Published on January 18th, 2019 | by Dan Nicholls


Blu-ray Review: The House With a Clock in Its Walls

We look at the new blu-ray release of The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a family-friendly horror movie from the director of Hostel.

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A box office hit last fall, Eli Roth’s PG-rated The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a peculiar outlier in the filmography of a man not necessarily known to be general audience-appropriate. Buoyed by strong actors who are up for anything and top-notch movie magic behind the scenes, the film is unexpectedly enjoyable and would be a good pick for an all-around agreeable family movie night.

We meet Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), an odd little fellow with a giant heart, as he’s being sent to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) after the death of his mother. Jonathan owns a large house that’s both wondrous and creepy as hell and is best friends with his neighbor Florence (Cate Blanchett), who helps Lewis settle in and find his footing.

It’s soon revealed that Jonathan and Florence possess the ability to perform magic, so Lewis is eager to start his education as a junior warlock in training. A spell left behind by the late Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) is haunting Jonathan and Lewis becomes determined to help his new caregiver defeat evil. It’s a kid empowerment fantasy the likes of which can be found in almost any movie with a protagonist aged 10 or younger but The House with a Clock in Its Walls has its own zippy spin on the material to offer.

The richness of the film’s world feels wholly filled in by the details found in its source novel by John Bellairs. The characters have just enough depth to make them stand a bit taller as well, plus the technical craft on display is pretty terrific. Some of the gags are just too goofy and a few scenes get a little too kooky, but those are complaints that won’t bother the movie’s intended target audience.

The fact that the movie is as fun as it is comes as a surprise; “a family-friendly horror movie from the director of Hostel” is a pitch that sounds pretty revolting when you first hear it. And yet the movie is clean and charming in an unassuming way that you wouldn’t expect. The House with a Clock in Its Walls may not become a scary movie staple but it’s a safe and solid toe dip entry into the genre for younger crowds.

The Blu-ray release of the film is stacked with special features, covering everything from behind the scenes pranks to explorations of the sets. The looks at the production design enhance appreciation for the incredible detail and hard work that went into building everything from scratch. If the age-appropriate viewers in your household devour the film then you’ll have plenty of bonus material to keep them busy.


Blu-ray special features include:

  • Alternate Opening and Ending
  • Nine Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black
  • Gag Reel (lots of dancing on set!)
  • Feature Commentary with Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black
  • Warlocks and Witches – Four featurettes focused solely on the talented cast of actors.
  • Movie Magic – Five vignettes breaking down the practical effects, set design, and visual artistry used to bring the House alive.
  • Tick Tock: Bringing the Book to Life – A short look at the process of adapting a beloved book for the big screen.
  • Eli Roth: Director’s Journals – Six chapters in the journey of making the film from the first day to the last.
  • Owen Goes Behind the Scenes – The making of a movie – from a kid’s perspective!
  • Theme Song Challenge – The director and cast try to come up with a theme song for the movie.
  • Do You Know Jack Black? – Isn’t Jack Black awesome? This is a few minutes spent celebrating only him.
  • Abracadabra! – Eli Roth performs a magic trick.
  • Jack Black’s Greatest Fear – Eli Roth and Owen Vaccaro play a prank on Jack Black involving a goat and a trailer.
  • The Mighty Wurlitzer – Composer Nathan Barr gives us a look at the musical scoring process

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About the Author

is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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