Day 23: The House with a Clock in its Walls
Premise: After the tragic death of his parents, Lewis goes to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan, who happens to be a warlock and lives in a strange mysterious magical house that occasionally ticks. Because, y’know, it has a clock in its walls.
Unfortunately, said clock happens to be a doomsday clock created by a very dark warlock, so finding a way to stop it seems pretty important. Especially after Lewis makes a fairly major mistake while practicing magic of his own…
Unlike many people I see on the internet, I’m generally the sort of person who doesn’t like to judge or talk down a movie if I’ve never actually seen it myself. Even if I’ve seen a bunch of clips or dozens of reviews of other people denigrating it, I don’t like actively insulting or dismissing it if I’ve never actually bothered sitting down and watching myself, no matter how bad it might sound. Partly because it’s unfair on the movie, partly because actually seeing certain moments in context can make all the difference, partly because… well, lots of reasons.
With said, I feel a touch guilty saying this, having never really watched any of his movies in full (until now), but Eli Roth has never really seemed like my kind of director.
Now, I give credit that the guy has directed a lot of fairly famous horror movies in the last few years, Cabin Fever, Hostel, Green Inferno and so on, but none of them have ever really looked like the sort of movie I’d enjoy, in terms of style, humour or whatever, so I’ve consistently given them a miss. Heck, I don’t have any of them on my Wheel of Chaos list for movies to watch this October. And who knows, maybe I am being a bit harsh on them. After all, there have been plenty of movies out there that I thought I would had but ended up really enjoying (and vice-versa).
And heck, if this movie is any indication, that actually be the case. Because I really did end up liking this.
Now, admittedly, this is kind of a Scooby Doo entry, where it’s not technically a full horror movie and more a kids movie with heavy horror movie trappings. But I don’t really mind because it’s a pretty good kids movie and a lot of the horror trappings really do work… Well, okay, most of the horror trappings really do work. Can’t say I was amazingly fond of the pumpkin vomit.
Still, I’ll admit it’s a fairly basic kids movie formula. Orphaned outcast kid moves to new town with new family and discovers weird shit is up. He makes stupid kids movie mistakes, but everything ends up being alright by the end. It’s not exactly anything new or groundbreaking in that regard. But a lot of it is told fairly well with some cool visuals, fun characters and genuinely surprisingly dark moments. There’s one blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in regard to Mrs Zimmerman’s backstory that made me think ‘Holy shit, did they really just go there?’ and was genuinely quite emotionally affecting.
In particular, I’ve got to give big credit to Jack Black and Cate Blanchett who have fantastic chemistry together as the quirky Uncle Jonathan and neighbourly Mrs Zimmerman. It’s made fairly clear early on that their relationship is just platonic, but the two bounce off each over so well and work together so fantastically that it’s a delight every time they’re on screen together. The main kid, Lewis, isn’t too bad either, although he’s not exactly the best crier. Once early moment when he starts getting emotional, I genuinely thought he was just lying since he was laying it on so strong. Kyle Maclaglan also does well, albeit with a fairly small part.
Honestly, if the strongest parts of the movie are the build-up to the climax and the titular house and the characters, the weakest part is probably the climax itself. It’s not really great, ends fairly abruptly and has some very distractingly bad Jack Black-related CG during much of it. If you’ve seen the movie, chances are you know what I mean. Plus it really does feel a little trapped in the typical kids movie formula that it’s stuck in, to its detriment.
Still, overall, it was a fairly enjoyable kids movie showing from a director who you really wouldn’t expect to appeal to kids all that much. I still don’t really have all that much interesting in seeing Cabin Fever and the like, but if Eli Roth does another kids film, I might just check it out.
Was is Scary?: More than you’d expect for a kids movie.
Was it Silly?: …It is still a kids movie.
Overall Grade: B