The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Dir. Eli Roth
21 September 2018
I think I was really engaged in and excited by The House with a Clock in Its Walls because 1st grade me would have been enamored with the film. I fear that what many adults will miss is that they are not the target audience here. Kids are. And that target is hit, reanimated-dead-on.
I was a . . . precocious child. Many peers and I read ahead of schedule and were left fighting for adults to trust us. The teachers wanted to police our reading to protect us, and this left us plotting ways to get our hands on books. Once the adults finally relented, we devoured books that those taller and wiser were sure were, in one way or another, too much for us.
That is the main thing that The House with a Clock in Its Walls gets right. It trusts kids. It is scary enough to give the desired jumps, but not realistic enough to cause real-life disruption. It is funny enough to give a needed break, but not enough to become cheesy and negate the scariness. It is smart and well-paced and fun to look at, but those are truths on a child’s scale. It may not cause a seasoned horror buff to jump. The computerized graphics may not be enough to wow a film connoisseur. The plot may slow down too much at points for an adult.
It isn’t for adults. It is an on-ramp into horror for kids. That’s why it is rated PG. It is a balance that is pedagogically fitting for a kid’s first scary movie. It scares and allows for decompression because that is how kids need to process it.
I will admit that I honestly thought it might be too scary at points. Then I walked out behind a 7-ish year-old boy, grinning widely as he regaled his mother with a long list of “Did you see when”s and “It was SO scary when”s. He was on an adrenaline high because the filmmakers trusted him and he beat the film. He survived it. He experienced fear and he came out safely on the other side.
No, I can’t guarantee that he won’t end up in mom’s bed tonight, but he knows he can be brave because he already was.
Kids will learn those adult traits when we give them a chance.
When we trust them.
Plus, who doesn’t love some clockwork Victorian house spectacle?
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Educator. Reader. Writer. Lover of dogs, spreadsheets, dark red wine, and art.