Jonathan Barnavelt: This house used to be owned by another warlock.
Mrs. Zimmerman: He’s very wicked, very powerful.
Jonathan Barnavelt: He left a hidden clock in the walls. We don’t know what it does, except something horrible.
Based on the novel by John Bellairs, the film follows the premonition that the house is alive, with the magic of Jonathan Barnavelt, a powerful warlock who ends up taking in his orphan nephew, Lewis after his parents die in a treacherous car accident. All the while, Jonathan is burdened by a mysterious ticking left by his long lost magic partner, Issac Izard, who came back from the war a little more disturbed then when he left. Now, with the help of his female companion, Florence Zimmerman, it is up to them to stop the ticking before it gets down to one gong. But his new ward, Lewis, inquisitive about the magic, might hold the secret to stopping the ticking and saving everyone from the darkness of Issac Izard.
The film stars Jack Black as Jonathan in what is a fitting role for him. Looking back at another film where Black played a similar character who had to assume parental responsibilities, School Of Rock, one can definitely see why Black was cast in this role. He definitely brought the same rebellious charm as he did in School of Rock where he fought the responsibility of settling down to that of pursuing his own dream and goal. At the same time, there were elements of Black in Goosebumps. His comedic timing with Cate Blanchett as Florence added to the dynamic of the film and aided in fully driving the story to its ultimate potential as it is a race against time to stop Issac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) from turning back time and potentially destroying all humanity as we know it.
Looking at Maclachlan’s character, the makeup and special effects used on him to make him look like a zombie was exceptional. It was clear that it was him by his voice and mannerisms, especially with the flashback references made to his character, but the special effects team did an awesome job in transforming him.
One break out star that should be mentioned is the young Owen Vaccaro, who played Lewis. One might remember him from his tole in Daddy’s Home 1 and 2. In this film, one definitely sees growth in his suspense and comedy acting as he is actually used more as an instrument in helping to fix the problem. He experiences growth from the beginning of the movie as a scared little boy who just wants to be loved and accepted to when he is introduced to the world of magic and witchcraft. There’s a slight element of Harry Potter as we see his Uncle Jonathan take him under his wing and teach him nearly all he knows, though he doesn’t believe just how powerful he is until he raises the dead. Ultimately, Vaccaro is blossoming into a diverse little actor from one that was only in the shadow of big actors to one who can stand on his own two feet up against Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. It’ll be interesting to watch how he hones his talents in any future movies he may be in.
One addition to the IMAX experience is an precursor music video of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The story concept prepared the unwilling audience for the terror to come in the feature presentation. I have just a few thoughts on it, first being the 3D aspect. Personally, while I’m okay with 3D, I didn’t see any big addition into this inclusion. There wasn’t that much 3D effects to make any difference. Also from the trailer, I had no idea as to the zombie presence that was going to be in the actual movie, so watching the Michael Jackson Thriller music video, I found myself asking, “how does this fit in to the movie?” I didn’t get it at first and found myself distracted so that when I got into the actual movie I had to pull myself back and focus a little more. That aside, it was entertaining as it did foreshadow, but it was a little unnecessary in the long run.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
The House with a Clock in its Walls is a combination horror, action, and suspense film as it does have a few disturbing scenes which might have audiences jumping when zombies come back to life, but is done in such a way that is more suspenseful then anything else. It honestly has audiences sitting on the edge of their seat wondering what will happen next. The storyline is actually quite original, while it does have elements of other movies already mentioned, the heart of the story one might say has never really been done before and the ending will surprise even the hardest critic.