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The House with a Clock in Its Walls (film)

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEli Roth
Screenplay byEric Kripke
Based onThe House with a Clock in Its Walls
by John Bellairs
Produced by
CinematographyRogier Stoffers
Edited byFred Raskin
Music byNathan Barr
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • September 21, 2018 (2018-09-21) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$42 million[2]
Box office$131.5 million[2]

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a 2018 American fantasy comedy film directed by Eli Roth, based on the 1973 novel of the same name by John Bellairs. It stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, and Kyle MacLachlan. The film follows a young boy, Lewis, who is sent to live with his uncle, Jonathan, in a creaky, old house. He soon learns it was previously inhabited by a villainous warlock. Universal Pictures released the film in the United States on September 21, 2018. It was a box office success, grossing over $131 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews from critics who largely praised the cast, but said the film did not fully live up to its potential.[3][4][5]


In 1955, after his parents are killed in a car crash, ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt moves to live with his Uncle Jonathan in New Zebedee, Michigan. All he has left of his parents is a Magic 8-Ball they had given him, and a family photograph. Upon entering his new home, he meets Jonathan's neighbor and best friend, Florence Zimmerman.

During the night, Lewis is puzzled when he hears a ticking sound in the walls. Lewis begins exploring the house and stumbles upon Jonathan smashing a wall with an ax. Frightened, he runs away and encounters multiple household objects coming to life. Jonathan confesses that he is a warlock and Florence is a witch. The house's previous owners were a sinister warlock named Isaac Izard, (an orphaned former friend of Jonathan's who was traumatized while fighting in WWII), and his equally wicked wife Selena. Isaac and Selena had apparently hidden a clock within the walls of the house before they died, and Jonathan has been trying to find the clock and discover its purpose. Despite Jonathan's cautions, Lewis begins teaching himself magic.

On his first day at his new school, Lewis meets Tarby Corrigan, who befriends him during Tarby's campaign for class president. When Tarby wins the election, he abandons Lewis. Lewis's mother visits him in dreams. When he laments that Tarby does not see him as a friend, she suggests that he use a spell from a forbidden book to impress Tarby. On Halloween night, Lewis performs a necromancy spell in a cemetery, accidentally summoning a corpse of Isaac from his grave.

Lewis spots Isaac in the window of a house of a neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett. He "rescues" her from Isaac and brings her across the street to Jonathan's house, but before he can find Jonathan, Isaac confronts them at the front door. He reveals that Mrs. Hanchett is really Selena, who killed Mrs. Hanchett, took her place, and used her bones to make the clock's key. It was also Selena who took the form of Lewis's mother to persuade him to summon Isaac. Isaac explains that his hidden clock's blueprints came from the demon Azazel, who had given them to Isaac as he sought relief from the visions of horror he had witnessed during the war. The clock will turn back time so that humanity never existed and undo the horrors that he had witnessed. Jonathan, Florence and Lewis are chased from the house.

Using the Magic 8-Ball to learn the location of the clock underneath the boiler room, the three return. Florence defeats a snake guarding the room while the others pursue Isaac. The clock transforms Jonathan into a baby, except for his face which he'd shielded with cards. Lewis consults the Magic 8-Ball, which says "Say goodbye". He realizes that he has to let go of the pain of losing his parents to harness his true power. He breaks the clock by dropping the ball, which blocks the clock's gears. Then Lewis blasts Isaac and Selena with magic he channels from the clock. They fall, de-age, and are disintegrated leaving only their suit and robe.

Lewis returns to school with more confidence and gets back at Tarby and his friends by magically bouncing a basketball off their faces and into the basket, impressing his other classmates. He then befriends a girl named Rose Rita Pottinger, who appears to have a crush on Lewis. At the end of the day, Jonathan and Florence are shown picking up Lewis, the three of them now living like a regular family.



Principal photography on the film began on October 10, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia.[6] One of the challenges for the visual effects team was building massive 10-foot and 14½-foot gears for the Clock Room sequence. Another challenge was designing the Jack-o'-lantern characters, which included input from Steven Spielberg on the final designs.[7] The soundtrack was composed by Nathan Barr and was released by Waxwork Records on a double LP.[8]


The House with a Clock in Its Walls was released by Universal Pictures on September 21, 2018.[9] The film was released for digital download on November 27, followed by a DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray release on December 18.[10]


Box office[edit]

The House with a Clock in its Walls has grossed $68.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $62.9 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $131.5 million, against a production budget of $42 million.[2]

In the United States and Canada, The House with a Clock in its Walls was released alongside Assassination Nation, Life Itself and Fahrenheit 11/9, and was projected to gross $15–20 million from 3,592 theaters in its opening weekend.[11] The film made $7.8 million on its first day, including $840,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $26.9 million, finishing first at the box office and marking the best opening of Roth's career, surpassing Hostel in 2006 ($19.6 million).[12] In its second weekend the film made $12.5 million, finishing third behind newcomers Night School and Smallfoot.[13]

Michael Jackson's short film Thriller was remastered in IMAX 3D for a limited engagement, preceding screenings of The House with a Clock in Its Walls in North America for its first week.[14]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 65% based on 209 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "An entertaining PG detour for gore maestro Eli Roth, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a family-friendly blend of humor and horror with an infectious sense of fun".[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of 'B+' on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars.[12]


  1. ^ "The House with a Clock in its Walls". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  3. ^ Giles, Jeff (20 September 2018). "The House with a Clock in its Walls ticks along tolerably". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office: 'The House with a Clock in its Walls' strikes midnight on its competition". Uproxx. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  5. ^ "House With a Clock in its Walls tops box office as Fahrenheit 11/9 fizzles". Entertainment Weekly. 23 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  6. ^ Kripke, Eric [@therealKripke] (10 October 2017). "Day One! #HouseWithAClockInItsWalls break a leg @eliroth, Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vacarro, @Kyle_MacLachlan!! Dream come true!" (Tweet). Retrieved 14 November 2017 – via Twitter.
  7. ^ "Inside 'The House with a Clock in its Walls'". VFXVoice.com. 27 September 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  8. ^ "The House With A Clock In Its Walls". Waxwork Records. Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  9. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (26 September 2017). "'The House with a Clock in its Walls' sets alarm for next September". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  10. ^ Latchem, John (30 October 2018). "Universal sets 'House with a Clock in its Walls' for home release". Media Play News. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  11. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (18 September 2018). "Can 'House With a Clock in its Walls' become the fall's first family box office hit?". TheWrap. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (23 September 2018). "'The House with a Clock in its Walls' sounding near $27M alarm; Counterprogramming still in deep sleep". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  13. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (30 September 2018). "'Night School' top of the weekend's box office class with $28M; Best opening for a comedy so far this year". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  14. ^ "'Michael Jackson's Thriller 3D' To Be Remastered for IMAX". Billboard. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  15. ^ "The House With a Clock in Its Walls (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "'The House with a Clock in its Walls' reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 26 September 2018.

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