The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)



Critic Consensus: An entertaining PG detour for gore maestro Eli Roth, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly blend of humor and horror with an infectious sense of fun.

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In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award (R) winner Cate Blanchett star in THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town's sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

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Jack Black
as Jonathan Barnavelt
Cate Blanchett
as Mrs. Zimmerman
Owen Vaccaro
as Lewis Barnavelt
Kyle MacLachlan
as Isaac Izard
Braxton Bjerken
as Woody Mingo
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Critic Reviews for The House with a Clock in Its Walls

All Critics (186) | Top Critics (24)

It's too bad this film wasn't effective enough to present that message of indomitability in a stronger, more engaging way, because kids need it now more than ever.

October 18, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…

A fantastical adventure, dandy ode to weirdos, and accessible anti-war allegory for all ages, especially 10-year-old boys.

September 21, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It runs out of steam at about the midway point and falls victim to clumsy, overcooked plotting. It's fun for a while, until it becomes more trick than treat.

September 21, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…

The short-term excitement of jump-scares and readily accessible spells are a poor trade-off for the steadily deepening mysteries and fears that have made Bellairs' book such an enduring classic.

September 20, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The House With a Clock in its Walls is a bullseye, perfectly balanced between funny and scary.

September 20, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Despite its special effects and two proven stars, "The House With a Clock in Its Walls" never manages to create the magic we keep hoping will materialize.

September 20, 2018 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The House with a Clock in Its Walls


Eli Rothï¿ 1/2(TM)s The House with a Clock in Its Walls, despite being a straight-up kids movie with a release date in the dead of September, was one of my most anticipated films of the fall if not of the entire year. Despite the obvious warning signs though, I think itï¿ 1/2(TM)s actually pretty easy to see why this was the case. First, there is Jack Black who has done well to understand the current phase of his career; with last year's Jumanji sequel as well as Goosebumps he is slowly establishing himself as the guy that will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation as that funny guy who was in all of their favorite movies. Better even, when those same kids get older they can go back and discover more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Another encouraging factor going in was the fact this was a kids movie with Cate freakin' Blanchett in it. Now, Blanchett has been doing more work in more commercially viable popcorn flicks as of late with the last Thor film and Ocean's 8, but it seemed it would take a really great script or great character to really entice an actor of her caliber. Blanchett certainly seems to be having a great time exploring the genre, but unfortunately she doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t have nearly as much to do as one would expect sans the excellent bickering back and forth between her and Black. This cast, this genre, this time of year...what more could there be that might help propel this project to the heights it seemed so obviously destined to reach? I say this somewhat ironically as it seems most critics and audiences didn't expect much from another kid-centric Black film-especially one based on a children's book from the seventies and especially not one directed by the guy who made 2018's Death Wish, but we are. As someone who has always adored Black's range and versatility there was this sense of optimism and support, but the point of concern was always Roth. Roth is a director raised on the Amblin films that are very clearly an inspiration for his The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but unfortunately Roth's homage to spooky if not exactly scary kids fare doesn't pass that test of being a magical film about magical people. The finished product can certainly be endearing for long stretches, but the big picture never gels and is more a hodge-podge of several different "chosen one" archetypes than it is a single, focused, and satisfying narrative. And though The House with a Clock in Its Walls proved to be more disappointing than hoped for itï¿ 1/2(TM)s not impossible to see how the film might become more appealing over time-especially to the generation that will grow up on it. read the whole review at

Philip Price
Philip Price

Super Reviewer

Kids will be traumatized and have nightmares for the rest of their lives after watching this horror movie for children, while older viewers are likely to find this an amusing (if harmless) dark fable that benefits from a nice production design and some good performances.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Who could have guessed that splatterhouse horror director Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno) was the right candidate to helm a children's movie that hearkens back to the 90s era of Disney Channel? The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a whimsical and enjoyable family movie that is definitely made primarily for those under the age of twelve. It features a young boy (Owen Vaccaro) going to live with his uncle (Jack Black) who is a warlock and where the neighbor (Cate Blanchett) is a witch. He learns magic, self-confidence, and the legend of the hidden clock that may or may not trigger a doomsday. The 1950s house itself and its magical elements is practically another character in the movie and there's a cheerful sense of discovery throughout, with a dog-like armchair, a topiary griffin, and a stained glass window that keeps changing. The school scenes could have been trimmed entirely, especially when you consider our main kid had enough motivation to try and bring his departed mom back to life. He didn't need to impress a bully at school because he wanted a friend. Black (Jumanji 2) is charming as ever and a natural with children. The visuals are colorful and fun. The signature weird and icky details Roth adds made me smile, like pumpkins that vomit pumpkin guts as a weapon. Kyle Maclachlin (TV's Twin Peaks) plays an evil wizard who wants to end the world after seeing the horrors of the Holocaust. That's a dark implication for a "children's movie," and I appreciate that the film allows for the existence of darkness, which also includes unvarnished appearances of the occult and a red-eyed demon. How about that? The House with a Clock in Its Walls is an entertaining fantasy adventure for families whose kids like to tip-toe into spooky material but aren't quite ready yet for the harder edged PG-13 scares. Nate's Grade: B

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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