“The House With A Clock in Its Walls” Clocks in on Childhood Fears


Film Adaptation of Book

Gloria Han, Maroon-News Staff

The first exposure I had to “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” was as a child. My brother recommended it to me when I was only nine years old. It really creeped me out. There was something dark and mysterious about it, and I didn’t get past the first couple of chapters. I don’t know why I never went back to it, after I grew into a less frightened kid. Normally, I would never recommend watching a movie without reading its source material, but that is exactly what I did.

The film adaptation of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is directed by Eli Roth. Roth’s other films are known for their violent, R-rated horror. In fact, his genre has been categorized as “torture porn” by critics. So, it does seem a little surprising that he should be the one to create a PG, family- friendly movie based on a children’s book. Roth proves himself versatile: the movie is entertaining with a few creepy moments that render the film overall suitable for its audience’s intended age.

“The House” revolves around Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), recently orphaned after his parents die in a car crash. He is sent to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in New Zebedee, Michigan, in a house that the town believes to be haunted. Jonathan and his neighbor Florence (Cate Blanchett) both appear to be quite strange: Jonathan keeps jack-o-lanterns outside all year long, and his tables and walls are saturated with ticking clocks.

Along with trying to make new friends at school, Lewis discovers that his uncle and Florence are in fact a warlock and a witch. Submitting to his pleas, they decide to train Lewis to become a warlock himself. They also reveal their quest to locate a mysterious ticking heart, which sounds unceasingly through each night. Trying to locate this ticking heart occupies much of Jonathan and Florence’s time, and eventually, Lewis’ as well.

Vaccaro is endearing as the Captain Midnight-loving, dictionary-nerd Lewis. He’s also absolutely adorable. Blanchett is witty and magnetic as Florence, like the chameleon she is in her roles; I still find it mind-boggling that she graced this movie with her presence. Black is, well, typical Jack Black. Together, Black and Blanchett have unexpectedly good chemistry; some of the best scenes are when they banter back and forth. Overall, the pace is steadily paced, with little room to be bored. Coupled with humor and a Halloween-like atmosphere, “The House” has all the right conditions to become a blockbuster hit.

We, as college students, are not quite the target audience for this film. Some of the jokes and dialogue, as well as the overall plot, are clearly meant for the giggles and gasps of children. My friend Kendra and I both agreed that the word “cute” summarized the movie pretty well. Nonetheless, “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is fun to watch, no matter what age you are.

Besides, sometimes a simple plot and a (more or less) unsophisticated villain are all that we need; I know that I often just want a movie that’s easy to follow. Meanwhile, I still have some unanswered questions, so I think I’ll finally finish that book, too.

Contact Gloria Han at [email protected].