The House with a Clock in Its Walls

is a holiday flick that neatly slides in between

Harry Potter



Lemony Snicket

on the bookshelf of magic and misfortune; a lengthy title, an orphan boy who learns magic, and questionable caregivers. It's become a slightly tired routine, something which I was hoping the effervescent Jack Black and brooding Cate Blanchett would breath new life into — unfortunately not.

Set in the 50s, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to live with his uncle Jonathan (Black) after having tragically lost his parents. Uncle Jonathan is an amiable man, who is relentlessly tormented by a mysterious clock that continuously ticks within the recesses of his mansion walls. Lewis soon discovers that all is not as it seems with his uncle and his peculiar neighbour Florence (Blanchett), and that the clock Jonathan seeks holds the key to the future of the universe.

Although the film seemingly has all the accessible ingredients of broad appeal, it is hampered by two factors. Firstly, the young 'uns in the audience will most likely find it way too scary.

There are plenty of jump-scares and moments of genuine creepiness here. Perhaps Eli Roth, who's helmed such horrors as Hostel and Cabin Fever might not have been the wisest pick to direct a family-friendly holiday flick.

Try as he might, Roth can't keep his horror sensibilities under the bed, resulting in some fairly dark imagery; animated dolls, drops of sacrificial blood dripping on to spell books, animating the dead . . .

Secondly, lest you think the film is pitched at an older audience, the plot seems way too rudimentary and lacks complexity and humour. There are a few chuckles but not nearly what we've become accustomed to from Black.

As a platform for Black and Blanchett to strut their stuff . . . this renders them more Bland and Blandchett.

It's not all bad; technically the film carries off some fairly impressive set pieces and the young talent, Owen Vaccaro, seems destined for greater things. Ultimately though, the timing of The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a little confused.


Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro


Eli Roth

Running time:

104 mins


PG (Violence & scary scenes)


A mis-directed kids fantasy that's unsure of its audience.