(US - 2018)
Directed by Eli Roth. Written by Eric Kripke. Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Lorenza Izzo, Braxton Bjerkin, Vanessa Anne Williams. (PG, 105 mins)
Based on the popular 1973 YA fantasy/mystery novel by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS makes its nostalgic intent clear from the start with an old-school Universal logo. Produced by Amblin Entertainment, HOUSE has the retro look, feel, and charm of any number of Steven Spielberg productions of the 1980s, so much so that it almost feels like you've gone back to 1985 to see the latest Joe Dante, Robert Zemekis, or Richard Donner movie. But the film is directed by Eli Roth, best known for his more extreme horrors of the first two HOSTEL films and the Italian cannibal homage THE GREEN INFERNO, and who just had the remake of DEATH WISH in theaters six months ago. The notion of splatter and grindhouse superfan Roth directing a kid-friendly, PG-rated Spielberg throwback might've seemed unthinkable at one point, but he creates an effectively foreboding atmosphere in its old, dark house setting and doesn't skimp on age-appropriate scares and some comical but still disturbing imagery. It got a good reaction from the few kids at a sparsely-attended matinee. I don't often see kids movies in the theater, but judging from the fact that they kept quiet, paid attention, laughed at things that were funny, said "Ew, gross!" at things that were gross, and applauded at the end, it seems Roth's efforts connected with the target audience, though it's also nostalgic fun for children of the '80s as well.