Monday, 24 September 2018

The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro
Director: Eli Roth

From horror and torture-porn-meister Eli Roth comes a family horror film, produced within the stable of Amblin Entertainment, and based on the 1973 book by John Bellairs.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

Vaccaro is newly-orphaned Lewis, who goes to live with his uncle Jonathan (Black, in usual OTT mode, and perhaps one of the film's little disappointments) after a car accident claimed his parents.

Upon discovering his uncle is a warlock, and struggling to fit in at school, Lewis turns his attention to the world of sorcery and magic. But when Lewis raises a former wizard from the dead, hell threatens to break loose - and it's further exacerbated by Jonathan's desire to find an endlessly clicking clock within the walls of his house.

In truth, The House With a Clock in Its Walls feels like a mesh of Goosebumps and a carnival haunted house rollercoaster ride.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls: Film Review

There are some genuinely unsettling sequences set to celluloid from Roth, with the dread of the atmosphere cranked up for maximum effect. But like all of the biggest scares at a fairground, this is only material for show in a time and tested formula of good versus evil.

Partially ignoring the deeper thread of the post-traumatic stress syndrome of war (a wonderfully evocative piece hints at the turmoil facing one character, but is unexplored) in favour of more kiddy-friendly fare, The House With a Clock in Its Walls is content to avoid the issues of dealing with loss, and grief within 1950s America.

But that's no bad thing - and for a large part, the film is surprisingly entertaining, thanks to a wonderfully tart and emotionally nuanced turn from Blanchett as a witch with a tragic past. Black delivers his usual goggling eyes routine, which in truth becomes tiring midway through, and the script chooses to layer on some fart gags for puerile pleasure, which detracts from the wondrousness of what's to pass.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls

However, moments such as a pumpkin attack, and an evocation of the light of the universe are truly exciting to behold, and show that Roth, as a child film director, has enough smarts to deliver as much heart as the horrors needed to keep the tension ratcheted up.

All in all, The House With a Clock in Its Walls is a pleasantly surprising piece of family fare, that offers a tautly delivered set of purpose within its 100 minutes' run time. There's more it could have explored, and some deeper themes merely hinted at rather than fully fleshed out, but the fun parlour tricks it deploys manage to distract from the moments and themes that could have given more than just chills, thrills and silliness.

No comments:

Post a Comment