The House With A Clock In Its Walls

We settled down Friday night for a new movie. We chose The House With A Clock In Its Walls, which is available to rent on iTunes.

It is always a tough call – to rent or to buy – and more times than not, we choose a movie, watch it, and than someone exclaims halfway through the film, “We really should have bought this.”

The clock movie, as we have taken to calling it, tells the story of 10-year-old Trevor, who loses his parents as the movie begins (they die offscreen so young viewers are spared). Trevor has to move in with his Uncle Jonathan, an eccentric magician played by Jack Black. The lovely Cate Blanchett plays Uncle Jonathan’s neighbor, Mrs. Zimmerman. Trevor has to adjust to his new life in a new town and with new friends at a new school, so you can imagine much of the storyline. 

But there is a ticking in the walls of the grand old house to which Trevor has moved. As they look for the source, Trevor tries to impress his new friend with some magic of his own. Much to his surprise, the spell works and unleashes havoc upon the family.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is based on John Bellairs’ same-named 1970s children’s book. It marks the first movie for younger viewers from Hostel director Eli Roth, who considers this film a “starter horror movie” for families and pre-teens. There are more than a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but not in a gruesome way. There are scary toys, talk of the end of the world, and suspenseful scenes. But what I loved about this movie is that everyone watched it – from the youngest (almost 10) to the eldest (nearly 14). They were entertained, scared, amused, and even thrilled at all the right places. It was the quintessential family movie night. We laughed, we jumped, we were entertained. 

No one exclaimed, “We should have bought this” and my guess is that this movie only works if you go for a long time without watching it. Still, I imagine the clock movie will work its way into our rotation when it hits one of the streaming services. It was enjoyable and we appreciated the lack of sex, overt violence, and profanity.

Know your children and preview the movie if you have doubts, but rest assured (spoiler alert) – the good guys win in the end. 

Lessons include family, teamwork, facing your fears, and perseverance. 


Rated PG (for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor, and language)
66% on Rotten Tomatoes
IMDb Parent Page
Runtime 104 minutes