The House With a Clock in Its Walls – What You Need To Know
American author John Bellairs captured the imaginations of many young readers in the 1970s with his series of novels detailing the adventures of a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt, especially the first novel in the series, 1973's The House With a Clock in Its Walls, which introduces Lewis as a recent orphan who moves in with his uncle, only to find that there are some very spooky things going on in the house where his uncle lives.
More than four decades after the book was published, Lewis Barnavelt made his debut on the big screen last year in a new adaptation of Bellairs' spooky adventure, which makes its arrival on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
Daddy's Home star Owen Vaccaro is the young actor taking on the starring role of Lewis Barnavelt, with Jack Black as his uncle Jonathan Barnavelt and Cate Blanchett as Jonathan's neighbour Florence Zimmerman. Also featuring are Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan and Altered Carbon's Renée Elise Goldsberry.
And who's directing?
Cabin Fever and Hostel director Eli Roth directs, working from a script adapted from Bellairs' novel by screenwriter Eric Kripke.
What's the plot?
Following the death of his parents, Lewis is sent Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan, even though the pair have never previously met. Jonathan seems good natured enough, but Lewis is freaked out when he witnesses Jonathan smashing through a wall in the house with an axe and several inanimate objects seeming to come to life. Jonathan confesses that he is a warlock who practices magic and introduces Lewis to his friend and neighbour Florence Zimmerman, who reveals to Lewis that she is a witch.
Jonathan proceeds to explain to Lewis that the house's previously belonged to another warlock named Isaac Izard and his wife Selena, both of whom were practitioners in black magic. According to Jonathan, before their deaths Isaac and Selena had constructed a mysterious clock and hidden it within the walls of the house, and that Jonathan had been trying – so far unsuccessfully – to locate it in order to understand its purpose.
Against Jonathan's advice, Lewis decides to begin learning how to practice magic. Struggling to make friends at his new school, Lewis has a dream in which his mother suggests trying to use a magic spell from one of Jonathan's forbidden books to impress his new classmates.
However, when Lewis tries a necromancy spell in a nearby graveyard he accidentally summons the ghost of Isaac, who tells him that the clock is designed to turn back time to before humanity existed, effectively undoing the existence of the human race. Jonathan, Lewis and Florence then face a race against time to find the clock and destroy it before Isaac's evil plan comes to fruition.
Does it deliver?
Eli Roth is perhaps known best as a director of intense and claustrophobic horror movies such as Cabin Fever and Hostel, so while this represents quite a change of pace from his usual output, it's nevertheless an entertaining watch and one of the few Roth films you can sit down to watch with the whole family. Even if you're a little young to remember the original books when they were first published, Roth's entry into the world of adapting young adult fiction is an enjoyable one thanks to some highly entertaining performances from its cast, especially Jack Black's eccentric warlock and Kyle MacLachlan's sinister antagonist.