A genre director through and through, Eli Roth has so far shown few signs of moving away from his usual gory schtick. Not that filmmakers of the R-rated persuasion can’t ever make a foray into family-friendly films. But The House with a Clock in Its Walls is definitely a noticeable shift for someone who made a name for himself making extremely violent movies. Now, we’ve even got a new trailer to prove it.
In all honesty, “different” seems to work great for Roth. The House with a Clock in Its Walls stars Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, and the first footage from the film already demonstrates a kind of Edgar Allan Poe meets Lemony Snicket meets Guillermo del Toro vibe. Prepare to be pleasantly creeped out for a change and watch the trailer below.
Here is the synopsis of the film: “The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.”
Wonder, mystery, and horror collide in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but the trailer doesn’t yet reveal too much of the actual plot besides what the summary tells us. Those of us who aren’t familiar with the original John Bellairs book that the film is based on will be in for a treat. Instead, the trailer keeps the focus on the eponymous house as both a living entity and a place that Lewis and his family are both drawn to and trapped in. The magic isn’t necessarily a secret and things will move whether you’re paying attention or not. As Lewis is shown going from room to room, curiously examining every unsettling artifact, the audience is taken in by a home that can seems to hold the solar system.
I didn’t bring up a Harry Potter comparison earlier, but there’s definitely a case to be made for a little boy traversing the clearly magical terrain of his weird uncle’s house. It’s a reverse Dursley situation, where the child is normal and his eccentric relative is the one who can manipulate fireballs. From the promising footage, The House with a Clock in Its Wall could be a great, creepier addition to the ongoing obsession with a wizarding universe, sitting nicely beside the Fantastic Beasts franchise as a more contained alternative that still features magic.
The verdict is still out on whether Black is an appropriate actor for the part of Lewis’s uncle Jonathan Barnavelt. Between Goosebumps and the Jumanji sequel, Black continues to reinforce his usual over-the-top acting style that The House with a Clock in Its Walls isn’t likely to subvert. So maybe some of those funnier close-ups are meant to make people laugh in their lack of subtlety. For her part, Blanchett looks enchanting, playing the part of the equally enigmatic Florence Zimmermann — Jonathan’s neighbor — with incredible, commanding poise. Vaccaro spends most of the trailer gazing around in wonderment but easily passes the baseline test of up-and-coming child actors: adorableness. But he may yet be able to hold his own against two acting veterans.
The House with a Clock in Its Wall also stars Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks), Colleen Camp (Clue), Renée Elise Goldsberry (One Life to Live), and comparative newcomers Vanessa Anne Williams (Dynasty) and Sunny Suljic (The Killing of a Sacred Deer). But he trailer mainly focuses on the three protagonists, their powers and plights.
The House with a Clock in Its Wall is due out in cinemas September 21st.