If you’re looking for a fun way to traumatize your kids, skip Spirit Halloween. The House with a Clock in its Walls has everything you need.
Director Eli Roth, whose horror movie credits include Cabin Fever and Hostel, takes a crack at PG horror this time around. Instead of flesh-eating bacteria or knife-wielding sadists, Roth uses a creepy house, the droning of a million clocks, and Sid’s dollhouse of horror to build a fun, thrilling environment where things go bump in the night in a warm way. The movie pushes the creepiness to the edge of its young audience’s limits. What’s most impressive is that the scares serve as a metaphor for the scares of real life: bullies, loss, rejection, and failure. Roth has created a charming neighborhood worth exploring, and a cast of characters almost as charming.
Jack Black plays Jonathan Barnavelt, a rotund and bearded warlock on a quest to stop something wicked from this way coming. Cate Blanchett plays his purple witch neighbor with a tragic history. The main character though, is Lewis Barnavelt played by Owen Vaccaro, a goggled orphan struggling to cope with the loss of his parents and find his place in a strange new world.
Roth uses his horror chops adeptly in crafting a magically warm house, that then turns doubly creepy once death is introduced into its environment. I suppose that’s what he was going for. Little Lewis’s generally warm world suddenly became doubly scary once his parents’ death became a reality. The trials the boy faces in the frightening house directly correspond with the challenges he faces in the real world. This is the central theme of the story, and it is woven throughout, but subtly so you can forget it’s there if you get wrapped up in the big-head baby-ness of it all.
Speaking of, every movie has to justify its existence by showing us something new. Kung Fu Panda gave us “Skadoosh,” Nacho Libre gave us…his…nucleus. The House with a Clock in its Walls gives us a Jack Black baby that is equal parts Tenacious D and Baby’s Day Off, and is something I have never seen before.
All in all, it was a fun movie and pushed the creep factor in the best way. This movie is a great start to your Halloween season.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions!!!