Review: ‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’: Magic is All Around

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Sometimes films introduce children to the horror and supernatural genres flawlessly. The House with a Clock in Its Walls accomplishes that feat. From the mind that brought us Supernatural, Eric Kripke takes viewers on a journey that ultimately relies on family dynamics and shows the importance of family. The biggest surprise is Eli Roth. This film is my favorite of his as opposed to his previous films that fall into the torture sub-genre of horror. With the combination of Roth, Kripke, and an amazing cast, audiences are in for a movie that will scare them, make them laugh, and touch their hearts to the point some tears might fall by the time the credits roll.

From the very beginning of the feature, viewers know that Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) is not one’s typical guardian. Thanks to his sister’s son, newly orphaned Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), Jonathan’s world opens up in ways magic could never accomplish. As the clock ticks down, the impending danger becomes evident. Jonathan does not want to divulge the danger that lies ahead like his neighbor and dear friend Florence (Cate Blancett) encourages him to reveal. While we want to know more about Jonathan, Lewis, and Florence, viewers also want to learn more about the previous owners of the home Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) and Selena Izard (Renée Elise Goldsberry).

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls truly focuses on relationships which drive this movie. The driving force, of course, is the relationship between Jonathan and Lewis. We meet a little boy who is recently orphaned forced to live with an uncle he has never met – a man who knows nothing about raising children, but also a man who wants to do right by his nephew while keeping him safe. With that, he learns the importance of family after he’s forced out of his own home once upon a time. In many ways, the film relies on the importance of creating our own families. Sometimes the family we create is just as strong as our family that contains blood.

This is also highlighted by the relationship between Jonathan and Florence. Their friendship is something I want to attain. The banter back and forth is one of the highlights of the film. I do not consider their remarks true insults. They are, oddly enough, terms of endearment. With all good friendships, we get to a point in those friendships demonstrated between these two characters. A part of us also yearns for Florence to attain true happiness upon discovering the truth of her backstory. Audiences do rejoice in her happiness with Jonathan already although it’s a platonic relationship and not a kissy face one as often remarked in the film.

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Another fantastic relationship in the film, due to the range of the emotions showcased, is the friendship between Jonathan and Issac. While the backstory of their friendship was not intended to drive the film, when revealed, sympathy for both characters are derived.  Granted, Isaac is the villain.  There’s no doubt about that, but at the heart of this character, we find someone in desperate times.  A man that went to war and came back a different person. Most of the time this is what occurs once one of our loved ones come back from war.  Jonathan immediately senses this in the man who became his best friend so long ago but does not know how to truly assist him.  While we want to aid in these situations often we cannot truly understand how to do so.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a treat for viewers and a family-friendly film that has the potential of becoming a Halloween staple. With the mixture of fantasy, supernatural, and horror elements the film is the perfect afternoon escape.  The cinematography is gorgeous, and the digital effects create a wonderland that will leave a smile on your face and wish that some of your furniture was magical too. We want to learn alongside Lewis on how to become the best warlock or witch and become part of the family. Viewers are also reminded that it is okay to be a weirdo and embrace what is truly unique about them while not embracing the desire to conform.

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There is nothing I would change about this feature.  Actually, I take that back. The only addition to the film I would make is finding a much larger litter box for Jonathan’s kitty.