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MOVIE REVIEW

The House with a Clock in Its Wall also known as “La casa con un reloj en sus paredes,” “Il mistero della casa del tempo,” “O Mistério do Relógio na Parede,” “Das Haus der geheimnisvollen Uhren,” “O Mistério da Casa do Relógio,” “La casa con un reloj en sus paredes,” “La casa del reloj en la pared,” “Zegar czarnoksieznika,” “Eski Evdeki Büyülü Saat,” “La prophétie de l'horloge,” “Müstilise kellaga maja,” “Misterul ceasului din perete,” “Talo jossa kello tikittää,” “Carodejovy hodiny,” “A végzet órája,” «Тайна дома с часами», «Будинок з годинником у стiнах», «Мистерията на къщата с часовника»

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language.

Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Young-Adults • Adults
Genre:
Family Fantasy Horror Suspense Mystery IMAX
Length:
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
September 21, 2018 (wide—3,592 theaters)
DVD: December 18, 2018
Copyright, Universal Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Necromancers

Witches in the Bible

Witchcraft

Warlocks

demons in the Bible

Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer

Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

DEMON POSSESSSION and Influence—Can Christians be demon possessed? In what ways can Satan and his demons influence believers? Answer

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Enchantments

About modern Wicca and Paganism

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Sorcery mentioned in the Bible

Magic and magicians in the Bible

What is the Occult? Answer

THE OCCULT—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Awakening the dead / ghosts

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Orphans in the Bible

Featuring: Owen VaccaroLewis Barnavelt
Jack BlackJonathan Barnavelt—Lewis’s uncle
Cate BlanchettMrs. Zimmerman—a witch who is Jonathan’s neighbor and best friend
Renée Elise Goldsberry … Selena Izard
Kyle MacLachlanIsaac Izard—a sorcerer who is Selena’s husband and the sinister original owner of the house
Lorenza Izzo … Lewis’ Mother
Colleen Camp … Mrs. Hanchett
Sunny Suljic … Tarby Corrigan—Lewis’ classmate
Perla Middleton … Parent / Teacher
Sandy Givelber … Kate
See all »
Director: Eli Roth—“Hostel” 1-2 (2005, 2007), “The Green Inferno” (2013), “Death Wish” (2018), “Cabin Fever” (2003)
Producer: DreamWorks
Amblin Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Universal Pictures. Trademark logo.
Universal Pictures

Necromancy, demons and demonic possession, witches, occult…

When John Bellairs published his novel about a little boy thrust into a peculiar house full of sinister events in 1973, he probably never anticipated it would become a big-screen blockbuster. But the cinematic treatment should please long-term fans of the children’s book—it has all the best moments from the novel plus involved back stories for the main characters and a worthy climax. But parents may want to think twice—this charming 1950’s tale has a demonic twist in the second half.

Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) loves his goggles (modeled after his favorite television character), his books (any kind, really) and big words. Really big words—like “Indomitable” (adjective: impossible to subdue or defeat). He’s smart. He’s curious. He’s eager to explore. The one thing he hasn’t got is his parents, which is why he’s sent to live with his uncle, Jonathan (Jack Black).

Jonathan’s house is full of dusty old books, stained glass windows that seem to change on a regular basis, and clocks. Clocks on shelves and in the walls. Clocks on tables and standing in corners. The constant ticking brings an eeriness to the mysterious old place where, as a school mate enjoys telling him, “someone died.” Lewis wouldn’t much mind that, except his uncle prowls the corridors at night, listening to the walls. And quite often, he and his best friend and neighbor, Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), hustle Lewis off to school so he won’t overhear their worried conversations.

But as Lewis comes to find out, there’s more to the old house than first appears… and there are two kinds of magic involved: the “good” kind, practiced by his uncle, and the bad kind, such as is shut up in a book Lewis isn’t allowed to read. But, after all, Lewis is a curious boy… so, of course, he opens it.

What follows is a hilarious, frightening, atmospheric tale about three unlikely heroes coming to terms with their own fears. The discerning adult will pick up on the subtle nuances—the concentration camp numbers tattooed on a woman’s arm; the deep sorrow of a child who misses his parents so much that he would disobey the laws of magic to be with them again; the happy-go-lucky uncle who has to learn you don’t turn away from parenting when it gets hard or the child makes mistakes.

The characters are memorable and funny and the house delightful. But the story also comes with a dose of magic—both of the enchanting kind (funny scenes of floating vacuum cleaners, animated garden topiaries, and a stuffed chair that acts like a dog) and a far more sinister kind. (This section includes spoilers.) Lewis learns the house belonged to an evil warlock who made a pact with the Devil, and he accidentally raises this warlock from the dead using the forbidden spell book. A creepy scene involves him using blood magic for the resurrection spell (both adults strongly condemn this and his use of “blood magic” when they find out), and a flashback to the warlock meeting a demon in the wood, giving it his blood, and saying the demon’s evil clock “just appeared in my mind. [… ] I was dead long before I died.” (The implication is demonic possession.)

The director’s horror film roots come out in his depiction of creepy animated dolls that terrorize the trio, including one with a devil’s head, vicious pumpkins that puke orange goop over everyone, and a weird scene where a man’s body shrinks to that of a baby while he retains his original sized head (the naked infant crawls around and cries, but we never see graphic nudity).

Regardless of where you stand on the use of magic in fiction, it’s likely the biggest issue Christians will have with the film comes from the necromancy (condemned by God in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Revelation 21:8). Even though it’s portrayed as evil and has horrific consequences for everyone involved (and teaches Lewis a lesson about disobedience), it lends a sinister, demonic element to the story. The bloated reanimated corpse makes several appearances, along with other grotesque images (including a woman shape-shifting into different forms). Lewis also uses a magic eight ball to “talk to his parents.”

A later plot twist reveals the demons (and evil warlock) want to reverse time and erase humanity by recreating the world anew (the warlock says he will “prevent humans from being created” but does not reveal how—whether this involves a Genesis creation or Evolution). They make frequent references to a “Doomsday Clock.” And while the characters talk about evil and demons, they never mention the divine or God (there is one reference to “Omega” being used as a symbol for the end of days by the “early Christians”). This deliberate exclusion embraces the secular worldview of the film, which is that the only thing that stands against the evil of powerful warlocks is “good” witches and warlocks.

Other content concerns are lighter. There’s a couple of mild profanities, and a single use of “good lord.” Florence tells Lewis there’s no “kissy face” going on between her and Jonathan. A running gag includes a living garden topiary farting leaves. Various scenes involve characters under threat. We see bullies shoving kids around at school; one punches Lewis in the stomach. He also has no qualms about “cheating” using magic (he tries to impress a friend by promising to show him a spell to “win every game he plays” and uses magic to clobber hateful kids in the face with a ball).

Cinematically, this movie is a visual treat with many deliberate references to the original Edward Gorey illustrations. The dialog is witty and includes the side-splitting insults from the book (Jonathan and Florence are always trading them out of dry-witted humor). The first half is a delightful romp, but the second half contains scenes that could give children nightmares.

  • Occult: Extreme
  • Violence: Moderate
  • Profane language: Mild
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor
  • Nudity: None
  • Sex: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Negative
Negative—Well, “House with a Clock in Its Walls” was disappointing. It was more Satanic than I was expecting. Let me be clear, I’m not one of those paranoid Christians that looks to find Satanism in everything that isn’t the scriptures. I love Harry Potter and Disney, but there was a LOT of Satanic imagery and symbolism. There’s even a part where the main kid character performs a Necromancy ritual. I’m not kidding. If you are a Christian, or a parent with young kids, do NOT see this movie. Goosebumps and Harry Potter, this is not! It is an attempt to normalize/sell Satanism to children under the guise of “entertainment.” This is not a fun Halloween movie with just a few creepy moments. It is dark and evil. If you want a Halloween movie for the family this season, go see “Goosebumps 2” instead.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Josh, age 20 (USA)
Negative—This movie is nothing but a teaching tool for witchcraft and Satanic rituals. How any Christian can support such a demonic movie is beyond me. I walked out (happily) and so did my 12 year old daughter. Parents beware of allowing your children to watch this garbage.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Lynne, age 50 (USA)
Negative—I went to see this movie thinking it would have some really good special effects and humor—but I was so wrong on both counts. I’ll start with the acting—there seemed to be no chemistry at all between Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. In fact—even though her character was supposed to be a little “deadpan”—I found her acting a strain to watch—almost like she was just reading her script because she was told to, in my opinion. I could tell there were just a few moments that were supposed to be “funny”—but they ALL fell flat and no one in the theater I was in even chuckled, much less laughed.

The story was extremely linear—”problem right to solution”—and boring. “Goosebumps” this was not (although I don’t think that movie is for children either!).

Okay—might be a spoiler alert from this point on—but it really made me upset that one character turned “bad” because of his time in the military—that’s all I’ll say—spoiler over—…

Now—on to the occult—I have watched Harry Potter, Goosebumps, etc. … and this movie was far worse in content. To be honest—when they were showing close-ups of the spells, Satanic diagrams in the books, I actually looked down and not at the screen—I didn’t want to see the writings or symbols and didn’t want those in my memory! To me it was that extreme.

So—even if you are not bringing children (which you shouldn’t!)—save your money—the special effects are minimal, the acting is obligatory, the story is linear, and the humor falls flat. Don’t waste your time!!!…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Paulette, age 53 (USA)
Negative—“The House with a Clock in Its Walls” was both offensive and confusing. For starters, the movie makes it clear that necromancy and communicating with demons are bad; however, there are NUMEROUS occult symbols lined through out the movie and Lewis uses a magic 8 ball to communicate with his dead parents near the climax. There’s an unnecessary and POINTLESS joke about Jonathan needing to go to the bathroom and him urinating as a baby when the clock reverses his aging.

Is there anything good or compatible with Christianity? A couple of things stood out as good being called good and evil being called evil.

1. Isaac is a World War 2 veteran who wishes to undo suffering by reversing time so that humans could never exist (save for him and his wife). Isaac and Selena’s “Without humans, there is no suffering; death is freedom” philosophy is painted as a bad thing and their plans are thwarted with their undoing in their very own invention.

2. There’s a good message about appearances being deceiving; Tarby is friendly to Lewis at first, only to use him, bully him, and cause tension with Lewis and Jonathan. Such a shame this message had to be used in this movie.

While the movie has VERY little sexuality, the violence is good versus evil, and family is painted as a good thing, the movie loses credibility with all of the occult symbolism. The acting and writing are flat and predictable and how it gets good reviews is beyond me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Peter, age 28 (USA)
Negative—Don’t go see this. I made the mistake of taking my kids. The trailer looked so fun, a little magic. No. I did read the review here and didn’t heed any warnings thinking it was an overzealous review perhaps. I became uncomfortable during the film, thinking, what did I bring my girls to? I brought them, I ok’d this film by bringing them and what did I expose them to and can I undo any impressions it left of them? Much to my dismay, it ended and they both said “I liked it.” AHHHH, no! So we talked about it on the way home.

Some disturbing elements are a book Jack Black’s character looks through. The images are very, very dark, disturbing. There are images elsewhere, on a blueprint type of paper that are also dark in nature. There are many images of Satan through out—Satan doll, Satan’s head only, a picture with numerous small images and it’s a black and white of what looks like arms around Satan in an embrace. A deal is made with a demon, Azaziel is mentioned. The demon is creepy and disturbing looking.

Oh, I must note, as the beginning credits were appearing I saw Eric Kripke and I was like, OH, he writes for “The Walking Dead.” Then, directed by Eli Roth! I was really like OOHHHH. His movies make me sick to my stomach, literally.

In curiosity I watched a clip when one of his movies aired on TV and felt sick. His films are so gross, grisly, evil and stomach turning. Those 2 names were big clues that this film is not for kids and not even for adults. Stay away. You want fun movies with the kids, see Goosebumps (haven’t seen the 2nd one yet but the first is great). As someone who likes to at times, watch reruns of Supernatural, to say that this movie disturbed me shows how dark it is. You can’t undo what you see but as adults at least we have discernment to process what we saw. Young kids cannot do that yet and you walk out with kids thinking, cool movie, while you’re wishing you could undo it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Andrea, age 46 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I’m glad to see this movies has all negative reviews here. In the trailer near the start Jacks character says he’s warlock. That should be enough to make someone say “Nope, not seeing this movie!.” For those who don’t know a warlock is a male witch. While I enjoy movies like LOTR, I won’t see movies like this one or Harry Potter given the fact it’s about witches and warlocks or based on them.

And while the rating of this movie may seem friendly, last thing you want is your kids going home and looking up warlocks and getting into the evil world of witchcraft, satanism… etc.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: no opinion
—Matt S, age 37 (USA)