As the month of pure spooky festivities crawls to greet the fall season with a series of scares and screams, the urges to want to snuggle up in a blanket and watch some horror or terror themed movies to match the seasons outside grow stronger.
Eli Roth has provided fuel to the festivities with a movie adaptation of the novel, The House with a Clock in the Walls, by John Bellairs, as it rears its ominous head to give a pleasant “hello” to October.
This review was made without reading the book. The opinions of this film are purely based on the movie and the movie alone.
The plot, despite its confusing title, is fairly straightforward. A recently orphaned Lewis Barnavelt, played by Owen Vaccaro, is sent to a creepy and unsettling gothic house to live with his saxophone and chocolate chip cookie loving uncle, Jonathan Barnavelt, played by Jack Black. The story has few side characters like the new school bullies, the troublesome neighbors, including one of them being a close friend of Jonathan, Florence Zimmermann, played by Cate Blanchett. Add some Halloween creatures of the run of the mill kind and some creepy tales about folklore demons, and you gain a mixed bag of Halloween goodies.
As for the humor of the movie, there are a ton of these little bottom of the barrel laughs here and there. I would say there a few jokes that overstay their welcome and found themselves to be “movie staples” that do not deserve the spot of running gag. But the oversaturation is never too much to plague the film. If I have to be honest of my taste of humor for this film, I have to say Jonathan and Florence’s performance absolutely make this film.
The best parts of the movie are when they are throwing quick one liners at each other or cracking wise ones aiming to threaten the other person by throwing them six feet under. Even besides humor, these two are such a fantastic duo in the movie. Jack and Cate really did portray their roles insanely well, but unfortunately, that led to several issues with the film.
For one, I barely found myself laughing at any other joke that did not involve Jonathan or Florence. They fell flat more often than not and is probably magnifying the effect of these two characters to be complete gut busters by comparison. This effect not only harms the humor, but also the characters.
Our main character Lewis is a little too much of a bore compared to the other characters. Every solo scene with him is grueling to watch and out of place for the comedic nature. Sure, he is a recent orphan, and his mind must be fuzzy from all the emotional trauma and “new kid jitters,” but Lewis can be predictable and even at times, annoying. In this film, he appears as a crutch, a catalyst to only ensure that the movie makes sense and nothing more.
The book probably goes more in depth with each the flaws in this movie, and because it is Hollywood, it is not easy to fit an entire novel in about two hours and make it entertaining to large groups of people.
I recommend this film to anyone who wants a nice Halloween themed movie while also looking to laugh at elderly people throwing quick insults at each other.