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Steven Spielberg is not only one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, but also just so happens to be one of the best family filmmakers of all time. He's made plenty of movies solely for adults, but his resume as both a director and a producer also includes a particularly wonderful collection of titles geared towards younger audiences. As a result, when he is offering advice on an upcoming project others tend to pay attention -- and when it came specifically to the making of the new movie The House With A Clock In Its Walls he had one key tip: don't be afraid to let it be legitimately scary. Screenwriter Eric Kripke recently told me,
It was Amblin [Entertainment] that really helped us hone in [on the tone], because it was direct conversations between [Steven] Spielberg and Eli [Roth], and Spielberg said, 'No, no, no, you want it to be scary. You want it to be just scary enough that parents are uncomfortable with their kids watching.' You want the kids to feel a little bit of danger. That is invaluable, that they're daring each other a little bit to watch it. It feels a little dangerous; it's not going to mess them up, but there are definitely some real jumps, and those were the types of movies that he created! It's a real honor to sort of be carrying the flag forward on the tradition.
Steven Spielberg has more than a few films for young audiences on his resume sporting some legitimate scares, including Poltergeist, The Goonies, and Raiders of The Lost Ark, and it was likely with those titles in mind that he helped director Eli Roth find the proper tone to strike with The House With A Clock In Its Walls. Spielberg isn't a producer on the new movie, but his company, Amblin Entertainment, is behind it, and it allowed for Spielberg to offer some consultancy on the project -- specifically that it shouldn't shy away from the horror genre.
To the credit of Eli Roth and Eric Kripke, they definitely followed Steven Spielberg's advice, as there are more than a few real scares in the new film including creepy automatons, possessed jack o lanterns, and even living topiary griffin. It's not stuff that will necessarily cause weeks of nightmares, but The House With A Clock In Its Walls definitely aims to make you jump in certain moments, and that can certainly be thrilling and memorable for a younger crowd that can feel more adult while watching it -- almost like a test of maturity. Many adults can point to experiences watching similar movies growing up, and now the tradition is continuing.
Based on the book by John Bellairs, The House With A Clock In Its Walls centers on a young boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), an introverted bookworm who moves in with his oddball Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) following the death of his parents. He quickly discovers that things are not quite normal in his new residence, and it's because his mother's brother is actually a warlock who has an on-going confrontation with evil forces. With the help of their strange and witty neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), they aim to solve a mystery that has been haunting the home with a loud and persistent tick-tocking, and it's an adventure that proves to be more and more dangerous as it continues.