Critic Reviews



Based on 38 critic reviews provided by
The House With a Clock in Its Walls is easily Eli Roth’s best motion picture, and that’s not an attempt to damn the film with faint praise. It’s a spooky and amusing piece of family-friendly Halloween cinema, sharply produced and mostly effective, told with skill and panache.
As a family film in that vein it largely succeeds, buoyed by Black’s typical exuberance, Blanchett’s typical slyness and a richly evocative rendering of a Rockwellian suburb sprinkled with goofer dust. Less interesting, as is the way with many audience-avatar YA protagonists (sorry, Harry), is the main character, and Vaccaro’s rather hyper-articulated performance doesn’t help.
Black, no surprise, steals the show, manically hamming it up like Harry Houdini on laughing gas, while Roth tries to keep the breakneck pace of his phantasmagoria going. As someone who was growing bored with Roth’s gory shockfests, I say: “Welcome to the kiddie table, Eli.”
While not terribly original, it would be fair to call the movie inventive, like one of those eccentrics who’s constantly pestering the patent office with what he thinks are fresh ideas, only to discover that someone else got there first.
An engaging new direction for Eli Roth, who offsets the odd tonal hiccup with plenty of ghoulish delights.
Screen Daily
Despite a fantastical premise and some truly eye-popping effects, The House With A Clock In Its Walls suffers from post-Potter fatigue; there’s simply nothing here, visual or thematic, that hasn’t been done before.
For all the gags flying around, and all the friendly insults batted between Blanchett and Black, the script lacks the sparkle and polish of many of the classic Amblins it so enthusiastically emulates.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls is at its best when it foregrounds the adults and gives Black and Blanchett ample time to bicker with one another.
I’ve never enjoyed any of Roth’s grisly R-rated movies, but at least those had a distinct vision and style. If only his kid-friendly haunted house movie was as original, it could’ve been a surprising treat.
The film somehow manages its own witchcraft in finding the perfect un-sweet spot — it’s too scary for little kids, not scary enough for older ones, not funny or clever enough for their parents, and too redundant for everyone. Poof! Watch the audience disappear.

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