The House with a Clock in Its Walls (film)

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The House with a Clock in Its Walls
The House with a Clock in Its Walls (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEli Roth
Produced by
Screenplay byEric Kripke
Based onThe House with a Clock in Its Walls
by John Bellairs
Music byNathan Barr
CinematographyRogier Stoffers
Edited byFred Raskin
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 dark fantasy comedy film directed by Eli Roth, based on the 1973 novel of the same name by John Bellairs, and starring 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 sinister wizard.

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 lukewarm 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. All he has left of his parents is a Magic 8-Ball they had given him, and a family photograph. 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 stumbles upon 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 and his equally wicked wife Selena, who had hidden a clock within the walls of the house before they died. Jonathan has been trying to find it 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’ 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 the ghost of Isaac.

Lewis spots Isaac in the house of a neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett. He brings her to the house, but before he can find Jonathan, Isaac emerges. He reveals that Mrs. Hanchett is really Selena, who killed Mrs. Hanchett and took her place. It was also she who took the form of Lewis’ mother to persuade him to summon Isaac. Isaac explains that his hidden clock will turn time back so that humanity never existed. Florence, Jonathan, and Lewis run from the house.

Using the Magic 8-Ball to learn the location of the clock under the boiler room, the three return, but Florence is sidelined, and the Izards transform Jonathan into a half baby-half adult. Lewis consults the Magic 8-Ball, which says "Say goodbye". He realizes 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 into its gears, then, using his own magic, he blasts Isaac and Selena with magic he channels from the clock. They fall, de-age, and are ultimately erased from existence.

Lewis returns to school with more confidence and gets revenge on Tarby and his friends by magically bouncing a basketball on their faces, and also befriends a girl named Rose Rita Pottinger. At the end of the day, Jonathan and Florence are shown picking up Lewis, the three of them now like a regular family.


  • Jack Black as Jonathan Barnavelt, Lewis’s uncle and a warlock
  • Cate Blanchett as Florence Zimmerman, Jonathan’s neighbor, and friend, and a witch
  • Owen Vaccaro as Lewis Barnavelt, Jonathan’s 10 year-old orphaned nephew
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry as Selena Izard, Isaac’s wife and an evil witch
  • Sunny Suljic as Tarby Corrigan, Lewis’ classmate
  • Colleen Camp as Mrs. Hanchett, Jonathan’s nosey neighbor
  • Lorenza Izzo as Mother, Lewis’ mother and Jonathan's sister
  • Kyle MacLachlan as Isaac Izard, an evil warlock
  • Vanessa Anne Williams as Rose Rita Pottinger, a classmate that Lewis is sweet on


Principal photography on the film began on 10 October 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.[6] One of the challenges for the visual effects team was building massive 10 foot and 14.5 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]

Noah Schnapp auditioned for Lewis’ role, but ended up losing to Owen Vaccaro.[citation needed]


The House with a Clock in Its Walls was released by Universal Pictures on September 21, 2018.[8] Select IMAX screenings featured a 3D version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which only ran for the first week of release in North America.

Home media[edit]

The House with a Clock In its Walls was released for digital download on 27 November 2018, followed by a DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray release on 18 December 2018.[9]


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.[10] 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).[11] In its second weekend the film made $12.5 million, finishing third behind newcomers Night School and Smallfoot.[12]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 67% based on 186 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."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14] 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.[11]


Award Category Subject Result
ADG Award Excellence in Production Design Award Nominated
Capri Hollywood International Film Festival Capri Master Of Fantasy Eli Roth Won


  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'". 27 September 2018. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Latchem, John (30 October 2018). "Universal sets 'House with a Clock in its Walls' for home release". Media Play News. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (23 September 2018). "'The House with a Clock in its Walls' aounding near $27M alarm; Counterprogramming still in deep sleep". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  14. ^ "'The House with a Clock in its Walls' reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 26 September 2018.

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