardly (demonic?) Isaac Izard.

The cinematography epitomizes eerie, and the house itself is a true treat. The set is amazing, with all the clocks, large and small.And automatons. Lots of them!

A captivating interview with director Eli Roth and Cate Blanchett:

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS (rated PG) was released in theaters in September 2018. The magical movie is now out on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, which include more than 60 minutes of exclusive bonus features—alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes, gag reel, behind-the-scenes, magic tricks and much, much more. With Christmas mere days away, the family-friendly film makes a great last-minute gift for all ages!

Find out more about THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS on the official website, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Hashtag: #HouseWithAClock.

Disclosure: I received a DVD of this film free for review; opinions are my own.