[Early Review] The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

Director: Eli Roth

Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renee Elise Goldsberg, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan

Screenplay: Eric Kripke

104 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor, and language.

 

I never would’ve expected Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Death Wish) to direct a family film. I did expect him to cameo in it.

The House with a Clock in its Walls is based on the 1970s book of the same name, and it is set in 1955 after Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro, Daddy’s Home, Fun Mom Dinner) is sent to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black, School of Rock, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) at his home in New Zebedee, Michigan. Uncle Jonathan’s home is considered to be one of the strangest in town, and Lewis quickly learns his uncle is a warlock, and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett, Carol, How to Train Your Dragon 2) is a witch, and a year earlier, a very tortured warlock named Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan, Inside Out, TV’s Twin Peaks) died in the house. As Lewis begins training to become a warlock like his uncle, he struggles with the task of not revealing his new powers to a popular boy in school named Tarby (Sunny Suljic, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot), and Lewis makes a grave mistake that risks the lives of not just his newfound family, but all life on Earth.

Let me tell you about the things I didn’t like in The House with a Clock in its Walls because overall, I rather enjoyed myself. I think Owen Vaccaro really struggles to play the leading role here, and most of the best scenes in the film are based around Black, Blanchett, and MacLachlan. His performance tends to fall back on back theatrics and disappointing crying and screaming. I understand that may be how he is portrayed in the book, but it just doesn’t work here.

The pacing is a little chunky as well, particularly in the middle of the film. There’s a lot going on, but most of the scenes at Lewis’s new school simply bog down the film and should’ve been drastically trimmed to keep the pace going.

All that being said, I had a grin on my face for a large portion of the movie. I was reminded of children’s horror from the 1990s like the Goosebumps TV show and films like Hocus Pocus, Casper, and The Witches. The movie was actually rather creepy and discussed some gruesome things, and I saw kids in the theater with me covering their eyes and keeping two fingers split so as to keep watching. Some kids really love being scared, and I’m glad that Hollywood is recognizing that again. Eli Roth does a fine job of mixing the horror with the fun, aided by a nice screenplay from Eric Kripke (Boogeyman, TV’s Supernatural).

Most of the scenes outside of the school actually left me wanting more mythology. Lewis keeps bringing up a character from television called Captain Midnight and I feel like we only barely scratched the surface. I wanted more Captain Midnight, I wanted more creatures and spells in the house, I wanted more backstory from Izard. I just wanted more. Learning that the book is part of a series makes me really want to see this become a franchise.

The House with a Clock in its Walls stumbles a bit here and there, but I still had fun watching it. It’s the kind of film that you can bring your kids to and still have fun. It feels like it could be the Hocus Pocus of this generation, staying with youths as they grow up and show their kids, and I hope you give it a try. I mean, they are releasing it with Thriller in 3D (something I did not get to see last night), so go for that at the very least.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Screenplay: Christopher Nolan

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language.

IMDb Top 250: #209 (as of 1/16/2018)

 

Dunkirk is a departure for Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar). The director is known for his high-concept sci-fi epics and comic book adaptations like The Dark Knight. Now, he turns his keen eye for storytelling to history in a film based on the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II.

Dunkirk’s story is laid out in three different perspectives. First, on the beach, where Tommy (Fionn Whitehead, Him, The Children Act) and other soldiers await rescue from the sea. At sea, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies, The BFG) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney, TV’s The Last Post) are joined by Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, ’71) in their small civilian boat headed from Weymouth to the beach to rescue the stranded soldiers. In the air above the beach, the pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road) flies his Spitfire plane and tries to take out as many enemies as possible with his limited fuel depleting. As the three plots intermingle, director Nolan shows a multi-layered view of the intense rescue mission that could save or doom the lives of 400,000 men.

As per usual, Nolan picked an interesting layout for the film by introducing the triptych nature of three interwoven stories that each runs on a different timeline. For example, the story of the pilots occurs over the course of an hour or so but in the film, Nolan runs this concurrently with the story of Mr. Dawson, which takes place over the course of a day. The time on the beach runs about a week in length. The nature of the timeline can get rather confusing for some viewers, but in running all three pieces together, it gives equal weight to everyone’s contributions and creates an interesting puzzle to put together, one I rather enjoyed.

The characters in the film have virtually no dialogue and no character development, something that I grew to appreciate on my second viewing of the film after understanding Nolan’s intention, but I feel like having something, anything, to make us care about these characters outside of their present debacle would have been better.

Dunkirk is a technical masterpiece, and if you missed the chance to see it in IMAX 70 mm, then I am sorry. The film is run time makes it a tight and exhilarating marvel to behold, and, combined with Darkest Hour, would be a splendid double feature. My heart jumped several times during the viewing, and even with the loss of character-building, I was entertained wholly by the film’s presentation. This is a powerful story that I knew very little about until seeing Nolan’s film. Dunkirk comes highly recommended.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑