Parental Guidance

The House with a Clock in Its Walls Might be a Little Too Creepy for Young Kids

Eli Roth's kid-horror flick is Spielbergian enough, but here are a few other witch-centric movies you can enjoy at home.

by | September 21, 2018 | Comments

Jack Black returns to the kid horror genre with this week’s The House with the Clock in Its Walls, and while it hasn’t impressed critics quite as much as Goosebumps, they still say it’s pretty good. However, it does have adult horror-meister Eli Roth behind the camera, so there may be a few things that are too intense for the younger kids. Read on for Christy Lemire’s family-friendly assessment of the film, as well as three witch-centric alternatives you may choose to watch instead.


THE MOVIE

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) 67%

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

A family film from horror director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) might sound like a contradiction in terms. But The House With a Clock in Its Walls features elements that are both fantastical and frightening. Based on the book by writer John Bellairs and illustrator Edward Gorey, the movie finds shy, studious Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) moving in with the uncle he’s never met (Jack Black) following his parents’ death in 1955. In small-town New Zebedee, Michigan, folks regard Black’s Uncle Jonathan as a bit of a weirdo, and his stately Victorian mansion is the stuff of legend. But Lewis quickly learns the truth: Jonathan is a warlock, trying to solve the mystery of the ticking coming from inside the home’s walls with the help of his next-door neighbor, the perpetually purple-clad witch Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). Roth’s film plays with the possibility of using magic as a means of kid wish fulfillment: getting dressed in the morning, seeking revenge on school bullies in the afternoon. But it turns scarier as Lewis accidentally unlocks some darker powers with the use of a forbidden spell book. Creepy dolls abound in a secret room inside the house, accessible only by a dark passageway. Predatory pumpkins come to life to wreak havoc. And key scenes take place within a cemetery at night. It’s probably too much for very little kids, but I’d say this is a fine choice – and a solid introduction to horror – for viewers around 9 and older.


THE RECOMMENDATIONS

If The House With a Clock in Its Walls has you pondering other movies about witches and warlocks, here are a few suggestions:

The Wizard of Oz (1939) 98%

Rating: G

It’s Dorothy’s story, of course: her hero’s journey along the Yellow Brick Road with the help of three new friends (and Toto, too). But it’s her encounter with two witches – one bad, one good – that sets her on that tuneful path. When the tornado Dorothy travels in to the Land of Oz fatally falls on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, her sister, the grotesque and green-hued Wicked Witch of the West (a chilling Margaret Hamilton), vows revenge. But as she tries to return home, Dorothy (Judy Garland) also enjoys the guidance and protection of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), a vision in mountainous sparkles and tulle. When I was a little girl watching the annual TV broadcast of The Wizard of Oz – which was event viewing back in the ‘70s — the Wicked Witch of the West terrified me, as did her flying monkeys. So that part might be a bit too much for kids around 5 years old. But for everyone else, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see, a classic rite of passage. Watch it – or watch it again – with the whole family.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOW, iTunes


Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) 97%

Rating: G

A lovely and joyous film from animation master Hayao Miyazaki. While many of Miyazaki’s movies feature some dark and potentially disturbing imagery, this is a sweet, light tale – albeit one that’s about a witch. Thirteen-year-old Kiki leaves her family for a year to live and train in a foreign city, where she opens a delivery company. She navigates the skies above the shops and streets on her broomstick, with her signature red bow in her hair and her trusty black cat, Jiji, by her side. But as she draws closer to puberty, she finds she’s losing her abilities, which weakens her confidence. And she survives some perilous situations and near misses during her big-city adventures. But Kiki is a witch who uses her powers for good, and she’s loyal and resourceful. A great choice for all ages.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOWiTunes


The Witches (1990) 100%

Rating: PG

Anjelica Huston is a sleek and radiant witch in this wild and whimsical family adventure. Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, The Witches finds young, orphaned Luke (Jasen Fisher) traveling with his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) on vacation in hopes of restoring her health. But he finds there happens to be a witch convention going on at the hotel where they’re staying, which enlivens all the outlandish fairy tales he’s heard about them over the years. Luke overhears their leader, Huston’s Eva Ernst, ordering her minions to turn all the children they see into mice – a special effect director Nicolas Roeg achieves with help from Jim Henson’s puppetry magic. The Witches is visually ambitious but also tonally twisted, with off-kilter humor and an overall sense of foreboding. The idea of witches turning kids into mice might seem frightening for very young viewers, but overall I’d say this is fine for children age 8 or 9 and older.

Watch now on: AmazonFandangoNOWiTunes

Tag Cloud

Reality Competition SXSW Sci-Fi Crackle boxoffice facebook thriller BBC Podcast Awards Disney Channel Captain marvel transformers History Comedy Valentine's Day 20th Century Fox Nominations Trophy Talk Western DC Comics Kids & Family 2018 New York Comic Con BBC America Song of Ice and Fire Netflix Super Bowl RT History Opinion technology cops historical drama war dc psycho PBS Dark Horse Comics 007 TBS See It Skip It Teen cinemax Biopics Nickelodeon adventure Cosplay crime drama romance aliens zombie 21st Century Fox Bravo Awards Tour 2015 CMT YouTube Red robots Action LGBTQ Certified Fresh National Geographic discovery BET YouTube Premium TruTV political drama travel The Arrangement Masterpiece TV Land SDCC police drama DirecTV VICE Comics on TV Rocky dceu Spring TV DC Universe comiccon Infographic Mary Poppins Returns Adult Swim DGA Marvel Box Office Red Carpet Summer Lionsgate TLC what to watch unscripted AMC Shudder Writers Guild of America Marathons FX period drama Interview doctor who harry potter President El Rey Superheroes blaxploitation Election television Fantasy Fall TV Martial Arts Watching Series serial killer CNN Esquire ABC Family Ghostbusters Apple supernatural binge Star Wars justice league Emmys TV USA Britbox Hulu Animation Cartoon Network Horror FXX Acorn TV Black Mirror X-Men medical drama Disney vampires cats Amazon Prime Grammys cults spider-man Christmas sports Trailer green book E3 Mary poppins ABC ITV casting Winter TV Columbia Pictures SundanceTV Extras Logo 24 frames anime Mystery Sundance Polls and Games Warner Bros. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina MCU IFC Paramount CBS All Access PaleyFest GLAAD cooking First Look Rom-Com Tomatazos Spike social media FOX HBO Ellie Kemper golden globes TIFF Countdown sitcom NYCC Sundance Now Holidays VH1 Oscars Ovation Rock 45 TCA 2017 crime thriller composers based on movie science fiction TCM Comic Book Calendar Pixar Toys Freeform festivals miniseries Lifetime Trivia Photos APB Comedy Central mutant Fox News Drama Tumblr San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Epix Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt zombies Quiz Creative Arts Emmys ESPN OWN docudrama DC streaming service Mindy Kaling ratings Paramount Network Reality Pirates Music spy thriller Premiere Dates jamie lee curtis finale crossover Superheroe talk show Walt Disney Pictures American Society of Cinematographers WGN 2019 diversity IFC Films Shondaland Character Guide singing competition Universal 2017 Year in Review Musicals Video Games Amazon MTV Brie Larson Schedule CBS Food Network Set visit politics YA dramedy Country Starz Showtime E! Sneak Peek streaming Star Trek CW Seed TNT Musical Winners MSNBC Pop Thanksgiving USA Network hist GoT Mary Tyler Moore Lucasfilm Syfy comic Sony Pictures TCA Best and Worst The CW Nat Geo award winner GIFs biography NBC A&E crime