The House with a Clock in its Walls

At first glance Eli Roth would seem an unlikely candidate to direct ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’. Notorious for directing such grisly horror movies such as the ‘Hostel’ films and ‘Cabin Fever’, to find him helming a children’s fantasy movie seems bizarre. To his credit, Roth infuses a genuine creepy foreboding into the fantastical flick based on the John Bellairs novel. With a solid cast and wondrous CGI, Roth successfully sheds his ‘horror hound’ persona for an all-ages extravaganza.

In the early 1950’s, ten year old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to live with his Uncle Johnathan (Jack Black). Moving into Jonathan’s sprawling house, Lewis discovers a myriad of secrets. One of them is the fact that Johnathan is a Warlock who lives next door to witch Florence (Cate Blanchett). Together the trio face evil sorcerers Selena (Renee Elise Goldsberry) and her husband Isaac (Kyle McLachlan). With connections to the mysterious old house, the wicked duo runs amuck whilst the intrepid trio protect their neighbours from spectral villainy.

‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’ is a diverting fantasy hitting most of its targets. Graced with fine performers who perfectly pitch their roles, especially talented young actor Vaccaro, it is easy becoming engaged in the mayhem. There’s barely a duff performance with the cast directed well by Roth. Given his horror history, Roth knows how to ratchet up the tension whilst moving the story along. He also reveals a softer side in telling a more family-friendly tale without selling out his technical skills.

Like any good movie, ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’ works on several levels. Drama, humour, pathos and horror are mixed into a screenplay fully fleshing out its characters. Although occasional moments of padding are evident, it generally holds attention for most of its length. The spectacular CGI successfully enables the house itself to ‘come alive’ and play its own important role.

Discarding his hellish reputation, Eli Roth delivers a fine counterpart to his established directorial persona. A fun and quite creepy tale, ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’ is reminiscent of something Tim Burton may have done. More films like this in Roth’s cinematic catalogue would be welcome for a spooky but enjoyable time at the cinema where eyes don’t have to remain closed.

Rating out of 10: 7

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