James King, A&E Writer
I was curious about this movie. I had seen a preview earlier this year in one of the many superhero movies, and it looked pretty interesting for a kids movie. It was a period piece movie reminding me of the magic of the Harry Potter franchise and the general creepy oddness of The Addams Family franchise. The advertising even got me. The mystery with the clock that the trailer sets up had me a little bit intrigued. What was going on with the house and what was the clock ticking down to? I had also heard stories of kids legitimately being scared out of the theatres that were showing The House with a Clock in the Walls.
I wanted to see if all this was warranted. If this movie was creepy, bad, or a new diamond in the rough. I went in with low expectations and I was not disappointed. In fact, it was a lot better than I thought it would be. The movie involves a kid named Lewis being dropped off at his uncle’s house. He soon finds out the house and his uncle are more than what they seem.The story kind of feels generic because of this set-up. The subplot of Lewis trying to make friends felt a little unneeded and really just feels like padding. It also does a bad job of making the kids believable, as they tend to feel like stereotypes or a little too much like mary sues. However, there are a few story beats and scenes that keep it from feeling completely predictable.
It does have a few issues. A few jokes drag on for way too long or repeated way too much. The story feels like a made for tv movie, like it was not interested in taking many risks beyond the parts where the movie gets scary. The movie does get legitimately scary, with generally creepy atmosphere and a lot of creepy subtext, but beyond a few jump scares it thankfully doesn’t get too creepy. It does get pretty dark at times for a kids movie though. I can completely understand if some younger kids might be frightened of this movie in the same way the final villain reveal in Who Framed Roger Rabbit scared me as a little kid.
In a more technical sense this movie has some issues. The CGI goes from pretty good in some scenes to pretty bad in a scene when the movie tries to do CGI characters. This movie was directed by Eli Roth, who has been a producer for a lot of action and horror movies, especially gory ones like Hostel and Grindhouse. You can definitely see some of the DNA of those kinds of movies in this one. There are parts of the movie that creeped me out, but tonally it jumps between horror and family comedy, and that can be pretty jarring at times.
I do definitely recommend The House with a Clock in the Walls. It’s a strange little movie and it knows it. I wouldn’t bring any little kids to the movie. I do think that older kids will love this. Fans of something like Gravity Falls or The Addams Family movies should like this. The movie is not a masterpiece, but it brings just enough magic to it make it’s run time an enjoyable one.