The House with a Clock in its Walls parents guide

The House with a Clock in its Walls Parent Guide

This movie provides a lot of scary fun but is definitely too frightening for young or sensitive children.

Overall B+

Ten-year-old orphan Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his uncle in a house with a ticking clock in its walls. Witches, warlocks, the waking dead, and a plot to destroy the world make the boy's life much more exciting - and dangerous - than he expected.

Release date September 21, 2018

Violence B-
Sexual Content A
Profanity B+
Substance Use A

Why is The House with a Clock in its Walls rated PG? The MPAA rated The House with a Clock in its Walls PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language

Run Time: 104 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by John Bellairs, The House with a Clock in Its Walls introduces audiences to a spooky home full of magic, secrets, and more chocolate chip cookies than you might expect. Following the death of his parents, 10-year-old protagonist Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) moves in with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in his mysterious mansion. Next-door neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) is a frequent visitor to the home and has a relationship with Jonathan that is marked by insulting repartee and friendship in equal measure.

Lewis struggles to adapt to his new surroundings: Uncle Jonathan has no rules (save one: do not open the mysterious cabinet!) and fitting in at his new school proves challenging for the quiet, bookish boy who reads dictionaries recreationally. But soon, Lewis discovers that the house and his uncle may be even stranger than they seemed on the surface. Indeed, Jonathan is a warlock, Mrs. Zimmerman is a witch, and buried somewhere in the bowels of the house is a clock, ticking inexorably down to…what? Lewis uncovers the secrets of the house as he learns to be a warlock himself.

This film provides a lot of scary fun but it is definitely too frightening for young or sensitive children. Jonathan’s residence is filled with ticking clocks, animal and human skulls and body parts, freaky fairground animatronics, and disquieting dolls. There are also several jump scares, ominous graveyard scenes, possessed jack o’ lanterns, and a statue with a devil’s face which comes to life. The story gets much darker when the plot turns to necromancy, with the associated creepy corpse returning to life, and a recounting of a meeting with an actual demon (Azazel, Prince of Hell, to be precise). Even though the comic relief regularly breaks the tension, this will be cold comfort if your easily frightened child has nightmares for a week.

The movie does an excellent job of capturing that Addams Family meets Disney’s Haunted Mansion vibe and providing a pseudo-Gothic horror aesthetic geared towards children. Even better than the eerie atmosphere is the writing. Character dialogue is brisk and snappy, which is unusual for a children’s movie, and it develops and reveals their personalities. Owen Vaccaro is a little wooden in his performance as Lewis, but this is more than made up for by the charming and completely unexpected chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Jack Black, both of whom are clearly enjoying themselves. Other positive aspects of this picture are its messages around accepting who you are, developing new skills, following the rules, and embracing new family relationships.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls does avoid most of the unpleasant traps associated with comedies for kids, but you’re still going to have to sit through no fewer than three animal poop jokes or scenes of excrement landing on someone. Potty jokes get worse when Jack Black is transformed into a naked baby (with an adult head) which urinates towards the camera, fortunately without graphic close-ups. But if you can make it through that, then maybe the good-hearted fun of the movie will haunt you all the way home.

Directed by Eli Roth. Starring Owen Vaccaro, Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, Colleen Camp . Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release September 21, 2018. Updated

Watch the trailer for The House with a Clock in its Walls

The House with a Clock in its Walls
Rating & Content Info

Why is The House with a Clock in its Walls rated PG? The House with a Clock in its Walls is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language

Violence: Several instances of slapstick violence: a character is levitated and dropped, water is sprayed up a boy’s nose, and two boys are struck in the face with a basketball. A young boy punches a character in the stomach. A character is involved in an explosion and is shown with soot on his face, but he suffers fatal injuries. Several other characters are knocked over by the blast. There is a reference to an axe murder. A piece of wall art shows silhouettes of death and a character embracing a devil. A character summons the dead in a graveyard: the lid of a coffin opens and a hand comes over the edge. Characters use a key which was made out of a murdered person’s bones. Main characters are attacked and carried off by toys which have come to life. Jack o’ lanterns attack main characters, spewing adhesive pumpkin at them. There are moments of peril for main characters.
Sexual Content:  Non-sexual nudity showing an adult character transformed into a naked baby with the adult’s head. A stream of urine is shown arcing up from the baby, but there is no more graphic detail. There is a lengthy kiss between a character who has been brought back from the dead and a woman.
Profanity: Five uses of mild profanity and terms of deity.
Alcohol: Drug Use: None

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The House with a Clock in its Walls Parents' Guide

Uncle Jonathan only gives Lewis one rule: don’t open the cabinet. Why does Lewis open it? Why are people so vulnerable to peer pressure? What can you do to resist peer pressure?

Lewis attempts to make friends with a person who is a bully with a transactional attitude to friendship. Have you ever tried to befriend someone who treated you badly? How do you recognize toxic relationships? Why do people remain in these friendships? What are your options in these situations?

Read books about The House with a Clock in its Walls

​The film is based on The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs.

Another house with a creepy secret is found in Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

CS Lewis’ classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe relates the adventures of the Pevensie children when they find a magical wardrobe which leads them to the enchanted land of Narnia. There they meet magical creatures and fight a wicked witch.

Frances Hodgson Burnett tells the story of orphaned Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Sent to live with relatives in Yorkshire, Mary discovers that the house is hiding a secret. And she has a secret of her own.

Maria Merryweather arrives in her beautiful new home in the enchanted valley of Moonacre after her parents’ death. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge tells the story of her adventures as she tries to heal an ancient feud that troubles the valley.

News About "The House with a Clock in its Walls"

This movie is based on a novel of the same name by author John Bellairs. Published in 1973 the book was adapted for television as an episode in Once Upon a Midnight Scary. Bellairs wrote two sequels to the novel and after his death, author Brad Strickland penned nine more volumes in the series.

The novel is considered to be a gothic horror novel for young readers. Given that the film has a PG rating, it seems likely that this adaptation is focusing more on the gothic elements and less on horror.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The House with a Clock in its Walls movie is December 18, 2018. Here are some details…

Related home video titles:

Coraline tells the story of a girl who discovers her new home has a secret passage in her bedroom wall. The exciting adventure turns dark and frightening and Coraline has to fight for her family’s happiness.

The Addams Family is a fun and creepy story that plays with spooky images and cliches.