The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
279 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
6/10
Decent Waste of Time
southdavid19 September 2018
Orphaned and sent to live with his Uncle Johnathan (Jack Black), Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) soon discovers that his Uncle is a Warlock, and his neighbour Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a witch. Together the three of them investigate the mansion that their living in - that formally belonged to a powerful and evil Warlock Issac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), particularly the mysterious ticking that they can hear at night, seemingly coming from within the walls themselves.

Truth be told, I am probably much older than the target audience for this one. The reviews have talked about this being Eli Roth's first family friendly film but there isn't honestly a lot for the parents in the audience to sink their teeth into. The performances are generally OK, although Jack Black does resort to "Jack Black" a few more times than is really necessary. The story is OK, though it ends somewhat abruptly. Occasionally the CGI is a bit of a let-down, but this is the exception rather than the norm, in fact most of the time the film is visually charming..

It is occasionally a little too scary for some of the younger children who might see it, but most would cope without any issues.

The trouble is that it doesn't really add up to very much. You're unlikely to hate it but you probably won't love it either.
95 out of 123 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Decent Adaptation with Hit or Miss Moments
leaugebrett21 September 2018
I was a huge fan of John Bellairs book series growing up, and was excited for a hopefully competent film adaptation. The biggest dissapointment for me was the casting of Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt. In the books, he was a well-defined and intelligent protagonist who overcame obstacles via inventiveness. In this film, he's a crybaby with terrible character motivation and a generally useless atmosphere, with Vaccaro giving one of the worst child actor performances I've seen in years (not exaggerating, the "bully" character that we're supposed to hate is a better actor and more likeable than the lead). Jack Black does a good job with the lackluster script and Cate Blanchet's character was probably my favorite in the film. Kyle Maclachlan's brief role is also great, I'm glad he went all out for a relatively unknown movie. The set and costume design is also solid, while the CGI hurts some scenes.

While I'll never watch this movie again, I would recommend it to parents looking for a unique live action kid's film. The House With the Clock in It's Walls could have been a much more memorable film with a different lead actor, or with a script that drew more from the rich source material.
52 out of 68 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Better handled than expected
jwwalrath-227-8548722 September 2018
I'll be honest, I was a little worried about this considering that: a) This is the first children's film from torture porn horror director Eli Roth not to mention the first time he's helmed a film with an attempted big visual flair. b) The film is more humorous than the book. I was afraid it might be too hard to be Goosebumps. Luckily, both my fears were abated.

Jack Black and Cate Blanchett have excellent chemistry together. They're both quite humorous, but they also nail the characters' more serious moments. It's weird that a trifecta of children's/family films has produced some of Jack Black's best roles. Although, you feel a bit more of the Jack Black personality here than in his other two roles, he does manifest the character of Uncle Jonathan, the fun uncle who also has a secret undertaken. Overall, all the characters are really well-fleshed out here.

Visually the film looks great from the 50s' setting to the entire look of the lavish house from the title, especially the scary visuals. Really, they rank with the likes of Tim Burton or Krampus.

The film knows when to have fun, but it knows when to bring on the scares. As a child I preferred the original book and the other works of John Bellairs over Goosebumps, because the horror was played more directly and seriously, and this movie understands that. Cautious parents be aware that this is as scary as a PG movie can get. Well, maybe not as much as The Witches, but what is. This is definitely Coraline level.

The only downside is that at a running time of one hour and forty-four minutes, the second act, which is heavy on the character bits, drags a bit. Most of the action doesn't happen till the third act.

Roth surpassed my expectations here, and I hope he gets a chance at adapting the second book in the series.
46 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Who is the target audience?
vegeta-julian3 October 2018
The movie was a decent way to spend about 2 hours, but it left me wondering who the target audience is. For adults I found that the plot is too silly and has too many random "conveniences", but children might be shocked and frightened by some contents. So maybe it is just for those who are just too old for Harry Potter, but too young for R rated movies? Would be a pretty small audience. Anyway, I had some mindless fun with it.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The Jack Black charm works its magic
ayoreinf21 September 2018
This is a cute fun fantasy comedy, that works because its stars make it work. Like most fantasy movies of late, it's very CGI driven, but since CGI is by now a mere technicality it's not a problem. Not having any real villain, is a problem and Kyle MacLachlan doesn't get any screen time in which to build his character, but it still works, because the leading trio is wonderful. Cate Blanchett, doesn't need my support, her abilities as an actress are long proven, and she is as good as one expect her to be. The kid Owen Vaccaro, has a nerd a dweeb and a dork written all over him. He simply has the look of the ultimate social misfit, he does have a few off moments but they're hardly noticed because the rest of the cast around him covers for him. And then there's Jack Black. I already consider him an extremely underrated actor. He's one of the rare few who can do buffoonish and cute together and make it flow naturally. In my personal book his most endearing quality is his complete lack of respect to his own image.

Without Jack Black, this is a nice but way too preachy movie about growing up with loss, and about outgrowing loss. With him, all the preachiness is gone, you simply can't take it seriously enough to be preached at. The moment you remove the preachiness, all you're left with is fun, and that's what we got here. A fun fantasy comedy with some added value to boot.
42 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Disappointing
burgercolleen26 September 2018
I was very excited to see this movie as I'm a fan of fantasy films, plus casting Jack Black and Cate Blanchett was icing on the cake. However, the movie lacked excitement. There were a lot of drawn out boring segments where I felt myself closing my eyes and drifting off a bit and that's rare for me during a movie. The previews made it look like it was going to be creatively exciting, but all the good parts were in the trailer. Since going to the movies these days can be costly, I say don't bother wasting your money.
32 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Good atmosphere, two great actors, but...
info-2079722 September 2018
Sorry to criticize the kid, but the boy can't act and it was painfully distracting. It would also be more interesting if more fun magic tricks were shown...
42 out of 65 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A Good Film but Not Great
conradclub21 September 2018
Good cast, good special effects & interesting storyline, yet it lacked story depth & attention to story details. If had been done right, the story could have been better than mediocre. First and foremost this story is about 3 people in search for love, family and finding where one belongs. The screenplay failed to show hints of romantic love between Jack Black & Cate Blanchett's characters. Jack Black showed little attachment to the Boy which could have been demonstrated by hands on magical instruction by Black to the Boy. Thirdly, the movie could have spent a scene or two with the "true friend" with the boy. Finally, I thought the back story of Black's nemesis was clumsily done. It seemed to me that this movie was half baked instead of being nurtured into a mature film that could have been fully entertaining to kids and adults. Sorry to say, but I give this film a 6.5 to 7.
19 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Terrible advertising
b_alexis23 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I was very disappointed in this movie. I have not read the books or heard much about this movie via previews. My children, ranging in ages 9-13, said the movie looked funny from what they have seen. It was a last minute movie choice and it was the only one with a children's rating (pg). I glanced quickly at IMDB and it was described as a "fantasy, family" movie. The movie started out with funny lines and some interesting story lines. The issue I had is when it turned from magic and fun to the occult and demonic presences. My children became confused and a bit creeped out by what they saw. The rating and target aundience for this movie should not have been for children.
32 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Almost Laughably Bad
ColterTheCritic3 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The scenery and designs were decent, and that's it for the positives. The writing was atrocious, and the acting was even worse. Jack Black sadly gave the best performance, and even THAT was garbage. Cate Blanchett didn't sound like she had a clue what she was talking about. And the kid...this is Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker levels of bad. There was one scene in the beginning where he talked about the death of his parents, and his fake crying was so unconvincing that I burst out laughing. Everyone looked at me like I was a sociopath, but it was THAT bad! I urge everyone reading this to save your money. Stay home and pop in a DVD to watch with the kids.
24 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Tick tock - this movie died.
amason-622 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I honestly don't understand how people can call this great family entertainment. I'm not even sure how this movie got a PG rating. It is definitely NOT for kids! Unless you consider shape shifting witches, warlocks, a demon, a blood spell that brings the dead back to life, murderous vomiting jack-o- lanterns, and creepy dolls that attack, well you get the picture, not good material for kids. I'm just sorry I didn't check this movie out more thoroughly because I could have saved my time and money. But I figured PG rating - what could be wrong? The themes were way more for adults than children, and what little humor there was missed the mark. I'm just sorry that I didn't walk out when I wanted to but I kept thinking the movie could somehow redeem itself.

Save your time, your money, and your kids brains - don't get sucked in by this trash.
52 out of 98 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
"House With a Clock In Its Walls": Eli Roth Fantasy Lacks Magic
kevinthecritic24 September 2018
1.5 out of 5 stars (one of the worst of the year)

Watching "The House With a Clock in its Walls" is like being on a massive sugar high: It's way too fast, very confusing, and eventually causes you as a viewer to crash and fight falling asleep. Why horror director Eli Roth and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke were chosen to helm this project is a mystery given that neither are known for family entertainment, and it really shows here. Add a completely miscast Jack Black, underused Cate Blanchett, and a child actor with little screen presence, and you have one of the dullest fantasies of the year, for adults anyway. The kids in my audience laughed a lot, so I'm sure this film will be a hit at 12-year-old slumber parties on dark stormy nights, if that's any consolation.

Following his parents' death, Lewis (Owen Vaccaro, of the tedious Daddy's Home franchise) is sent to live with his quirky and mysterious Uncle Jonathan (a thoroughly annoying and out-of-place Jack Black) in his creepy old mansion. Jonathan basically shirks his responsibilities as a guardian, except for one rule: Don't open the ominous cabinet in the house's center, or bad things will come. Oooooo.

As always in these creepy haunted location movies, Lewis hears a ticking sound in the wall one night, only to see Jonathan sneaking around like a cat-burglar. After discussing this with a kid at school, Lewis confronts Jonathan, and the man reveals himself and deadpan neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett trying her hardest to save the picture) are a warlock and witch, respectively. They start training Lewis in magic as he tries to investigate the secret behind the ticking in the wall, which leads to yet another fantasy bad guy with a take-over-the-world scheme (Played with a modicum of energy by 90's icon Kyle MacLachlan).

"The House With a Clock in its Walls" has absolutely no idea what it is or who it's aimed at. Black is in full man-child mode here, making funny faces to make kids laugh, but a blasé story, lack of momentum, and later scary images make it questionable for younger kids. 12-and-ups should be safe, but any younger may have nightmares. Again, the kids in my screening laughed a ton, and I probably would have liked this too in my younger years, but I feel the pain of their parents who must pay for them to see it and watch good actors like Black and Blanchett act like one-dimensional cartoons. Director Roth is expectedly more comfortable in the horror scenes than the comedic ones, but I found much of the humor flat. At least I earned a free popcorn the next time I go to the theater and heard a comparably interesting podcast about the proper temperature of wine on the ride back home.

"The House With a Clock in Its Walls" is a boring, drawn-out fantasy with mostly uninteresting direction, a rushed script, and unlikable characters that had me in an epic battle to avoid sleeping in my comfy seat. As with "The Nun", I must ask why this isn't an October release. Its creepy visuals and tone are tailor-made for tweens on a stormy night, but adults will likely be bored by this. At one point, a character says to young Lewis, "It's a total waste of time". I couldn't agree more, young sir. Skip it.

Rated PG for Thematic Elements Including Sorcery (seriously?), Some Action, Scary Images, Rude Humor, And Language
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Can't Decide What It Wants To Be
majorcbruno1 October 2018
The House with a Clock in Its Walls has two things going for it - Jack Black, who stars in the film, and... Jack Black, who also stars in the film. Normally, any film with both of those qualities would instantly be a favorite of mine. You could count on a totally quirky, crass, and hilarious romp of a movie, with a not-so-insignificant chance of a guitar solo or heavy metal reference thrown in.

However, it seems that just slapping a well known actor onto a film does not a good movie make. Black can't seem to live up to his usual level of zaniness, primarily due to the very poor writing. The dialogue is incredibly inconsistent, and varies wildly in style. You could convince me, without much effort, that it was a collaboration between an HBO drama writer, and a five year old who hasn't gotten past poop jokes yet. One moment you have cutting dialogue about family and loss, really forcing the characters to deal with their flaws, and the next you have a magical garden statue firing wads of poo at an unsuspecting Lewis. Even with good casting you can't work around that, and frequently the adult characters in the film sound like caricatures of people, delivering bizarrely wooden lines that feel very out of place.

Not only is the writing all over the place, but so is the subject matter. You have magic and wizardry on the one hand, schoolyard drama on the other, and then a bizarre dive into necromancy, Satyrs, and all manner of occult influences. The film can't make up its mind on what kind of story it wants to tell, or who the story is for.

The oscillation between these different tones creates a truly jarring experience watching the film. Parts of it are done well - the more serious dramatic moments actually hit home quite well - but they are so fleeting that they lose their impact. This makes the immature and childish jokes and one liners even more stale and out of place than they already are.

The actual story of the film is easily its biggest strength. A tale of mystery and magic, with some creative ideas and interesting characters. It follows the story of Lewis, who moves in with an Uncle he soon learns is magical. Lewis gets swept into a world of warlocks and witches, a world that holds both wonderous sights and dark secrets alike. Certainly a promising start. There are even some surprising twists here and there. The potential is absolutely there for a fun and creative adventure that the whole family could enjoy, but that potential is squandered by poor execution, inconsistent writing, and an inability for the film to just make up its mind. The House with a Clock in Its Walls may be confused, but I'm not. I wouldn't recommend seeing this one.
11 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Be prepared for your kids to end up in your bed!
ekwood-7702622 September 2018
A friend and I saw this for fun today while our kids were in school. Thank God they weren't with us! While the child in the movie is 10, the scare level is significantly older. Only later did I find out that the director actually intended it to be a "gateway film" into the horror genre for kids. It lived up to it! If mine had seen it I would have them sneaking into our bed for a year, or maybe forever. Parents should know that it is not like Harry Potter. This movie very definitely includes the occult, demons, and creepy dolls that attack people, among other things. If your children are at all sensitive, or for that matter, if you are, give it a miss. As for me, I may or may not be sleeping with a light on tonight and thanking my lucky stars that, as I have boys, I don't have dolls in the house!
48 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Not for young kids
giulianacbraga24 September 2018
I took my eight-year-old daughter and her two friends. All of them were scared the whole time. This movie is definitely not for young kids.
29 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
fun fullled family movie
stuart-smith72921 September 2018
I probably rate this a little higher than i should as my family and i were the only ones in the imax however i enjoyed it and my two kids loved it.
20 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Misleading Preview
dramsoobhag24 September 2018
The preview for this movie portrayed it as a exciting magical fantasy for kids. While there are child actors in the movie, there are very dark moments and scenes which have realistic looking "satanic" rituals. It is not suitable for children at all. Additionally the plot movie was very slow and not engaging. We left about hour into the movie, we really tried to stick it out, but we just could not.
18 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
This should have been rated pg13
jeff-3507029 September 2018
They got the rating wrong on this movie, should def not have been rated pj. Not appropriate for young kids.
24 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Tame horror, great pumpkins.
jdesando19 September 2018
My knowledge of kids' fantasy horror stories ranges from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Something Wicked This Way Comes to Goosebumps, to Harry Potter, all a bit odd, none too horrible. However, a heavy dose of that eccentric comes with the newest children's fantasy, The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The nerdiest kids should like this film; the normal maybe not so much because it lacks heavy horror!

Young orphan Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) goes to stay with his Uncle, Jonathan (Jack Black) and neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchette). So far so good except the adults are witch and warlock and the boy precocious and eccentric. As Jonathan learns the basics of magic (not the benign Harry Potter stuff), he also learns that the dead magician Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) has tricked out his sumptuous Victorian mansion with a doomsday clock, whose discovery now is essential for mankind's survival and whose location must be found.

It is too convoluted a story to recount except that Lewis learns about necromancy and indomitability along with a bushel of new words fitting an emerging intellectual magician, albeit strange to his classmates. Lamentably, most of the horror tropes are broad and tame. A lion defecating on the nearest boy, however, should please the younger audience.

Youngsters may squirm at raising the dead while teens can easily survive that Halloween staple. Adults will be amused although disappointed at how little the comely Blanchette is used and how little humor the too-often serious Black is in a role made to order for his goofiness. Together, however, they are a comedy team worth noting. Good chemistry.

The magic of Harry Potter is not here while some of its charm resides with Lewis and the gifted witch, Mrs. Zimmerman. Along the way the film makes points about the destructiveness of wars and offers oddly funny set pieces such as when, for example, Blanchette head butts a pumpkin.

Audiences will magically or not flock to this unusually low-key horror treat. Just don't think about that lion.
14 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Another classic ruined!
frogmanethan27 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
GOOD GAWD WAS THIS TRASH!!! If you love the book do not see this movie! Eli Roth screwed this up so badly that it is almost unrecognizable as John Bellaires's masterpiece. Go read the book, read it to your kids, but do not watch this sorry excuse for a film.
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Not for kids under 10years old
suelemgisela24 September 2018
This is not a PG movie, this movie contains some material not be suitable for children under 10 years old.
32 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
I walked out with 7 minutes left in the movie
sonofjuliet-8833030 September 2018
This was TERRIBLE movie. Jack Black was terrible. Cate Blanchett was ok, and the little boy. I wasn't the only one who left early during it. Some of the scary parts were actually SCARY, as in totally not appropriate for a movie like this. The fart, poop, and pee humor is getting so old, and just shows lack of imagination on the part of the screen writer. The effects were ok, but the pacing of the movie was also awful and a made for tv movie could have done so much better. I also don't get why they felt the need to swear in a movie like this? I love to swear all the time, but it was not appropriate in a family movie.
22 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Cynical marketing towards kids
audacity1024 October 2018
Since my last review for this unpleasant film inexplicably disappeared from IMDB, I'll just write another one.

I'm writing it again because as others have noted: this movie is absolutely not suitable for kids despite it being marketed towards them. The more people that point this out the better, because as you may notice, sites like this one are now being used to promote big budget movies with undoubtedly fake hyper-positive reviews.

The reason this movie is unsuitable is because it is filled with Luciferian imagery, occultism and even has the lead child actor cut his hand wide open as an offering for a blood sacrifice.

Make no mistake, this isn't innocent Harry Potter fare, it's a cynical assault on our youngest. The director is apparently quoted admitting his intentions were to literally scare the living daylights out of children. And he certainly succeeded in doing that with the young family sitting at the front row of our cinema screening, resulting in their parents taking them out - as any responsible parent would do after realising they were deceived.
13 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Ruinous treatment of a wonderful book
mochie704 October 2018
This movie falls completely flat. The characters fail to evoke any sympathy or interest, the plot is a mismanaged muddle, the jokes are awkward and unfunny, and the dialogue is abysmal. Jack Black positively chews the scenery. Cate Blanchette is miscast. And watching the actor who plays Lewis try to generate tears might be the only comedic success attained here. At no time was there any feeling of tension or danger. Another empty CGI cyclone of a film.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Not child friendly!
mn833522 September 2018
Creepy, possessed dolls and demons. Animated corpses and frightening scenes were too much for my kids. The previews were grossly misleading. I shocked and disappointed.
21 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed